Refusal strategies used by Jordanians and Syrian refugees in Jordan

  • Oraib Mousa Alshmaseen American University of Madaba
  • Marwan Jarrah University of Jordan
  • Sharif Alghazo University of Jordan


This study investigates the use and linguistic properties of refusal strategies by Jordanians and Syrian refugees in Jordan. To achieve this objective, a Discourse Completion Test (DCT), consisting of 10 situations: three requests, three offers, two invitations, and two suggestions was used. The participants were 40 (20 male and 20 female) Jordanians and 40 (20 male and 20 female) Syrian refugees in Jordan. The mixed-method data analysis resulted in a total of 1351 refusals: 719 Jordanian refusals and 632 Syrian refugees’ refusals. The refusals were classified by semantic formulas, directness (a dimension of communication style), and frequency of semantic formulas. The results show that the two groups utilize different semantic formulas with different frequencies when making their refusals. The two groups used a different number of direct and indirect formulas. Although the two groups belong to the Arabic culture, the differences were significant. One main difference is that Jordanians’ refusals were more direct and were often expressed as negative willingness, while the Syrian refugees’ refusals were less direct, providing an explanation of their refusals. The results also indicate that gender is a significant variable where females in the two samples tended to respond with lengthy responses when making their refusals, employing at least three refusal strategies.


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Author Biographies

Oraib Mousa Alshmaseen, American University of Madaba

Oraib Mousa Alshmaseen is a full time-lecturer at the Faculty of Languages and Communication at the American University of Madaba, Jordan. She teaches courses in Intercultural & Interpersonal Communications, Cultural Development and Listening & Speaking. Ms. Alshmaseen received both her bachelor’s degree in Applied Linguistics and master’s degree in Language, Culture & Communication from the University of Jordan. Currently she is a participant in an advanced research methods seminar in a renowned knowledge center in Jordan, Abdul Hameed Shoman Foundation, investigating the future trends of reading in Jordan. She can be contacted at:

Marwan Jarrah, University of Jordan

Marwan Jarrah is an Associate professor at the University of Jordan. He got his PhD from Newcastle University in 2017. He is a specialist in language typology and syntactic theory. His scholarly work appears in Natural Language and Linguistic Theory, Folia Linguistica, Studia Linguistica, Lingua, Word, Journal of Linguistics, Lingua, Canadian Journal of Linguistics, The Linguistic Review, etc.

He can be contacted at:  

Sharif Alghazo, University of Jordan

Sharif Alghazo is Associate Professor of Applied Linguistics at the University of Sharjah and The University of Jordan. He received his Ph.D. degree in Applied Linguistics from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), Australia. His scholarly research has appeared in journals such as System, Journal of Politeness Research, Journal of Pragmatics, European Journal of Applied Linguistics, Heliyon, Sage Open, Ampersand, Interchange, Lingue e Linguaggio, and Open Linguistics. He can be contacted at: