Apology responses and gender differences in spoken British English: A corpus study

Yi An, Hang Su and Mingyou Xiang
Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications | Sichuan International Studies University | University of International Business and Economics


This study presents a corpus-based sociopragmatic investigation into apology responses (ARs) and gender differences in ARs in spoken British English. Using data taken from the recently released Spoken BNC2014, the investigation leads to an adjusted taxonomy of ARs which comprises five categories and several sub-categories. The investigation shows that ‘Lack of response’ is the most typical response, followed by ‘Acceptance’, ‘Rejection’, ‘Evasion’, and ‘Acknowledgement’. The results are discussed in relation to the process of attenuation that apologies have undergone (e.g. Jucker 2019), i.e. apologies are becoming more routinised and less meaningful. The proposed taxonomy is subsequently used to examine the extent to which male and female recipients respond to apologies differently. While the investigation suggests no significant differences in ARs across genders, it has been observed that there is some correlation between ARs and the gender of the apologiser. Finally, the implications and applications of the study are briefly discussed.

Publication history
Table of contents

This study, drawing on insights from previous studies (Holmes 1989, 1995; Robinson 2004; Murphy 2016), proposes an adjusted taxonomy of apology responses (ARs) and further applies it to explore the extent to which men and women respond to apologies differently in spoken British English. The rationale of doing so is that, as indicated in the reviews recently offered by Jones and Adrefiza (2017) and Jucker (2018), only a few studies have explored apology responses (e.g. Holmes 1989, 1995; Robinson 2004; Murphy 2016) and even fewer have investigated how male and female recipients respond to apologies made to them (see Section 2 for more detail). Therefore, using data taken from the recently released Spoken BNC2014 (Love et al. 2017; Section 3), the study presents a corpus-based sociopragmatic investigation into apology responses and the differences of ARs across genders. It contributes to the literature of apology studies particularly by providing a more fine-grained taxonomy of ARs and by examining the gender differences in ARs. It will be shown that the proposed taxonomy would facilitate the investigation of ARs across genders (or, more broadly, across contexts). It will also be argued that a systematic account of ARs could be of practical significance, especially in that it would be useful to inform language users, EFL learners in particular, of the ways to interpret and respond to apologies appropriately.

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