Open Journal of Modern Linguistics
2013. Vol.3, No.3, 268-287
Published Online September 2013 in SciRes (
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
Gender and the Communication of Gratitude in Jordan
Nisreen Naji Al-Khawaldeh*, Vladimir Žegarac
University of Bedfordshire, Luton, UK
Email: *,
Received July 15th, 2013; revised August 22nd, 2013; accepted September 1st, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Nisreen Naji Al-Khawaldeh, Vladimir Žegarac. This is an open access article distributed un-
der the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in
any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
This paper examines Jordanians’ perceptions of the ways and the extent to which gender influences the
communication of gratitude in some everyday situations. The qualitative analysis of 20 interviews reveals
a considerable influence of gender on the performance and reception of this communicative act. Differ-
ences between women and men were found in both same-gender and mixed-gender interactions in respect
of the mandatoriness and the ways of communicating gratitude. The data show that Jordanian women ap-
pear to value expressing gratitude more than Jordanian men do. There is no clear-cut answer to the ques-
tion of who conveys gratitude more: women or men. However, it is clear that several factors affect the
production and the reception of the linguistic expression of gratitude, including: the status differential
between the speaker and the hearer, the degree of familiarity between them and the weight of obligation
on the speaker. Women tend to communicate gratitude to women more than men do to men, whereas men
are particularly aware of the need to be polite when relating to women (especially in unfamiliar and high
imposition contexts). The findings strongly support the view that generalisations about the role of gender
in conversation should take account of context in the production and interpretation of communicative be-
haviour and point to some directions for further gender-focused investigation of the linguistic communi-
cation of gratitude within and across cultures.
Keywords: Gratitude Expression; Cross-Gender Interaction; Socio-Cultural Pragmatics; Politeness
The relation between language use and gender has been much
explored in the field of socio-linguistics over the past forty
years or so. Nevertheless, some important questions remain
wide open. One of these is the issue of whether women’s and
men’s speech reflect the power differential in social situations
(see Tannen, 1999; Mills, 2003). Systematic differences in wo-
men’s and men’s speech have been explained in two main ways.
Spolsky (1998) argues that differences in access to education
are responsible for differences in speech and explains this in
terms of the difference in educational opportunities for girls and
boys. However, it seems equally plausible to assume that these
differences reflect different patterns of socialization of girls and
boys throughout childhood. In other words, girls are taught to
think and behave like girls and boys to think and behave like
boys. A number of influential studies show that differences in
the linguistic behaviour of men and women are rooted in dif-
ferences in the social construction of gender (Trudgill, 1974;
Crawford, 1995). Men and women are social beings with dif-
ferent social roles. As Ochs (1992) argues, particular linguistic
forms should not be labelled as “masculine” or “feminine” be-
cause they typically do not appear only in the speech of men or
women. Brown (1998) also maintains that situations of social
interaction are very important for analysing language use as
they provide evidence of the social motivations which inform
linguistic choices. In other words, a person’s knowledge of the
relation between language and gender includes a tacit under-
standing of the ways’ particular linguistic forms can be used to
meet specific pragmatic norms and participant expectations in
particular types of communication situation, and these norms
and expectations are related to the social identities of the par-
ticipants. Johnson and Roen (1992) have also highlighted the
significant role contextual variables play in shaping gender-
language differences. In view of these observations, it is some-
what surprising that most politeness research which focuses on
gender differences does not investigate them in relation to com-
munication situations, but focuses on gender differences and
patterns of language use per se. For this reason, it falls short of
addressing the issue of whether and how the observed speech
patterns reflect particular activities in which the participants are
engaged or different degrees of men’s and women’s involve-
ment in these activities and the contextual assumptions associ-
ated with them.
The study presented in this article investigates socio-cultural
constraints that influence the ways men and women linguisti-
cally communicate gratitude in the culture of Jordan. Jordan is
a conservative tribal society which places some (largely cul-
ture-specific) restrictions on male-female social interactions.
When Jordanians interact with each other, they attach great sig-
nificance to socio-cultural and religious norms of communica-
tion. This is hardly surprising, as both the production of and the
response to a linguistic expression of gratitude are sensitive to,
and are largely shaped by, face concerns (see Brown & Levin-
son, 1987; Al Khawaldeh & Žegarac, 2013a) and some other
variables, such as power, distance and formality, which are uni-
versals with different cultural realisations.
*Corresponding author.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 269
The study is important in three main respects. First, it makes
a contribution to the investigation of gender differences in a
particular culture—that of Jordan—where gender differences in
linguistic communication have not been investigated exten-
sively so far. Second, the study provides evidence for the view
that generalisations about gender differences in communication
need to take account of the situational context and identifies
some important aspects of the socio-situational setting which
systematically influence the context (where the term “context”
refers to the set of assumptions used in the production and the
comprehension of a communicative act). Third, the findings
highlight the relation between the production of linguistic be-
haviour which communicates gratitude and the socio-cultural
expectations of the hearers in a way which brings us closer to a
better understanding of the complex interplay between cogni-
tive and socio-pragmatic factors in the production and the in-
terpretation of the linguistic expression of gratitude. From the
cognitive-psychological perspective on face, positive politeness
is related to expressing inclusion and social approval, while ne-
gative politeness calls for expressing restraint (Pan, 2000). From
the socio-pragmatic perspective, polite behaviour is regulated by
social norms. However, neither the cognitive-psychological nor
the socio-pragmatic approach provides the basis for predicting
how people behave in actual social situations. The present study
identifies the linguistic strategies used for expressing gratitude
in relation to the degree of imposition presented by the action
being thanked for, the status and power differential between the
participants and cultural norms and values. In this way, our re-
search paves the way for further studies which will bring us
closer to integrating the cognitive-psychological perspective on
face and the socio-pragmatic norms of communication into a
realistic predictive model of the linguistic communication of
Research Aim
The main empirical aim of this paper is to provide a better
insight into the relation between situations, strategies and gen-
der in the culture of Jordan. This study focuses on the relation
between participants’ gender, the linguistic communication of
gratitude and the values and attitudes attached to the linguistic
communication of gratitude. It examines the ways Jordanian
women and men express gratitude and whether they exhibit
differences in terms of the frequency and the types of strategy
Research Participants
The participants were 10 female and 10 male postgraduate
Jordanian students aged between 28 and 33 from southern and
northern tribal rural parts of Jordan (Al-Mafraq, Al-Tafilah, Al-
Karak and others) as representative of the national culture.
Research Methods
The participants were interviewed about their perceptions and
opinions about gender-related behavioural differences in eight
social situations, focusing on the ways they would express grati-
tude to same and opposite gender interlocutors in each of the
eight situation and why they would choose some ways of ex-
pressing gratitude in preference to others. This was done so that
the participants’ gratitude behaviour can be described not only
in light of the thanker’s and the thankee’s gender, but also by
taking account of the gratitude expression context as a gateway
to exploring other factors, namely social status, social distance,
the type of imposition and the weightings placed on these fac-
tors. This gives us a better insight into gender related variation
in the use and intensity of gratitude expression.
The participants were presented with the following situations:
Situation 1 (“class notes”): expressing gratitude to a friend
for having lent class notes to the interviewee who had missed a
Situation 2 (“booking a hotel”): the interviewee is going on a
holiday to France and needs to book a hotel. The interviewee
knows someone in his/her office who is bilingual but he/she
does not know him/her very well and he/she needs to ask this
colleague to call the hotel from his/her phone to make the res-
ervation on the interviewee’s behalf.
Situation 3 (“restaurant bill”): the interviewee is with a group
of close friends. They are having dinner in a restaurant. One of
the group insists on paying for all of them. The interviewee
knows that the person who insists on paying the bill can easily
afford it, but insists that the bill should be split. His/her friend
is adamant, puts her/his credit card down on the plate with the
bill and pays.
Situation 4 (“help with the computer”): the interviewee is
having trouble with his/her computer, which keeps crashing.
He/she knows someone at school who knows a lot about com-
puters and the interviewee asks the person to help him/her even
though he/she is not a close friend. The person hesitates be-
cause he/she is very busy, but then agrees to help, and ends up
spending the whole afternoon fixing the interviewee’s computer
for free.
Situation 5 (“scholarship reference letter”): the interviewee is
applying for a scholarship. A letter of reference is required
from three lecturers. The interviewee knows Doctor Barwick
well (having taken two courses which he/she teaches) and de-
cides to ask him/her to write a letter of reference for him/her.
Doctor Barwick agrees to write the letter.
Situation 6 (“FedEx”): the interviewee has found information
about a very good fellowship for which he/she would like to
apply, but the deadline is two days away. He/she asks Professor
Smith, whom she knows very well, to write a letter of reference
for him/her. Professor Smith hesitates because he/she is very
busy, but he/she agrees to write the letter. The following day,
the interviewee meets Professor Smith, who tells him/her that
he/she has sent the letter by FedEx.
Situation 7 (“extension for coursework deadline”): the inter-
viewee is asking Professor Cox whom he/she knows only as
his/her teacher, for an extension because he/she needs to study
for final exams in other courses. Professor Cox hesitates be-
cause it won’t be fair to other students in class, but then he/she
agrees to give the interviewee the extension.
Situation 8 (“asking for directions”): the interviewee has ar-
ranged to meet a friend at a restaurant in a town where he/she
has never been before. He/she arrives at a little late and since
he/she has never been there before, he/she can’t find the res-
taurant. Desperate to find it, he/she decides to ask anyone he/
she meets. Accidently, he/she meets a lecturer who is working
in his/her university but you don’t know him/her very well. Hav-
ing understood the directions, the interviewee expresses his/her
gratitude by saying:
Bearing in mind that ways of communicating gratitude are
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
institutionalised and that people generally have conscious in-
sights into the ways they deal with institutionalised aspects of
social interaction, the interview related to Discourse Comple-
tion Task style scenarios was found the best method to meet
this study’s aim. It helps tap into the socio-cultural norms which
are used by members of the speech community. Due to the
complexity of controlling social variables in conducting obser-
vation, the interview method was chosen to get in-depth infor-
mation on communicating gratitude style within same-gender
and cross-gender contexts. This has the advantage of providing
rich data which reflect the participants’ own perspectives on the
key factors that inform their choice of strategy for communi-
cating gratitude. It also provides insights which can be used to
inform and guide further observation-based research. The data
were analysed qualitatively and quantitatively using the coding
scheme presented in Appendix A (see also Al-Khawaldeh &
Žegarac, forthcoming). For the sake of clarity, we have pre-
sented only the strategies found in the data and the number of
The ways of communicating gratitude linguistically (for which
we use the term “strategy”) were identified and described in
terms of type and frequency and then described and analysed
situation by situation. The description and analysis of the dif-
ferences in the ways women and men express gratitude linguis-
tically take account of within-gender and cross-gender commu-
nicative interactions (which we have termed “same-gender” and
“mixed-gender” settings).
The findings about each situation and each setting are pre-
sented in terms of the strategies used along with their frequen-
cies. This is followed by a description of the data aimed at
highlighting the most striking patterns of the relation between
strategies for communicating gratitude, situations and settings
(same-gender vs. mixed-gender).
In the “class notes” situation (Table 1), the participants were
asked how they would express gratitude to a close male or fe-
male friend from whom they have borrowed class notes be-
cause of having missed the lesson. Women showed more inter-
est in the way they express gratitude to a female friend than to a
male friend. They reported that they felt positive as they felt
they had more freedom when deciding how to express gratitude
to a female friend. In contrast to women, men communicate
gratitude to other men to a lesser extent than to women. Women
tend to use different direct and indirect verbal and nonverbal
expressions in the same-gender setting more than in the mixed-
gender setting (where they tend to communicate gratitude by
thanking directly). Men tend to use simple direct verbal and
nonverbal expressions when expressing gratitude to other men,
