Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Languages and Cultures

Committee Chair

Lori Czerwionka

Committee Member 1

Alejandro Cuza

Committee Member 2

Nuur Hamad Zahonero


This thesis analyzed the production of requests through the framework of Politeness Theory and the variables of power, distance, and imposition (Brown & Levinson, 1987). Research on Spanish has focused on Spanish requests (e.g. Placencia, 1998; Lorenzo Díaz, 2016) or cross-cultural analyses of requests (e.g. Blum-Kulka, House & Kasper, 1989; Márquez-Reiter, 2000). However, the lack of balance in the contexts examined regarding the social variables power, distance, and imposition makes it difficult to compare the effect of these variables on the request norms. Furthermore, requests likely vary according to other contextual factors as well, but this has received little systematic attention in prior literature. The aim of this project is to explore the importance of the three social variables as they impact the verb selection in requests in Peninsular Spanish, considering the orientation of the verb (e.g. speaker- or hearer-oriented) and the verbal continuum proposed by Chodorowska-Pilch (1998) that encodes politeness through the verbal system. The present research examines the production of requests by a total of 104 native speakers of Peninsular Spanish in 16 different and balanced academic situations. The situations were designed by taking into consideration the three social variables proposed by Brown and Levinson (1987): power, distance, and imposition. The instrument used to collect the data was an online Discourse Completion Task (DCT). The DCT was innovative in that the contexts that represented variations of power or distance referred to specific people known by the individual participants, providing reference to situations and relationships that respondents have experienced. A total of 1594 requests were analyzed. Mixed effects logistic regression models were used to examine the use of different verb types considering the predictor variables of power, distance, and imposition. The analyses, taken collectively, showed that the variables of power and imposition were more impactful in predicting verb-forms than distance. Overall, there were trends that showed the increased use of more polite verb forms (e.g. conditional, subjunctive) when power differentials between interlocutors and requests of increased imposition were present. Distinctly, when contexts portrayed no power differential (-P), no distance between interlocutors (-D) and little imposition (-I), requests overwhelmingly relied on imperative forms, those that express little mitigation or politeness efforts. While variation in verb form was found depending on context, the analysis of verb orientation showed that Peninsular Spanish speakers rely on hearer-oriented requests in nearly all contexts. This research expands our understanding of contextual variables that shape pragmalinguistic structures, considering the verb, in Peninsular Spanish.