Invoking divine blessing: The pragmatics of the congratulation speech act in university graduation notebooks in Jordan

Muhammad A. Badarneh, Fathi Migdadi and Maram Al-Jahmani
Jordan University of Science and Technology

Abstract

This study explores the speech act of congratulation in university graduation notebooks, a new communicative context in Jordan. Using the concept of the pragmeme as a situated speech act, a total of 1064 congratulatory messages, found in 35 notebooks, were analyzed. The analysis demonstrated that the cultural concept of baraka ‘blessing’ plays a central role in the Arabic congratulation speech act. Embedded in its production are other speech acts such as compliments and advice, sociocultural beliefs and concepts such as fatalism and collectivism, and sociocultural practices such as naqout ‘money given as a gift’. Invoking these values and beliefs when performing congratulations was accomplished through ritualistic religious invocations, formulaic expressions, reference to collective identity, and acts of material support, showing how this Arabic speech act is situated in sociocultural beliefs and values.

Keywords:
Publication history
Table of contents

Congratulations have been traditionally investigated in spoken language through the lens of speech act theory as expressives that channel the speaker’s psychological state (Searle 1976). The present study examines their use in written communication as situated speech acts, or pragmemes, whose performance is situated in social practices, embedded in the sociocultural context, and intrinsically connected with social facts (Mey 2001; Capone 2010, 2018; Wong 2010; Allan et al. 2016). The present study investigates how the congratulating speech act is performed in a local social practice that has recently appeared in Jordan, namely what is referred to as ‘graduation notebooks’ (henceforth, GNs). This written form of congratulation, as this study demonstrates, offers the congratulators greater latitude in expressing their feelings and emotions toward the addressee, and helps reveal underlying cultural values and assumptions of the community when performing congratulations. This form of offering handwritten congratulatory messages to graduates has become a sociocultural practice that provides rich data on the connection between speech acts and culture. For the purpose of this study, the definition put forward by Verschueren is adopted, according to which congratulation is “an expression of the speaker’s being pleased about the hearer’s success in doing or obtaining something important” (Verschueren 1985, 47).

Full-text access is restricted to subscribers. Log in to obtain additional credentials. For subscription information see Subscription & Price. Direct PDF access to this article can be purchased through our e-platform.