but convey their gratitude to women using various verbal grati-
tude expressions including greeting, apology and address terms
(e.g. “”, “My sister”).
Situation 2 is about going on holiday to France and needing
to book a hotel. The interviewee knows someone in his/her
office who is bilingual, but he/she does not know him/her very
well and he/she needs to ask this colleague to call the hotel
from his/her phone to make the reservation on his/her behalf.
As Table 2 shows, gender differences in the “booking a hotel”
situation are similar to those in the “class notes” situation. In
the “booking a hotel” situation, women appear to be more con-
cerned about expressing gratitude to unfamiliar women or un-
familiar men, while men tend to be more sensitive when ex-
pressing gratitude to unfamiliar women than to familiar women,
familiar men, and unfamiliar men. Women tend to use various
expressions (e.g. thanking, complimenting, apologising, initiat-
ing small talk, offering repayment, establishing a longer term re-
lationship and terms of address) when expressing gratitude to
other women. They prefer to be more formal when conveying
gratitude to other men, using strategies such as: thanking (e.g.
  ”, “Thank you very much”), appreciation (e.g.
  ”, “I appreciate your kindness”), talk-leaving
(e.g. “    ”, “See you in a good condition
always”) and terms of address (e.g. “”, “My brother”). In
contrast to women, men tend to use simple verbal expressions
and nonverbal actions (e.g. handshaking, repayment, initiating
talk when expressing gratitude to other men, but they tend to be
formal when expressing gratitude to other women using in ad-
dition to simple thanking (e.g. “ ”, “Thank you”) direct
verbal expressions of appreciation, apology, praying and terms
of address.
Situation 3 involves a group of close friends having dinner in
Table 1.
“Class notes” situation.
Strategy type
Females Males
Situation 1: “class notes”
Explicit thanking 10 10 10 10
Explicit apology - - - 4
Here statement “  ” “Here is your notebook” - - 2 -
Initiating a small talk 5 - - -
Praying 4 - - -
Talk-leaving - 3 - 3
Greeting - 4 - 3
Terms of address 3 - - -
Hugging 3 - - -
Handshaking - - 4 -
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 271
Table 2.
“Booking a hotel” situation.
Strategy type
Females Males
Second 2: “booking a hotel”
Explicit thanking 6 6 9 8
Explicit thanking and reference to the favour 4 1 - -
Explicit appreciation - 3 - 3
Explicit apology 3 - - 4
Offering help 4 - 3 -
Initiating a small talk 6 2
Praying 4 - - 3
Leaving strategy - 2 - -
Establishing a future relationship 5 - - -
Positive feelings
Complimenting the favour giver 4 - - -
Terms of address 2 3 - 4
Handshaking - - 2 -
a restaurant. One of them insists on paying for all of them. In
this situation, men and women gave rather different gratitude
responses (Table 3). Women were more concerned about show-
ing gratitude to other women than men were to men. Men used
gratitude expressions to women more than they did to other
men. As shown in Table 3, the number and type of gratitude
expressions women tend to use is greater in the same-gender
setting than in the mixed-gender setting. Women tended to use
repayment expressions (e.g. “   
  ”, “God willing, we will pay you back in happy oc-
casions”), minimise the need for a favour (e.g. “  
  ”, “You did not need to do this”), acknowledge
imposition (e.g. “ ”, “We put too much burden on
you”), initiate talk (e.g. “  ,  ”, “The food is
delicious; what is your opinion?”) and express positive feeling
(e.g. “  ”, “This is nice of you”), apologise (e.g.
”, “I have disturbed you”), use terms of address (e.g.
” “My sweetheart”), and praying (e.g. “ 
”, “May God reward you all the best”) when con-
veying gratitude to women. They tend to only thank, acknowl-
edge imposition (e.g. “    ”, “I know we
put too much on you”), and use praying expressions when con-
veying gratitude to men. Men tended to apologise, recognise
the imposition in combination with many other expressions
when communicating gratitude to women, but not when thank-
ing men (where they tended to simply thank directly, minimise
the need for a favour, offer something in return (e.g. invitation),
and use terms of address).
In the “help with the computer” situation (Table 4), the ex-
tent of gratitude shown is higher than in situations 1 to 3. In this
situation, women seem to be very concerned about the obliga-
tion imposed on either a female or a male hearer, while men
show more concern for showing gratitude to women. In the
same-gender setting, women tend to convey surprise, inability
to express their positive feelings, indebtedness, a desire to main-
tain the relationship with the hearer, express self-blame, apolo-
gise, and offer repayment. When expressing gratitude to men,
women tend to simply thank and acknowledge the imposition
presented by the favour on the hearer, express embarrassment
and apologise. In same-gender communication between men,
thanking, repayment, praying and some other expressions are
used. Acknowledging imposition, appreciation, self-blame, apolo-
gising, as well as some other strategies were used in the mixed-
gender setting.
In situation 5 (“scholarship reference letter”) women showed
gratitude in approximately identical ways in same-gender and
mixed-gender social interactions, with regard to both strategy
type and frequency (Table 5). They tended to express apprecia-
tion, initiate talk, compliment and say prayers in addition to us-
ing terms of address. As in other situations, men expressed gra-
titude to women more than they did to men, using apologies
and terms of address along with a number of other strategies.
Situation 6 (“FedEx”) is about a person who has found a very
good fellowship for which he/she would like to apply, but the
deadline is two days away. Professor Smith agrees to write the
reference letter although he/she is very busy and, being aware
of the fast approaching deadline for the receipt of the reference
letter, sends it by FedEx although the interviewee had not ask-
ed him/her to do this. As shown in Table 6, there were few
differences in men’s and women’s communication of gratitude
in this situation, both in the same-gender and the mixed-gender
setting. Women express gratitude in both settings more than
men do, while men tend to show more gratitude to women than
they do to men. Women explicitly and implicitly apologise to
women, but they tend to implicitly apologise by expressing em-
barrassment when expressing gratitude to men. They prefer
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
Table 3.
“Restaurant bill” situation.
Strategy type
Females Males
Situation 3: “restaurant bill”
Explicit thanking 7 8 10 8
Explicit thanking and reference to the favour 3 2 - 2
Explicit apology 1 - - 3
Expressing embarrassment 3 - - -
Invitation 3 - 3 -
Offering help 4 - - 1
Positive feelings
Compliment the favour giver 3 - - -
Recognition of imposition
Minimising need for favour 4 - 1 5
Acknowledging the imposition 5 2 4
Initiating small talk 6 - - -
Praying 4 3 - -
Terms of address 3 - 2 4
Table 4.
“Help with the computer” situation.
Strategy type
Females Males
Situation 4: “help with the computer”
Explicit thanking - 8 8 3
Explicit thanking and reference to the imposition - 1 - 4
Explicit appreciation - - - 3
Expressing apology 5 3 - 6
Expressing embarrassment - 5 1 3
Self-blame/criticism 6 - - 5
Expressing indebtedness 8 - - -
Offering service and reciprocating help 7 - 3 3
Invitation 3 4
Positive feelings
Inability to express positive feelings adequately 5 - - -
Recognition of the imposition
Acknowledging imposition 6 4 - 7
Establishing a future relationship 5 - - -
Praying - - 1 -
Showing surprise 3 - - -
Terms of address 2 - - -
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 273
Table 5.
“Scholarship reference letter” situation.
Strategy type
Females Males
Situation 5: “scholarship reference letter”
Explicit thanking - - 7 10
Explicit appreciation 4 5 3 4
Explicit apology - - - 4
Positive feelings
Complimenting the favour 4 3 - -
Compliment the favour giver on the favour 4 1 - -
Initiating a small talk 3 2 - -
Praying 4 2 - -
Terms of address 10 10 8 10
Table 6.
“FedEx” situation.
Strategy type
Females Males
Situation 6: “FedEx”
Simple thanking - - 7 9
Inability to thank 6 5
Explicit appreciation 2 3 2 3
Appreciation and stating the favour 2 3 - -
Positive feelings
Compliment the favour giver 5 - 2 -
Inability to express positive feelings - 4 - 4
Expressing apology 5 - 4
Expressing embarrassment 3 4 - 3
Express their indebtedness 6 4 - -
Inability to repay 4 5 2 6
Invitation - - 4 -
Recognition of imposition
Acknowledging the imposition 6 2 2 7
Expressing non-existent imposition 5 1 - -
Non-existent obligation 1 1 - -
Initiating a small talk 5 1 3 -
Praying 6 3 - -
Showing surprise 4 2 - -
Terms of address 10 10 7 9
to express their indebtedness (e.g. “ ”, “I am really
indebted to you”), and inability to express gratitude (e.g. “
 ”, “I cannot thank you enough”), inability to repay
    ”, “Whatever I give you, I cannot
repay you”, non-existent obligation (e.g. “   
  ”, “I know that this is not one of your duties”) and
some other strategies, such as prayers e.g. “”,
“God bless you”), In contrast to women, men tend to express
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
their embarrassment and apologise, as well as using various
other gratitude strategies when thanking women. However, they
used strategies such as: thanking, appreciation, offering repay-
ment, initiating small talk, compliment, acknowledging the im-
position, and terms of address when communicating gratitude
to men.
In situation 7 (“extension for coursework deadline”) the in-
terviewee asks Professor Cox whom he/she knows only as his/
her teacher, for an extension because he/she needs to study for
final exams in other subjects. Professor Cox hesitates because
granting the extension might not be fair to other students, but
decides to grant the extension. In this situation, there were very
few differences in the strategies used by women and men, both
in same-gender and mixed-gender settings (see Table 7). In the
same-gender setting, women tend to acknowledge the obliga-
tion (in addition to using various other strategies), but they
avoid doing this in mixed-gender interactions, opting for simple
thanking, self-restraint, explanations, terms of address, expres-
sions of positive feelings and apologies. Men tend to acknowl-
edge imposition in the mixed-gender setting, where they also
use prayers, appreciation and some other gratitude expressions,
which they avoid in the same-gender setting. Women use more
strategies than men do, and they also use more gratitude strate-
gies in the mixed-gender setting than men do in the same-gen-
der setting So, in the same-gender setting women use more stra-
tegies than men do, and they also use gratitude strategies in the
mixed-gender setting more than men do in the same-gender set-
Situation 8 (“asking for directions”) is about a person who
accidently meets a lecturer of his/hers while trying to find a
restaurant and decides to ask him/her for directions, even though
he/she does not know the lecturer very well.
Table 8 shows some significant differences between women
and men in terms of the type and frequency of gratitude expres-
sions in both same-gender and mixed-gender settings. Women
appear to reply to both genders in the same way, with some
Table 7.
“Extension for coursework deadline” situation.
Strategy type
Females Males
Situation 7: “extension for coursework deadline”
Explicit thanking 6 5 7 4
Explicit thanking and reference to the favour 4 5 1 4
Explicit appreciation - - - 2
Explicit apology 7 4 3 6
Self-restraint improvement 8 8 4 8
Positive feeling
Complimenting the favour giver 5 2 - -
Recognition of imposition
Acknowledging the imposition - - - 5
Recognition of obligation 3 - - -
Initiating small talk explanation/justification 3 3 2 -
Praying - - - 3
Terms of address 8 9 6 7
Table 8.
“Asking for directions” situation.
Strategy type
Females Males
Situation 8: “asking for direction”
Explicit thanking 10 10 10 10
Explicit apology - - - 3
Invitation - - 4 -
Establishing a future relationship 4 - 3 -
Leaving talking - - - 3
Terms of address 10 9 5 7
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 275
elaboration when the lecturer is a woman. Though women
showed interest in establishing longer-term relationships, in addi-
tion to using other gratitude expressions in the same-gender
setting, they avoid establishing future relationships when thank-
ing men and use only simple thanking and the hearer’s title. In
contrast to situations 1 to 7, in situation 8 the frequency of stra-
tegies for conveying gratitude is approximately the same in
same-gender settings between men and in mixed-gender set-
tings. However, there is a difference in the strategies men tend
to use in same-gender and mixed gender settings. When con-
veying gratitude to men, they tend to try to establish a longer-
term relationship and offer invitations, but, when expressing grati-
tude to women, they avoid these strategies, preferring to apolo-
The analysis of the data according to the type of strategy
used reveals some distinctive features of the relation between
socio-situational factors and gender. In total, the participants
used 32 strategies: (1) thanking: (1.a) explicit thanking, (1.b)
explicit thanking and reference to the favour, (1.c) expressing
thanks and acknowledging the imposition, (1.d) inability to thank;
(2) appreciation: (2a.) explicit appreciation, (2.b) appreciation
and reference to the favour; (3) expressing positive feeling: (3.a)
complimenting the hearer (i.e. the favour giver), (3.b) compli-
menting the favour giver on the favour, (3.c)express inability to
express positive feeling adequately; (4) apology: (4.a) explicit
apology, (4.b) expressing embarrassment, (4.c) self-blame/criti-
cism: (5) acknowledging the imposition: (5.a) acknowledging
actual imposition, (5.b) acknowledging non-existent imposition,
(5.c) minimising the need for a favour, (5.d) acknowledging ac-
tual obligation(s), (5.e) acknowledging non-existent obligation(s);
(6) repayment: (6.a) invitation, (6.b) inability to repay, (6.c)
offering to return the favour (i.e. to reciprocateby helping the
hearer), (6.d) expressing indebtedness, (6.e) expressing self-
restrain/improvement; (7) Others: (7.a) initiating small talk (e.g.
explanation/justification), (7.b) praying, (7.c.) engaging in
leave-talk, (7.d) here statement (e.g. “”, “Here you are”),
(7.e) expressing a desire to establishing/maintaining a relation-
ship; (8) alerters: (8.a) terms of address, (8b) greeting, (8.c) show-
ing surprise and astonishment; (9) nonverbal thanking strategies
which accompany linguistic ones: (9.a) hugging, (9b) handshak-
ing (included here because they often accompany the linguistic
expression of gratitude). An overview of the use of these strate-
gies in the eight situations and the two settings (same-gender
and mixed-gender) is presented in Table 9.
This section examines the main findings in the context of the
existing literature. The findings reveal a significant impact of
both the socio-cultural and the cognitive-biological aspects of
