Speech Acts: Complimenting

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The speech act that my group was given was the act of complimenting. Complimenting is the act of praising somebody for his or her appearance, actions, or other quality. Each member of the group collected data from ten different sources in order to discover patterns and generalizations of the act of complimenting. Later on in class, we interviewed Pastor Myungku Lee, who came to the United States from South Korea. He provided us with much information on the way that complimenting is handled in South Korea, both in the past and today. As a group, we discussed the similarities and differences we found while comparing our data to the information Pastor Lee provided. Through this process, we also were able to relate the data to the readings we have participated in for class. In this paper, I plan to discuss the aforementioned topics and provide examples to demonstrate my understanding of the speech act of compliments. The first step of our project was to find patterns in the data we each collected from around campus. Because our group was composed of four females and one male, all of the statistics could have been skewed. In an effort to make the results more fair, I am only going to be using data given from one male and one female. Due to the fact that we are attending a Midwestern Indiana college, nearly all of our observations were of students aged 18 to 22 who were from the Midwest. Therefore, we found no definitive patterns based on age or location. However, we did find patterns in the following areas: topic of the compliment, way the compliment was given, way the compliment was responded to, gender of the compliment giver, gender of the complement receiver, and relationship between participants. The topics of the compliments were very often appearance, followed by compliments based on action (Figure 1). “Your hair looks really cute!” was one of the many examples of personality being complimented. Secondly, we found that there was a common linguistic pattern used while giving compliments; nearly every single person used short phrases such as “I like your _____,” or “That looks ______.” There was more variation in the responses to compliments; some people responded with a simple “Thanks” or smiled while others either added more information or tried to negate the compliment.
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