References

Abdel-Jawad, Hassan
2000 “A Linguistic, Sociopragmatic and Cultural Study of Swearing in Arabic.” Language, Culture and Curriculum 13: 217–240. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Allan, Keith, Alessandro Capone, and Istvan Kecskes
(eds.) 2016Pragmemes and Theories of Language Use. Cham: Springer. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Bach, Kent, and Robert Harnish
1979Linguistic Communication and Speech Acts. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
Bietti, Lucas
2010 “Sharing Memories, Family Conversation and Interaction.” Discourse & Society 21: 499–523. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Brown, Penelope, and Stephen Levinson
1987Politeness. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Cantini, Daniele
2016Youth and Education in the Middle East. London: I.B. Tauris. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Capone, Alessandro
2005 “Pragmemes.” Journal of Pragmatics 37: 1355–1371. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
2010 “Introduction.”. Journal of Pragmatics 42: 2861–2869. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
2016 “Introducing the Notion of Pragmeme.” In Pragmemes and Theories of Language Use, xv–xxiv. Cham: Springer.Google Scholar
2018 “Pragmemes (Again).” Lingua 209: 89–104. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Celaya, M. Luz, Laura Panelli, and Júlia Barón
2019 “ ‘I’m Jealous but I Am Very Happy’: Congratulating in an EFL Context.” In Cross-Linguistic Influence, ed. by M. Juncal Gutierrez-Mangado, María Martínez-Adrián, and Francisco Gallardo-del-Puerto, 149–167. Cham: Springer. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Claridge, Claudia
2010Hyperbole in English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Colin, Georges
1986 “Baraka.” In Encyclopedia of Islam, ed. by H. A. R. Gibb, J. H. Kramers, E. Lèvi-Provençal and J. Schacht, 1032. Leiden: Brill.Google Scholar
Culpeper, Jonathan
1996 “Towards an Anatomy of Impoliteness.” Journal of Pragmatics 25: 349–367. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Darwish, Abdel-Fattah, and Günter Huber
2003 “Individualism vs. Collectivism in Different Cultures: A Cross-Cultural Study.” Intercultural Education 14: 47–55. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Decapua, Andrea, and Joan Dunham
2007 “The Pragmatics of Advice Giving: Cross-Cultural Perspectives.” Intercultural Pragmatics 4: 319–342. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
El-Aswad, El-Sayed
2014 “Metaphors Arab Women Live By.” Journal of Women of the Middle East and the Islamic World 12: 36–48. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Elwood, Kate
2004 “ ‘Congratulations!’ A Cross-Cultural Analysis of Responses to Another’s Happy News.” The Cultural Review 25: 355–386.Google Scholar
Emery, Peter
2000 “Greeting, Congratulating and Commiserating in Omani Arabic.” Language, Culture and Curriculum 13: 196–216. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Farenkia, Bernard
2012 “Compliment Strategies and Regional Variation in French: Evidence from Cameroon and Canadian French.” Pragmatics 22: 447–476. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
García, Carmen
2009 “¿qué::? ¿cómo que te vas a casar? Congratulations and Rapport Management: A Case Study of Peruvian Spanish Speakers.” Pragmatics 19: 197–222. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Geurts, Bart
2018 “Making Sense of Self Talk.” Review of Philosophy and Psychology 9: 271–285. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Harb, Mustafa
2020 “Disagreement among Arabic Speakers in Faceless Computer-Mediated Communication.” Journal of Politeness Research. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Hassan, Riffat
2005 “Marriage: Islamic Discourses.” In Encyclopedia of Women and Islamic Cultures, ed. by Suad Joseph, vol. 3, 246–249. Leiden: Brill.Google Scholar
Haugh, Michael
2010 “Jocular Mockery, (Dis)affiliation, and Face.” Journal of Pragmatics 42: 2106–2119. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Haugh, Michael, and Derek Bousfield
2012 “Mock Impoliteness, Jocular Mockery and Jocular Abuse.” Journal of Pragmatics 44: 1099–1114. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Hosni, Hala
2020 “Advice Giving in Egyptian Arabic and American English: A Cross-Linguistic, Cross-Cultural Study.” Journal of Pragmatics 155: 193–212. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Jacobs, Jennifer
2008Ululation in Levantine Society: The Cultural Reproduction of an Affective Vocalization. Ph.D. thesis, University of Pennsylvania.
Kampf, Zohar
2016 “All the Best! Performing Solidarity in Political Discourse.” Journal of Pragmatics 93: 47–60. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Keshishian, Lara
2018Speech Act of Congratulation in Lebanese Arabic and English among University Students in Lebanon. M.A. thesis, American University of Beirut.
Kienpointer, Manfred
1997 “Varieties of Rudeness: Types and Functions of Impolite Utterances.” Functions of Language 4: 251–287. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Kochovska, Svetlana
2013 “Expressing Congratulations in Latin: The Case of Cicero’s Correspondence.” Literatūra 55: 27–37. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Leech, Geoffrey
1983Principles of Pragmatics. London: Longman.Google Scholar
Maalej, Zouhair
2008 “The Heart and Cultural Embodiment in Tunisian Arabic.” In Culture, Body, and Language, ed. by Farzad Sharifian, René Dirven, Ning Yu, and Susanne Niemeier, 395–428. Berlin: De Gruyter.Google Scholar
Maíz-Arévalo, Carmen
2017 “Expressive Speech Acts in Educational E-chats.” Sociocultural Pragmatics: 1–28. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Mey, Jacob
2001Pragmatics. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.Google Scholar
2017 “Unloading the Weapon: Act and Tact.” In Doing Pragmatics Interculturally, ed. by Rachel Giora and Michael Haugh, 389–397. Berlin: De Gruyter. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Morkus, Nader
2014 “Refusals in Egyptian Arabic and American English.” Journal of Pragmatics 70: 86–107. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Morrow, John
(ed.) 2006Arabic, Islam and the Allah Lexicon. Lewiston: Edwin Mellen.Google Scholar
Nasri, Najmed, Hossein Dastjerdy, and Momeneh Ghadiri
2013 “Congratulation across Cultures: English versus Armenian and Persian Speakers.” Procedia 70: 67–73. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Norrick, Neal
1978 “Expressive Illocutionary Acts.” Journal of Pragmatics 2: 277–291. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Nydell, Margaret
1996Understanding Arabs. Yarmouth: Intercultural Press.Google Scholar
Paltridge, Brian
2012Discourse Analysis. London: Bloomsbury. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Qutbuddin, Tahera
2019Arabic Oration. Leiden: Brill. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Searle, John
1969Speech Acts. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
1976 “A Classification of Illocutionary Acts.” Language in Society 5: 1–23. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Taavitsainen, Irma, and Andreas Jucker
2008 “Speech Acts Now and Then: Towards a Pragmatic History of English.” In Speech Acts in the History of English, ed. by Andreas Jucker and Irma Taavitsainen, 1–26. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Triandis, Harry
1995Individualism and Collectivism. Boulder: Westview Press.Google Scholar
Ting-Toomey, Stella
1999Communicating Across Cultures. New York: Guildford Press.Google Scholar
Trosborg, Anna
1995Interlanguage Pragmatics. Berlin: De Gruyter. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Trujillo, Victoria Eugenia Velez
2011Sociopragmatic Study of Politeness in Speech Acts: Congratulating in Colombian Spanish. M.A. thesis, Arizona State University.
Unceta Gómez, Luis
2016 “Congratulations in Latin Comedy: Types and Functions.” Journal of Politeness Research 12: 267–290. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Vanderveken, Daniel
2001 “Illocutionary Logic and Discourse Typology.” Revue Internationale de Philosophie 2: 243–255.Google Scholar
Verschueren, Jeff
1985What People Say They Do With Words. Norwood: Ablex.Google Scholar
Wierzbicka, Anna
1987English Speech Act Verbs. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
Willer, Lynda
2001 “Warning: Welcome to Your World Baby, Gender Message Enclosed. An Analysis of Gender Messages in Birth Congratulation Cards.” Women and Language 24 (1): 16–23.Google Scholar
Wong, Jock
2010 “The “Triple Articulation” of Language.” Journal of Pragmatics 42: 2932–2944. CrossrefGoogle Scholar