culture on Jordanians’ communicative behaviour. The data show
that the interaction among gender and these factors exerts a
significant influence on the type and frequency of strategies for
communicating gratitude and provides the basis for the follow-
ing conclusions:
1) Women perceive the communication of appreciation and
gratitude as more important than men do.
2) Although both men and women have access to the same
resources for expressing gratitude, the strategies that they use
differ systematically.
3) The gratitude style of women and men varies, depending
on the gender of the addressee and some features of the socio-
situational context, in particular: the social formality of the si-
tuation, social status and the amount of imposition presented by
the favour on the favour giver.
Women Perceive the Communication of Appreciation
and Gratitude as More Important than Men Do
Based on the analysis of the strategies and their frequencies
in all eight situations, women appear to express gratitude more
than men do. They appear to use more polite strategies, repeti-
tive forms and intensifiers (really, very, too) and they express
gratitude in more elaborate ways than men do, which suggests
that women feel comparatively strongly the need to appear polite
to others. This finding is in line with those of other researchers
who observe that women are more sensitive to being polite than
men, utilizing more politeness strategies (Gudonog & Jing,
2005; Froh et al., 2009). This is consistent with Lakoff’s (1975)
assumption that women are more polite and conscious of (the
need to avoid) hurting others, soft-spoken and nonaggressive,
while men tend to be direct and assertive, due to power ine-
quality in their linguistic and cultural worlds.
The frequency of men’s use of gratitude expressions is com-
paratively low, which could be explained by biological and
cultural differences between men and women, with dominance
being more important to men, so any act of expressing gratitude
could threaten their masculinity and power (Baron-Cohen, 2003).
This could be related to the claim that the communication of
gratitude is not intrinsically face-threatening, but is likely to be
perceived as face-threatening if it matters to the person to be
dominant and assert power over the interlocutor, especially in
non-egalitarian contexts (as argued in Al-Khawaldeh & Žegarac,
2013a). According to Baron-Cohen (2003), dominance hierarchy
reflects men’s lower orientation towards empathy and higher
orientation towards systemising skills and practices. Our find-
ings support previous results which show that men are less like-
ly to feel and express gratitude, tending to make more critical
evaluations. This tendency supports Kashdan et al.’s (2009) ob-
servation that men appear to view appreciation as challenging
and onerous, preferring to evade feelings of indebtedness. This
also suggests that, while most women enjoy talking in order to
establish and manage social relationships, men are more ori-
ented towards communication aimed at conveying information
(i.e. propositional conceptual representations). In other words,
women tend to value more the relational and men tend to value
more the transactional function of social interaction. Our find-
ings are also consistent with the views of Tannen (1990), Basow
and Rubenfeld (2003), and Wood (2002) that women and men
have different assumptions about talk and friendly conversa-
Although Both Men and Women Have Access to the
Same Resources for Communicating Gratitude, the
Strategies They Use Differ Systematically
The strategies men and women use to convey gratitude differ
systematically. This might be a consequence of gender related
differences in perceptions of the degree of politeness, the weighti-
ness of social familiarly, the weightiness of status and the sig-
nificance of the favour. People choose to use certain strategies
to show how much effort they to put into face redress, and in
this way communicate (more or less indirectly) how much im-
portance they attach to face in the immediate situation.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
Table 9.
Overview of strategies used in the linguistic communication of gratitude.
Situation 1 Situation 2 Situation 3 Situation 4 Situation 5 Situation 6 Situation 7 Situation 8
S m s m s m s m s m S m s m s m s m s m sm s m s m s m s m sm
a          
c  
d  
a. 
b  
a   
b 
c  
a   
b  
c  
a  
b  
e  
a  
b 
c   
d 
a    
b  
a    
c 
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 277
Some interesting insights into the relation between gender
and situation can be gained by considering the use of the ob-
served strategies for communicating gratitude in relation to the
participants’ gender (same-gender vs. mixed-gender talk) and
the socio-situational settings described in the scenarios. The
distinctive characteristics of gender-related gratitude behaviour
are easier to identify for those strategies which are specific to
particular situations.
Types of Strategies for Communicating Gratitude Used
Exclusively by Women/Men in Same-Gender Settings
It seems remarkable that both genders show exclusive pref-
erence for using certain gratitude strategies in same-gender set-
tings. The number of gratitude strategies used by women is
greater than that of men, especially in same-gender interaction.
Three such strategies were found in same-gender talk: hugging
(situation 1), establishing a relationship for the future (situation
2, situation 4 and situation 8) and self-criticism (situation 4).
The sole use of hugging (a strategy which is not strictly speak-
ing linguistic, but accompanies linguistic acts of communicat-
ing gratitude) and maintaining a relationship in communication
between women is readily explained in terms of cultural norms
of appropriate social interaction between women and men.
Four strategies in our data are used exclusively by men: here
statement (situation 1), handshaking (situations 1 and 2), mak-
ing an invitation (situation 8) and small talk (situations 6 and 7).
Each of these strategies was used in same gender interactions
between men. This indicates men’s directness when dealing
with men. This is also easily explained in terms of cultural
norms where, due to religious and other socio-cultural norms,
handshaking, invitation and initiating talk are avoided in mixed-
gender interaction, as they are not socially acceptable. Men’s
tendency to use small talk in same-gender settings is explained
also by the hearer having gone beyond what might be described
as his duty towards the speaker, so the small talk strategy is a
means of acknowledging this by engaging in a more personal
type of conversation and in this way showing gratitude implic-
Types of Gratitude Expression. Strategies Used Exclusively
by Women and Men in Certain Gender-Based Settings
The following eleven strategies used for expressing gratitude
are observed across situations: thanking, expression of positive
feelings, apology, acknowledging imposition, commenting on
obligations, repayment, self-criticism, prayers, appreciation, and
terms of address.
The most striking of these strategies is (direct or simple)
thanking. This strategy is used in all situations and settings ex-
cept: situation 4 (women in same-gender setting), situation 5
(women in same-gender and mixed-gender settings) and situa-
tion 6 (women in same-gender and mixed-gender settings). In
situation 4 (“help with the computer situation”) women seem to
prefer to express gratitude indirectly (though very strongly) to
other women who have helped them by saying their gratitude is
so great that they are not able to express it in words. The “in-
ability to thank” strategy is also used by women in situation 6
(letter of reference sent by FedEx). This is consistent with the
observation that situations 4 and 6 present the greatest degree of
imposition on the thankee. So, these are the only situations
where the thanker feels that any thanking expression is not
sufficient. In situation 5 (“scholarship reference letter”) women
do not thank directly in either same-gender or mixed-gender
settings. The strategies they use in this situation are: small talk,
terms of address, praying expressions, expressing appreciation,
and expressing positive feeling(s). The use of these strategies
may reflect women’s preference for relational rather than trans-
actional talk in situations which are not very formal, but where
the power-distance between the speaker and the hearer is suffi-
cient to allow for more personal/relational talk without the risk
of misinterpretation. In this situation, men use direct thanking,
but they also use terms of address, expressing appreciation and
[only in the same gender setting] apologies. In situation 5, men
do not use “small talk”, and “praying expressions”.
Expression of positive feelings
Women’s high preference for using this strategy (including
complimenting) was observed in six situations, whereas it was
used by men only in situation 6 (“FedEx”). It seems reasonable
to assume that complimenting is used to express a positive
emotional response to the hearer for his/her valued favour, mi-
nimise the degree of imposition, and reduce the social distance
between the speaker and the hearer, which can be seen as a way
to consolidate solidarity between the speaker and the hearer and,
in this way, ease communication.
Women use this strategy exclusively in the same-gender set-
tings in three situations: “booking a holiday” (2), “restaurant bill”
(3) and “help with the computer” (4). They also use it in same-
gender and mixed-gender settings in three situations: “letter of
reference” (5), “FedEx” (6) and “coursework extension” (7). This
is probably best explained in terms of the relationship between
the speaker and the hearer, which is informal in situations (2, 3
and 4) and very formal in situations (5, 6 and 7). While the ex-
pression of positive feeling(s) towards the hearer in an informal
situation allows for a range of interpretations (some of which
the speaker would want to avoid conveying), in more formal
situations the expression of positive feelings towards the hearer
is less liable to misinterpretation and need not be avoided. This
could also be explained on the assumption that there is a greater
degree of expected help/assistance from men to women and
between men; perhaps also a sense of mutual solidarity which
presupposes positive feelings. This finding is in line with Her-
bert (1989), Johnson and Roen (1992) and Coates (1998) whose
findings show that women compliment more than men do and
Migdadi (2003) who found that compliments were compara-
tively frequent in same-gender social interaction in the Jordanian
The only situation where complimenting is found in all set-
tings is the fellowship reference letter sent by FedEx (6). It
seems reasonable to conclude that the expression of positive
feelings is considered appropriate in this situation because the
hearer’s help goes beyond what the speaker has asked for and
shows a personal concern for the speaker’s best interests. The
low frequency of men’s use of this strategy could indicate men’s
unwillingness to express emotions which could be attributed to
the vulnerability they may feel, and could also affect their per-
ceptions of their social autonomy. Men tend to avoid making
exaggerated compliments, especially to women, probably be-
cause these would be perceived as insincere, and therefore, as
flattery, which is generally not accepted in the Jordanian culture,
as it transgresses social norms of behaviour and might be per-
ceived as rude. Exaggerated compliments are likely to make the
complimentee feel uneasy or embarrassed. Politeness is a mat-
ter of degree, and determining the appropriate degree of polite-
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
ness by choosing the appropriate linguistic expression depends
on the speaker’s and the hearer’s assessment of (mutual) obli-
gations, and costs. As Hasnaa Alsurihi (personal communica-
tion) has impressed on us, in Arabic cultures (including that of
Jordan), these assessments are based mainly on the personal
relationship between the interlocutors, rather than on their in-
stitutionalised social roles, such as: colleague, student, teacher,
service provider, which are more important in Western cultures.
If this generalisation, which cannot be explored here in more
detail, is broadly correct, it points to a promising direction for
further research.
The “small talk” strategy is also observed in particular set-
tings. In situations 1 (“borrowing class notes”) and 3 (“restau-
rant bill”) it is used only by women in same-gender interaction;
in situation 2 (“booking a hotel”) it is used by women and men
in same-gender interactions; in situation 5 (“scholarship refer-
ence letter”) by women in both same-gender and mixed-gender
interaction and in situation 6 (“FedEx”) in all settings except
men in mixed-gender interaction. Small talk is used for estab-
lishing and maintaining positive social rapport between people.
But why is engaging in small talk appropriate in the situations
where it has been observed? Why is small talk initiated by wo-
men in more situations than it is by men? A person who has
borrowed some class notes may engage in small talk to convey
the impression that she is not merely a user, that she asked the
hearer to lend her the notes because she considers her a friend,
so small talk appears to be a positive politeness strategy (“we en-
gage in small talk, therefore we are friends”). It may well be
that in some situations (such as 1 and 3) women would not
initiate small talk with men, because this could easily be misin-
terpreted due to particular cultural norms about the appropriate
psychological and physical distance between women and men,
which cannot be discussed here. Men do not initiate small talk
with women in these situations possibly for the same reasons,
while they do not engage in small talk with other men because
the favour is not particularly big and mutual solidarity between
men is strongly expected. Holiday is a good small talk topic, so
men engage in it in same-gender interactions. In situation 5
(“letter of reference”) the social distance between the speaker
and the hearer is considerable, but the hearer has evidently done
far more for the speaker than the speaker was entitled to expect.
In this situation, small talk affirms the speaker’s implicit ac-
ceptance of the hearer’s friendly action. Essentially the same
explanation for small talk could be given for its use in situation
6 (“FedEx”).
Apology is also found to serve the pragmatic function of ex-
pressing gratitude. The two expressions are similar in that they
imply indebtedness, as gratitude is expressed to show the speaker’s
indebtedness for benefiting from the hearer’s actions, and apol-
ogy is expressed to show the speaker’s indebtedness for the im-
position incurred by the hearer. That is why apologies and ex-
pressions of gratitude involve recognition of imposition. Our
data shows that apologies are more frequent for conveying grati-
tude indirectly in same-gender conversations between women
than in same-gender conversations between men. However, this
strategy is mainly used by men in the mixed-gender setting.
Women use it in the mixed-gender setting only in the highest
