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Politeness Formulas in Arabic

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    When talking about politeness formulas in Arabic and in English and how they are different, it is crucial to take into account the distinction between propositional content of a formula and its illocutionary force potential. A good example showing the relationship between semantic content or propositional content and illocutionary force illustrates in using congratulations in English and “shukran” in Arabic which is equivalent to “thanks”.

    Sometimes illocutionary force is not completely predictable, but simply can be learnt by what people agree upon. For instance, there are three expressions in Arabic performing different forces according to the matter of conventions; baraka-allahu-fik “God bless you” is used to perform the act of thanking, whereas barakafik “blessing in yourself” has a different force, addressing the family members and the relatives of the deceased. mabruuk “blesses” is another formula used for congratulations of marriage or success in examinations.

    There are many other expressions used by Arabs in one of the earliest means of demonstrating politeness in a second language which are” greetings”. Greetings actually are the first task one should know when learning a new language. In Arabic greetings; for example, one would not restrict themselves to say ahlan wa sahlan “hello” rather they would precede it by marhaba “welcome” and they may add another welcoming phrase such as al beit beitak “will you make my home as your home to express pleasure at seeing someone.

    Elaborate greetings are often used in Arabic as well as extended conversation openings which the latter is resulted from a transfer of Arabic discourse politeness strategies into English. After greeting, one might invite others to his house- as Arabs are best known for their hospitality- and prepare a hearty meal for them. Then, he would use certain politeness formulas after bringing the meal for guests such as bisiha wa alaafia “with health” and the guest responds neama daima “a permanent grace” (may God keep your house always open for visitors).

    Talking about politeness formulas in Arabic one can’t disregard what the prophet Mohammed-peace be upon him- said in thanking someone. He said” Those who want to thank someone by saying jazaaka allaahu khayran ???? ???? ???? ? Lit. ‘May God reward you (well)! ‘, no one could express thanking best than them. This expression conveying the following renderings in English such as ‘Thank you so much’, ‘I am really obliged’.

    Talking more about what the prophet Mohammed asked us to say in certain circumstances like visiting patients, one would say when visiting them la ba’as aleik “no harm on you” to express wishing you someone recovery from illness. Politeness formulas Arabs used is a lot and well known between them. It is apparent that using the appropriate formulas in the correct context is important to express politeness in dealing with others and strengthening relations. (EL-Sayed. Ali, (1990), p5-11)

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