Refusals are delicate speech acts for non-native speakers to negotiate because they require negative responses to an interlocutor's invitation or request. In addition to cultural variation, variables such as gender and modes of communication (e.g., emails) add dimensions to the complexity when performing refusals. The main objective of this study is to investigate the difference in refusal strategies between American and international college students as well as gender variation. Using a written Discourse Completion Task, six situations were developed and grouped in two stimulus types eliciting refusals to an invitation and a request. Each stimulus type involved an email refusal to professors, friends, and a staff member of an academic department. The refusals of sixteen undergraduate American students and thirty-two international students were analyzed in terms of frequency, order, and content of semantic formulas. The results of this study suggest that when using email, all groups demonstrated preference for direct refusal. American females preferred expressions of gratitude and stating positive opinions, whereas American male provided reasons and alternatives. The international students used a greater variety of semantic formulas; however, they lacked positive opinions and providing alternatives. Additionally, the international students tended to use more regret than the American students. The international students (both male and female) also tended to use more specific excuses as compared to more general excuses used by the Americans.


Karen Lybeck

Committee Member

Glen Poupore

Date of Degree




Document Type



Master of Arts (MA)




Arts and Humanities

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License



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