degree of imposition situation and mainly when dealing with
high status individuals (situation 7, “asking the lecturer for as-
signment extension”). This could be explained by the fact that
male-male apologies could be attributed to men’s perception of
apologizing as likely to make their relationship more formal.
This could also indicate that they view it as a face threatening
act. Men’s use of apology in mixed-gender settings could also
be related to the socio-cultural perception and representation of
women as more vulnerable than men. Through intensifying
apologies in conversation with women, men aim to behave
formally, trying to show that the imposition was unintentional.
They communicate indirectly the sincere intention to mitigate
the imposition. This could imply covertly that they regard women
as less powerful.
In situation 1 (borrowing class notes) men’s apologies in
mixed-gender conversation could be explained in terms of the
cultural expectation that men should not depend on women for
help. It could also be explained as due to social restrictions on
mixed-gender interaction. Apologising could serve to show that
they are aware of and abide by generally accepted social rules.
It is also interesting that in situation 5 (“scholarship reference
letter”) only men used apology and they did so only in the
mixed-gender setting. Again, this could be due to the sense of
face loss at depending on a woman for assistance in a situation
where the position of competence, power and authority is tradi-
tionally reserved for men.
As a way to convey an apology, the strategy “expressing em-
barrassment” is found in same-gender settings, as well as in
mixed-gender settings in situation 6. In the mixed-ender setting
this strategy is used by men to emphasise that the imposition on
the hearer caused by the favour was not intended. This may be
due to the expectation that men are self-sufficient and that by
going out of her way to help a man the female lecturer exposed
the man’s lack of self-sufficiency. In other words, by helping a
man a woman threatens his positive face.
Women showed a disposition to present well-organised apolo-
gies to their female counterparts. In situation 2 (“booking a ho-
tel”) women apologise in the same-gender setting. In this situa-
tion, they would not apologise to a man, presumably because a
male colleague would be expected to (offer to) help in this
situation. A man would not apologise in either the same-gender
or the mixed-gender setting. Men are generally expected to
provide comparatively big support to each other and women are
expected to provide comparatively generous assistance to col-
leagues working in the same office. In situation 3 (“restaurant
bill”) women apologise in the same-gender setting, presumably
because it is not socially accepted that a woman should pay the
bill for the mixed group. In this situation, men apologise in the
mixed-gender setting because it is socially expected that a man
would pay for the dinner. Woman to woman apologies could be
interpreted as communicating indirectly that the imposition
caused by doing the favour was not intended, and could help
establish and/or maintain positive rapport between the speaker and
the hearer. This shows that, on the whole, women are more in-
debted and sensitive to possibly face-threatening speech and
use negative politeness in conversation with other women to
mitigate the face threat. The prevalence of negative politeness
in talk between women is surprising, as initial research indi-
cates that they use mainly positive politeness strategies in this
setting. For example, women tend to apologise and recognise
the imposition put on other women, in addition to expressing
their appreciation and positive feelings. This shows that there is
no sharp dividing line between women’s world and men’s world,
where the former receive positive politeness and the latter re-
ceive negative politeness. Rather, the ways women and men
communicate gratitude reflect their assessments of the weighti-
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 279
ness of several social and contextual variables (such as: social
status, social familiarity and degree of imposition) in the con-
text of the socio-cultural norms relevant to particular socio-si-
tuational settings.
In Situation 4 (help with the computer given by a person the
speaker does not know very well) women apologise in both
same-gender and mixed-gender settings, whereas men do so
explicitly only in mixed-gender settings. This seems to point to
a greater degree of socio-culturally expected mutual support be-
tween men, who, if they assess the received favour as very
major, offer some sort of repayment. This is not surprising if, as
we are inclined to assume, women are generally more sensitive
to imposing on others, while men expect other men to help.
Men are expected to be more self-sufficient and competent in
IT than women, so might lose face when depending on women
in this situation. Women’s apologies to men in this situation
could also be attributed to their perception that it is highly un-
usual and impolite for a woman to intrude (and greatly impose)
on a strange man. In situation 6 (“FedEx”) apology is used by
men only in mixed-gender interaction. This is what we would
expect if women tend to feel more indebted to men for acts of
kindness which go beyond their duties (as men are perceived as
less altruistic than women), whereas men would apologise to
women in this situation, for reasons of face loss: the situation
makes it evident that the man is very dependent on the woman’s
support, which threatens his positive face. Situation 7 (“exten-
sion for coursework deadline”) is interesting in that apology is
not used by women only in all settings. This could be because
women and men were predisposed to exaggerate their apologies
particularly with a high degree of obligation and, in the case of
men, even when the person deserving gratitude was of the op-
posite gender. Women’s use of apologies in situation 7 may be
due to their sensitivity to imposing on a higher status person.
This might be further explained in terms of the culture-specific
assumption that women have lesser rights to impose (by mak-
ing requests) on individuals who are in a position of power.
However, imposition on women was recognised and apolo-
gised significantly more often than imposition on men. This
finding also suggests that men and women perceive the kind of
imposition that should trigger the communication of gratitude
somewhat differently, which is reflected in their linguistic be-
haviour. What is seen as a great favour by a woman, does not
essentially count as a great favour for a man, as in situation
2(“booking a hotel”) and situation 5 (“scholarship reference
letter”). Jordanian women seem to be more concerned about
time, effort and money, while Jordanian men are more inclined
to acknowledge impositions relatively elaborately only if they
are incurred by women.
The low frequency of female-male use of apology for any
imposition caused could be linked to men’s unwillingness to
hear women’s apologies as a part of men’s politeness and re-
spect for women. This was also pointed out by several female
participants who said that in general, they could not greatly
apologise to male friends, as their apologies would not be ac-
cepted. It is also out of politeness and respect for women that
men are generally expected to downgrade the significance of
women’s apologies even if these are deserved. This is consis-
tent with the assumption that men do not consider women to be
in a position to affect them in such a way that they might need
to apologise to them. In other words, by not accepting that the
apology of a woman is deserved a man implies (covertly) that
his position of strength and dominance is such that it could not
be challenged by the actions of a woman. This supports Al-
Adaileh’s (2007) observation that it is impolite and uncommon
for Jordanian men to allow women to apologise to them.
Acknowledging imposition
The “acknowledging imposition” strategy is found in many
settings. In situation 4 (“help with the computer”) it is not ob-
served only in same-gender conversation between women. The
use of this strategy by women, also in both settings, supports
the observation made earlier that women are generally more
sensitive to imposing on others than men, who strongly expect
other men to offer and give help. A man might lose face when
depending on a woman in this situation. Women’s recognition
of imposition on men could also be attributed to their percep-
tion that it is impolite for a woman to intrude and make an im-
position on a strange man. This could help them draw formal
boundaries in their relationships. In situation 3 (“restaurant bill”)
this strategy is used by women in same-gender and mixed-gender
conversations. This can easily be explained in terms of a social
convention that men, rather than women, should pay the res-
taurant bill in the situation described. (An interesting question
raised by this strategy is why it occurred once in same-gender
conversation between men?) It seems plausible to argue that
men have a stronger sense of their personal autonomy and are
less likely to negotiate from a position of personal obligation.
The use of this strategy by men exclusively in mixed-gender
interaction is likely to help them keep their social relation-
ships appropriately formal. This could also indicate that they
view it as a face threatening act when it is addressed to men by
men, presumably because it suggests that by accepting the im-
position the hearer has lost his personal autonomy, possibly
also because the speaker may be seen as relinquishing his own
autonomy by acknowledging indirectly his obligation to return
the favour to the hearer.
Equally important is the use of the “minimising the need for
a favour” strategy, observed in situations 5 (“scholarship refer-
ence letter”), 6 (“FedEx”) and 7 (“extension for coursework
deadline”). This strategy is used by women in both same-gen-
der and mixed-gender conversations. In situation 4 (“help with
the computer”) it is used by women in same-gender interaction
only. The speaker who opts for this strategy may seem to be
trying to avoid taking responsibility for the imposition on the
hearer (i.e. the favour giver) by communicating both that the
favour is needed but not to the point that the hearer should put
himself or herself out for the speaker. However, it should be
understood as an expression used to mitigate the severity of the
imposition, as well as implicating that the imposition is not de-
liberate and could not have been avoided as it was beyond the
speaker’s control. This could lead the favour giver to accept the
imposition and feel positive about the favour. It may also indi-
cate that women generally feel more indebted for received fa-
vours than men and are more sensitive to possibly face-threat-
ening speech, using this strategy even in same-gender settings
where they feel generally more relaxed with their interlocutors.
The situations in which this strategy is used suggest that it
could be perceived as socially acceptable and preferred only in
formal situations involving a high degree of imposition.
Commenting on obligations
In situation 7 (“extension for coursework deadline”), the “com-
menting on obligations” strategy is used by women only in the
same-gender setting. However, the strategy “non-existent obli-
gation” is used by women in both same-gender and mixed-gen-
der settings in situation 6 (“FedEx”). It seems plausible to as-
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
sume that in the “extension for coursework deadline” situation
asking a favour from a female lecturer leads the female student
feeling more comfortable about commenting in personal terms on
her obligations than when the lecturer is a man, whereas sending
a reference letter for a scholarship via FedEx is so far outside a
lecturer’s normal duties that a student would not expect it at all.
Therefore, it is hardly surprising that in this situation com-
menting on a sense of personal obligation is equally appropriate
in both same-gender and mixed-gender settings. In situation 7
(“extension for coursework deadline”), the context in which ob-
servations about personal obligation are made includes assump-
tions about the speaker asking for compassionate treatment,
whereas in situation 5 (“scholarship reference letter”) the spea-
ker’s obligations are talked about in the context of assumptions
about his/her personal aspirations. In this context, assumptions
about the greater disposition of the lecturer for showing empa-
thy with the speaker are less relevant, so evidence of such em-
pathy (presented by the lecturer’s decision to personally send
the letter by FedEx) is more relevant (as it is comparatively
In situations 2 (“booking a holiday”) and 3 (“restaurant bill”),
this strategy is used only in same-gender interactions (both be-
tween women and between men). In situations 4 (“help with the
computer”) and 6 (“FedEx”) the only setting in which repay-
ment is not offered by women is mixed-gender interaction. In
situation 6 (“FedEx”), men use the “repayment” strategy in the
same-gender setting, which they do not do in situation 5
(“scholarship reference letter”).
This might be explained on the assumption that that men are
expected to put themselves out more to help women in such
situations, so repayment is not owed. This suggests that in these
situations repayments would not be appropriate in mixed-gen-
der interactions. The infrequency of this strategy in mixed-gen-
der interaction could be due to socio-cultural restrictions. Mas-
culinity is socially constructed as involving a position of power
in relation to women, while femininity is socially constructed
as involving dependence on men. It follows from this that a
woman should not owe repayment to the more powerful man on
whom she depends. By offering to repay a man she would be
putting herself implicitly in a relatively equal position. The
offer of repayment by a woman in mixed-gender interaction
could also be interpreted as an intention to establish and main-
tain close social relationships which could be considered as
socially inappropriate. It is considered polite for a man to offer
repayment to a woman and to minimise the need for repayment
when it is offered by a woman.
There is some evidence that men and women view gratitude
differently. While men tend to y offer mostly material repay-
ment (e.g. “.        
”, “I would be happier if you share a meal with us at
home today.”), women tend to offer incorporeal repayment
(e.g. “.       , “I
hope I will be able to serve you in happy occasions.”) espe-
cially with men.
The high frequency of the expression of “self-criticism” strat-
egy (used exclusively when talking to women by both women
and men) could be accounted for by the fact that it helps the
speaker to communicate strongly her or his sympathy with the
favour giver in a high imposition situation, such as “help with
the computer” (situation 4). Self-blame and self-criticism also
make it possible to communicate strongly, though indirectly,
the importance the speaker places on a harmonious relationship
with the hearer. The exclusive use of self-reprimanding by wo-
