A speech act approach to persuasion in *American and Arabic editorials

Abdulrahman M Alhudhaif, Purdue University


The present study explores and compares persuasion in American and Arabic (Saudi) editorials from a speech act perspective. It sheds light on cultural similarities and differences between American and Arabic (Saudi) cultures in terms of persuasive written discourse. The data came from twenty six Arabic editorials of two distinguished Saudi newspapers, Alriyadh and Al-Jazirah, and another twenty six American editorials from the popular American newspapers, The New York Times and The Washington Post. This study employed Searle's (1976) taxonomy of speech acts as a coding system of speech acts. Its findings show that persuasiveness can be accomplished via different ways of manipulation of speech acts in different cultures. Although both American and Arabic editorials prefer the use of strong assertions, they seem to differ with regard to the speech acts of directives and expressives. The results indicate that American directives and expressives are stronger, and more direct and explicit than their Arabic counterparts. Accordingly, this study argues that whereas persuasion in American editorials is accomplished via powerful and explicit propositions, Arabic editorials favor the use of implied propositions persuade their readers. Arabic editorials approach their readers differently and hence try to accomplish persuasiveness while at the same time save their readers' face. Finally, the current research suggests that editorials in both cultures seem to have similar distributions of speech acts. However, differences are apparent in the way these speech acts are realized and manipulated.




Raskin, Purdue University.

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