men only in same-gender settings is best explained in terms of
“face-threat”. In a situation in which the need for help may
have been due to the speaker’s lack of technical knowledge of
computing, an admission of lack of competence could be seen
as a threat to the speaker’s positive face. However, contextual
assumptions about the expected level of technical competence
of men and women vary across cultures. In a traditional culture
like Jordan women are not expected to be competent in the
technical sphere, whereas men are. It follows from this that a
man who admits to being less technically competent than is so-
cially desirable threatens his positive face, whereas a woman
does not (because she is not expected to be competent in the
technical sphere).
In situation 1 (“class notes”), this strategy is used only by
women in the same-gender setting. In situation 2 (“booking a
holiday”) it is used by women in same-gender settings, but also
by men in mixed-gender settings. In situations 3 (“restaurant
bill”), 5 (“scholarship reference letter”) and 6 (“FedEx”), it is
used by women in same-gender and mixed-gender settings.
However, in situation 4 (“help with the computer”) this strategy
is used only by men in same-gender settings. In situation 7
(“extension for coursework deadline”) it is used only by men in
the mixed-gender setting. Bearing in mind that prayers are
never perceived as improper, their use or non-use is mainly
driven by how much affection the speaker has for the hearer
and how showing affection is socially perceived. Women may
use prayers more than men because they are more emotional,
but the display of emotions by a man could be interpreted as a
sign of weakness, because strength and self-control are central
to the socially constructed ideal of masculinity.
The “appreciation” strategy is observed in 12 settings. It is
used in a mixed-setting in situations (2) (“booking a hotel’),4
(“help with the computer’), (7) (“extension for coursework
deadline’) and in all settings in situations 5 (“scholarship refer-
ence letter’) and 6 (“FedEx”). In these situations the degree of
formality between the participants is high. The data suggests
that appreciation is usually communicated explicitly when ex-
pressing gratitude for actions which go beyond what could have
been reasonably expected of the hearer to do for the speaker. In
situation 2 (“booking a hotel”) appreciation is expressed explic-
itly by men and women in mixed-gender settings. A possible
explanation for this is that women are generally more apprecia-
tive, while men are prompted to express gratitude to women be-
cause by accepting their help, they find their positive face (the
need for self-sufficiency) under threat. Appreciation is expressed
in mixed-gender settings in situations 2 (“booking a holiday”)
and 4 (“help with the computer”). In mixed gender settings this
strategy is used alongside other strategies which express grati-
tude more strongly. As showing appreciation is more relevant
when the favour given was not expected or was not even asked
for, the use of this strategy in these socio-situational settings
suggests that the speaker, by expressing appreciation, intends to
communicate that the favour given was all the more valued
because it was not expected. In case the favour was not asked
for, the speaker, by showing appreciation, reassures the hearer
that the speaker recognises the hearer’s actions as desirable to
the speaker.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 281
Terms of address
This strategy is observed in quite a few situational settings.
In situation 1 (where the speaker is expressing gratitude to a
close friend for lending him/her his/her class notes) this strat-
egy is used by women in the same-gender interaction and men
in mixed-gender interaction. The use of this strategy by women
in same-gender setting means more intimacy such as “my eyes”,
whereas its use by men in mixed-gender interaction indicates
respect and helps the hearer make the interaction more formal
and show respect (e.g. “” “my sister”). In situation 2 (ex-
pressing gratitude to a colleague the speaker does not know
very well for helping with booking a hotel) the “terms of ad-
dress” strategy is used in all situational settings except in same-
gender conversation between men. This could be explained on
the assumption that social expectations about mutual help be-
tween male colleagues are very high due to a comparatively high
degree of solidarity between men. The use of this strategy in all
other settings in situation 2 seems to point to the role of dis-
tance between the participants (who are colleagues, but who do
not know each other well). This conclusion is supported by the
data relating to situations 6 (letter of reference from a profes-
sional person that the speaker knows very well) and 8 (help in
the street from a person the speaker does not know very well).
Our findings show clearly that the “terms of address” strategy
signifies intimacy in more familiar same-gender settings and
deference in more formal and mixed-gender settings.
The Gratitude Style of Women and Men Varies,
Depending on the Gender of the Addressee and Some
Features of the Socio-Situational Context, in
Particular: The Social Formality of the Situation,
Social Status and the Amount of Imposition Presented
by the Favour on the Favour Giver
It appears that women, rather than men, give considerable
weight to the level of familiarity with the hearer when express-
ing gratitude. Women prefer not to express gratitude to men
who are strangers. In general, they use various strategies to con-
vey gratitude to men. They find making decisions on the best
way to express gratitude in the same-gender setting much easier
than in the mixed-gender setting. For women, the most impor-
tant aspect of making strategic decisions on how to communi-
cate gratitude seems to be the degree of familiarity with the
hearer. For example, in the “booking a hotel” situation they do
not readily initiate small talk, because they are not familiar with
the hearer and also because the formality of the situation is
rather high. Showing interest in establishing a future relation-
ship in the “giving directions” situation (situation 8) is definite-
ly regarded as impolite and considered ill-mannered. In view of
these observations, it is not surprising that Jordanian women
tend to employ different politeness strategies when expressing
gratitude to relatively close friends who are members of their
“in-group” and when conveying gratitude to comparative strang-
ers, who are categorised as “out-group” individuals.
Both genders showed significant awareness of using appro-
priate politeness strategies, especially when addressing higher
status individuals. Compared to men, women appear to be more
sensitive to the social status differential between the interlocu-
tors than to gender differences, especially in communication
with higher status persons. Our informants explained the use of
similar strategies for expressing gratitude in situations 5 (“school-
arship reference letter”), 6 (“FedEx”) and 7 (“extension for
coursework deadline”) as motivated by the formality of the
situation and their personal relationship with the hearer, stating
that they viewed their teachers as parent figures. Men placed
greater emphasis on the need to express gratitude to women
than to men. They reported that male university lecturers tend
to be more formal with them than with women, so they tend to
use direct polite formal ways of expressing their gratitude to
male lecturers. Moreover, men appeared to be less concerned
about social status and less self-expressive than women in such
situations. For example, women reported using more strategies
than men, such as the title “Professor” and replacing the second
person pronoun singular “you” “   ” with
the honorific second person plural “you” “  
” when talking with a person of significantly higher status.
This is consistent with Liao and Brenahan’s (1996: p. 709)
observation that “women are more status sensitive than men”.
Another explanation might be that in some socio-cultural set-
tings women are expected to acknowledge explicitly their lower
status, if the status differential between the participants is high.
A prediction which follows from both explanations is that
women of lower status will employ more politeness strategies
than men of lower status in situations where the status different-
tial between the participants is high.
The degree of imposition presented by the favour being thanked
for seems to be an overriding factor in the choice of strategy for
conveying gratitude. This could explain two findings. First,
people seem to express gratitude using different strategies de-
pending on whether the imposition presented by doing the fa-
vour is low or high. Second, the degree of imposition might be
the cause of variation in the appropriate degree of politeness.
Women are expected to be more polite than men. In general,
they also seem to acknowledge the high degree of imposition
on the hearer who has done the favour by employing a variety
of strategies. This suggests that the socially-accepted attitude is
that the same favour presents a greater imposition if it has been
done for the benefit of a woman than for the benefit of a man.
Women’s high sensitivity toward any imposition caused to others
could be an additional reason for their tendency to express ap-
preciation often. It seems that in the same type of situation the
distance between the participants in the same-gender setting is
lower if they are men than in the mixed-gender setting. For this
reason women tend to use more linguistic politeness in ex-
pressing gratitude to men than men do in the same situation
when talking to other men. Men also tend to perceive situations
as less formal and the status differential as smaller than women
do in the same situation. These observations lead to the general
conclusion that women and men assign different values to the
variables which play a causal role in the choice of strategy for
communicating gratitude and the ways in which these strategies
are used.
The hearer’s gender also seems to have a considerable influ-
ence on the communication of gratitude. Women tend to ex-
press gratitude to women more than they do to men, while men
are inclined to express gratitude to women more than to men.
While women seem to be comparatively highly deferential and
less communicative when conveying gratitude to men, they are
very supportive, empathic and warm when conveying gratitude
to women. The various expressions of gratitude used by women
outnumber those used by men in same-gender interactions by a
bigger margin than in mixed-gender interaction. The findings
also show that women vary their gratitude strategies according
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
to the gender of the addressee to a greater extent than men do.
They are more responsive than men to subtle differences in the
social relationship between the interlocutors which affect the
communication of gratitude. This could be a reflection of gen-
der-inequality as an intrinsic feature of the Jordanian culture
(which used to be even greater than it is today), which is hardly
surprising as talk is reflexively associated with the socio-cul-
tural and contextual environment in which it occurs (Ochs &
Schieffelin, 1979; Ochs, 1988; Duranti & Goodwin, 1992; Potter,
1996). In the past, women were expected to act according to
very strict rules as they had lower social status. This tradition
lives on in patterns of communication. Women are still expect-
ed not to engage in conversation with men to whom they are
not related, especially with strangers. Although traditional cul-
ture has changed in many ways, the old Jordanian ideology and
stereotypes still permeate every socio-situational setting (the
street, the workplace) and exert some influence on cross-gender
communication. A significant factor in perpetuating the differ-
ences in the communication of gratitude by men and women in
Jordan is education, which plays an important role in the trans-
mission of traditional cultural values and norms from one gen-
eration to the next. Boys and girls are taught to behave like
boys and girls. What Cameron (1995) calls “verbal hygiene” is
different for men and women.While Jordanian men have some
considerable freedom when selecting gratitude strategies, Jor-
danian women are taught rather strictly prescribed socially ap-
propriate ways of talking (see Cameron (2007) for a more de-
tailed discussion of this point in relation to other cultures).
The investigation of the relation between language and gen-
der in the linguistic communication of gratitude in a particular
culture can be thought of as faced with three major tasks: col-
lecting the data, describing the data and explaining the data.
The study presented in this paper has addressed each of these
tasks in ways which, despite some serious limitations, lead to
interesting insights and suggest directions for further research.
The collection of the data was systematic as it involved re-
sponding to a set of scenarios. The main shortcoming of this
approach is that the data is not naturally occurring. However,
the description of the data led to conclusions about the strate-
gies used to express gratitude and about the ways these are re-
lated to gender. These conclusions could (and, we believe,
should) inform the design of further studies based on observa-
tions of naturally occurring linguistic behaviour. For example,
it would be possible to check whether the strategies we have
identified are actually used by people in the culture of Jordan
and whether there are systematic differences between the cul-
ture of Jordan and other cultures in the ways gratitude is ex-
pressed. At the more explanatory level, it would be worth ob-
serving the communication of gratitude across a range of situa-
tions which vary in subtle respects and in this way check the
tentative and sketchy explanations that we have proposed. In
particular, we have argued that the relation between gender and
the communication of gratitude could be explained in terms of
the interaction between a handful of variables: face concerns,
degree of imposition, and the socio-cultural values and attitudes
which underlie power, distance and status differential. Clearly,
this claim could be tested as it gives rise to various predictions
which could inform the collection of naturally occurring data.
Another interesting challenge might be to contrast the culture of
Jordan with other proximate and more distant cultures.
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Appendix A
A. Using the Arabic word “shukran” “thank” only(bare thanking).
  ” “ukra:n lak jazi:lan”, “Thank you very much.” (Recommendation letter)
  ” “>kuruk min kul >amaq qalbee.”, “I thank you from the bottom of my heart heart.” (booking a
B. Expressing thanking and stating the favour
    "”, “ukran lak kathi:ran ʕla xidmatik”, “Thank you very much for your service.” (Computer)
  "  ” “ukran dazi:lan li taqdi:rik wadʕi: Alxas”, “Thanks very much for your recognition
of my own situation.” (Paper extension)
C. Expressing thanking and mentioning the imposition caused by the favour
             
 
”, “ukran lak jazi:lan ʕala alwaqit alidˤafi: fi:
kitabat risalat altawsi:ah w<r&ha ʕan tˤari: fi:di:ks”, “Thank you very much for the extra time for writing the reference
letter and sending it by FedEx(FedEx)
"         
", “ukran lak kathi:ran la alduhid alaði: baðaltahu fi: tasli:h alaswb”,
“Many thanks for the effort you spent in fixing my computer” (Computer)
Expressing an inability to express thanking
    
” “La >rif ki:f ‘kuruk aq alukr”, “I do not know how to thank you right” or “I can’t
thank you enough” (Recommendation letter)
   "     
” “na haqan adiz an ukrik ala aldwa aldami:lah”, “I am really unable to
thank you for this lovely invitation”. (In a restaurant)
A. Expressing bare appreciation
"  
“&qadir lak alian”, “I highly appreciate for you” (Computer)
  
” “&qadir lak kathi:ran”, “I greatly appreciate it for you” (Recommendation letter)
B. Expressing appreciation and explicitly stating the favour.
"   " “&qadir lak alian marwfak”, “I highly appreciate your favour”.(Booking a hotel)
"    " “&qadir lakdazi:lan musa: datuk wa xidmatuk”, “I appreciate your help and service
very much”(Recommendation letter)
C. Expressing appreciation and mentioning the imposition caused by the favour
       
"” “&qadir lak musa: datuk la alram min kwnik mawl” “I appreciate your
help though you were busy”, “I appreciate your help though you were busy” (Computer)
"     ", “&qadir lak madhudak litasli:h alhaswb alxas bi:” I appreciate our efforts for
fixing my computer”, “I appreciate our efforts for fixing my computer” (Computer)
D. Appreciation and stating the reason
"       
“&qadir lak musa: adatuk alati: kuntu biad masah laha”, “I appreciate your
help which I badly needed”(FedEx)
Expressing positive feelings
A. Expressing a positive reaction to the favour giver/(compliment):
  
” “mamnwn didan litawnak”, “Iam very grateful for your cooperation”(computer)
    ” “faqad amartani:bilutfak w birufak”, “you overwhelmed me by your kindness and
favour” (FedEx)
B. Expressing a positive reaction to favour giver on the object of the favour/ (compliment).
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    
” “aqan <na mula:atuk wa: dia w mufi:dah”, “really your notes are clear and use-
ful.” (Class notes)
    ” ‘kalimat risalat altwsi:ah ra’ah didan, “The recommendations letter’s words are
extremely wonderful.” (Recommendation letter).
C. Expressing a positive reaction to the outcome of the favour
         
” “ana mut’kd anaha satakwn musaadah kabi:rah <ða asalt ala
almina”, “I’m sure it will be a big help if I get the fellowship” (FedEx)
        ” ‘laqad ashamt an urizah alamah ji:dah fi: <mtianati, “You contributed to
me to get a good mark in my exams.” (Paper extension)
D. Expressing an inability to articulate positive deep feelings
    ” “adz an altbi:r an farati”.(FedEx)
    ” la ‘rif maða aqwl “I do not know what to say to you” (Computer)
      ” “adz an altbi:r an <mtinani: tidah mrwfak” “I cannot express my
gratitude for your favour” (Computer)
A. Expressing apology using apologizing words
 ” “ana asif” ,”I am sorry” (Direction)
" " “taðir kai:ran”, “I apologise very much” (FedEx)
B. Expressing apology using apologizing and stating the favour or the reason
    
” “wuðran marah uxrah ala at’xi:r” “and sorry once again for the delay” (Paper Extension)
   ” “taðiru an <xbarik mutaxiran”, “I am sorry for telling you late” (FedEx)
C. Expressing apology using apologizing words and mentioning the imposition caused by the favour
   
” “uðran littilik an amalik”, “Sorry for disturbing you from your work” (Computer)
       " ” “ardu an tusamiani: ala >i: <rad sababtuh lak”, “I beg your pardon for any
embarrassment I caused” (Paper extension)
D. Expressing apology by expressing embarrassment
   ” “<nahu a} murid didan”, “It is a very embarrassing thing”(computer)
 ” “xdaltani: bi karamik” “you embarrassed us by your generosity”(FedEx)
E. Criticizing or blaming oneself
        ” “makan j, dib alj, an atlubk an tusali alaswb”, “I should not have asked you
to fix the computer” (Computer).
 ” “enha altati:”, “It is my mistake” (paper extention)
Recognition of Imposition
A. Acknowledging the imposition
      ” “>lam >nani >xaðt duz” kabi:r min waktak”, “I know that I have taken a lot of your
time.” (FedEx)
   "” “>lam >nani: >ltuk mi:”, “I know that I busied you with me.” (booking a hotel)
B. Acknowledging the imposition by stating the reason and the need for the favour.
   ” “wlaknani: la astani a lhaswb”, “I can’t dispense my computer” (Computer)
    
 ” “a rif maða kunt s>mal min dwnak”, “I don’t know what I would have done
without you.” (Booking a hotel)
C. Diminishing the need for the favour/the lack of necessity
      
” “ma ka:n j, dib alj, k >n tuzd nafsk”, “you should not have disturbed yourself.”
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
“,     ” “lam j, akun liðalik >j, dai:”, “There was no need for that” (In a Restaurant)
D. Stating interlocutor’s non-existent imposition
   ” “lam >kun >nwi: <zdk”, “Thank you but I did not intend to disturb you.”(FedEx)
      ” “lam >kun >lam nha satstriq zamanan tawi:lan”, “I did not know it would take a
long time.”(Computer).
E. Recognition of obligation
        ” “Kan jdjib an ugadim waragt alba fi: almawid almuadad”, “I
should have submitted the course work on time.”(Paper extension)
Recongtion f non existent obligation
      ” “Ana aalam an hatha lysa min wadebatik”, “I know that this is none of your your
Offering repayment
A. Offering or promising to reciprocate help, service, money, food
  
” “>dwk ala wali:mah”, “I am inviting you to a feast.” (FedEx)
          "”
“<ða >radt >j, saj, min hunak f>na mustdun li dalbihi laki mahma kan”, “if you ever need anything from there, I am
ready to bring it whatever it is.” (Booking a hotel)
B. Indicating indebtedness
   ” “>na madi:nun lak biaj, ti”, “I owe you my life.” (FedEx)
 
 ” “>na madi:nun lak limusadatuk, “I am really indebted to you for your help.” (Computer)
C. Promising future self-restraint or self-improvement and confirming interlocutor’s commitment
     
” “>widuk >n lan j, takrar ðalik >badn”, “I promise you this will not happen ever again.”
(Paper Extension)
     ” “lan >nsa sani:uk haða ma aj,i:t”, “I will never ever forget your favor all my life”( FedEx).
D. Indicating inability to repay enough
     ” “mahma nuqadim lak flan nufi:k haqk”, “What ever we do, we can not repay you
enough” (FedEx)
A. Here Statement
” “taffadal”, “Here you are!” (Class notes)
  ” “tafadal daftir mul‘Here is your notebook”
B. Initiating a small talk
     
” “kai:ran ma >rak Dr. fi: ldamah”, “Many time I saw you doctor in the univer-
    ” “>tmana >n >sul la lmnha”, “I wish I will get the scholarship.” (FexEx)
C. Leave-taking
 ” “masawk si:d”, “good evening”(Booking a hotel)
  ”, “fi: >man llah “In God’s safety” (Direction)
D. Expressing a desire (an intent to maintain a relationship)
   .” “j, arifuna >n natraf alj, k”, “I will be honoured to know you.”(Direction)
      ” “wlj, kun haða lmawqf bidaj, h li sadaqa mi:mah bj, nana” “Let this occasion
be the beginning of warm friendship between us.” (Booking a hotel)
E. Joking
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  ” “haðih dari:bat alsuah”, “This is a tax for having friendship”. (In a restaurant)
F. Prayers/Benediction
 ” “barak ,lah fi:k”, “May God bless you and give you a thousand of health” (Recommendation letter,
  
” “j, dzi:k ,llah kul xj, r”, “May God reward you (well)” (In a restaurant)/ (FedEx)
A. Attention getter
ا 
” “salam alj, kum” “Hello” (Paper extension)
 ” ‘ma ’a:’ llah’, “God wills” (Computer)
B. Stating the person’s name
” (kwks) (Cox)
 ” (smi) (smith)
C. Stating terms of address/title
” “duktwr”, “Doctor” (Recommendation letter)
 
“ustaði: l fadil”, “my moralist teacher” (FedEx)
Nonverbal strategies
A. Hugging