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Comforting, the act of making someone feel less unhappy or worried, is a common conversation phenomenon in all cultures and

has captured a lot of attention from scholars worldwide. An extensive search was done throughout the literature of the act of comforting and it was found that in the 1980s, comforting was of considerable concern to psychologists with professor B.R. Burleson as a leading author. During the last two decades, there was a growing trend in studying comforting strategies in pragmatics as well as human communication. In the 1990s, the interest in nonverbal comforting strategies came from American researchers such as Dolin & Booth-Butterfield (1993) and Bullis & Horn (1995). More recently, verbal comforting strategies have become a fascinating topic of Asian researchers (Linyu 2007; Duong 2008; Suzuki 2008; Suzuki 2010). In this paper, research on verbal comforting will be reviewed first and then research on nonverbal comforting strategies will also be discussed. Comforting messages, as defined by the psychologist Burleson (1994a, p.136; cited in Linyu, 2007, p.8) are messages having the goal of alleviating or lessening the emotional distress experienced by others. In the light of pragmatics, according to Suzuki (2008), comforting is supposed to be an FEA 1 (face enhancing act) for the hearer (H), because the speaker (S) undertakes this speech act to show sympathy for and soothe Hs sad or hurt feelings, to encourage H or to show Ss willingness to help H, etc. Suzuki also categorized comforting as Searles EXPRESSIVE (1975) and Leechs CONVIVIAL (1983) for its FEA nature. Duong (2008), on the other hand, classified comforting based on Yule (1997) categorization of speech acts. Comforting can be a DIRECTIVE, COMMISSIVE, EXPRESSIVE or REPRESENTATIVE depending on certain situations. One notable feature of comforting as a speech act, as agreed by Suzuki (2008) and Duong (2008), is that this is a complex speech act which is inclined to be performed by means of other sub-speech acts such as showing sympathy,

The term FEA (Face enhancing act) was introduced by Kerbrat-Orecchioni in 1997.

giving advice, encouraging, etc. According to Duong (2008), comforting is different from some other speech acts in the sense that comforting expressions are not formulaic as requests, apologies or invitations. As a result, it is always a challenging job for researchers to provide a theoretical framework of comforting strategies for their study. Concerning research on verbal comforting, the earliest accessible research on the speech act of comforting was by Linyu (2007). It is noted that in Linyus literature review, the author mentioned two other studies on the act of comforting namely Wens (1999) A pilot study on comforting messages and Wang and Lis (2003) Analyses on the conversational pattern and rhetoric strategies of comforting messages. However, these two studies are in Chinese, and thus, impossible to be reviewed in this paper. In his research, Linyu aimed at studying the realization of comforting in Chinese context from a pragmatic perspective, based on the speech act theory and politeness theory. Discourse Completion Task (DCT), which seems to be one of the most favorable means of data collection in researching speech acts, was chosen as the primary data collection method. Linyu used the analytical framework proposed by Burleson in psychology for data analysis. According to this framework, verbal comforting strategies were divided into two main groups: highly person-centred (HPC) and low person-centred (LPC). Under these two groups, there were some strategies which seemed to be related to speech act strategies such as showing concern, sympathy, reason, but it is undeniable that using a psychology framework of data analysis appears to be inappropriate for a research in pragmatics. Consequently, the conclusions of this research are questionable and not of high validity. The most significant research into the speech act of comforting was carried out by a Japanese author Toshihiko Suzuki in 2007. The data was collected from 164 undergraduate students in Missouri, USA using two DCTs and role-plays. The results were first presented at the The 13th conference of Pan-Pacific Association

of Applied Linguistics in 2008 (PAAL 2008). In this research paper, Suzuki mainly aimed at exploring the application of English speech act corpora in CLT (Communicative Language Teaching), that is, teaching natural and appropriate expressions in particular contexts. Later, in 2010, another version of Suzukis research paper at PAAL 2008 was published on The Cultural Review Vol. 36. In this version, Suzuki put the focus on the verbal realization of comforting. Still based on the data collected in 2007, Suzuki used the corpus-linguistic approach to outline verbal comforting strategies at three levels: lexical, grammatical and discourse levels. For lexical and grammatical levels, the author analyzed the main patterns in the use of 6 words (be, sorry, better, okay, know and if) which were thought to have special functions in this speech act. Concerning discourse level, the author worked on five most frequently used strategies namely soother, encouragement, sympathy, advice and offer of support. The author also attempted to demonstrate how the strategies were combined to constitute semantic formulae for the achievement of the speech act of comforting. Admittedly, this is an in-depth research with a systematic research design, a logical analytical framework and careful analysis of results. Until now, there has been only one research on comforting in the field of cross cultural pragmatics and it was done by a Vietnamese researcher - Bui Thi Anh Duong - in 2008. In her study, she compared comforting messages performed by American native speakers (ANS) and Vietnamese native speakers (VNS). Duong (2008) also collected data by using DCT and MPQ (Metapragmatic Questionnaire). In the first phase of the research, the MPQ questionnaire was given to 30 Vietnamese speakers and 30 American speakers. The data from this survey was analyzed and 6 situations were selected for DCT. In the second phase, the DCT was designed with 6 situations and then was administered to 32 American native speakers and 43 Vietnamese ones. As for the analytical framework, based on Brown and Levinson (1987) politeness strategies, the author grouped verbal

comforting into 8 strategies: expressing sympathy, reassuring Hs feelings, offering help, predicting better future possibilities, suggesting things to do, giving advice, finding excuses and giving encouragement. All the categories were well-defined with clear illustrations. The most interesting findings are, first, for different contexts, different comforting strategies were used, but both ANS and VNS tended to employ at least two strategies for all situations and second, reassuring Hs feelings was the most favorable strategy for both groups of speakers. For ANS, giving encouragement strategy was the least common one and for VNS, the least frequent strategy was expressing sympathy. Besides, social status, social distance and the use of internal modification in the process of performing the speech act of comforting were also discussed. Except for the fact that the number of participants in the second phase was relatively small with just 32 ANS and 43 VNS which may affect the generalization of results, this cross cultural pragmatics research is worth reading. On the side of nonverbal communication, the study on nonverbal comforting behaviours conducted by Dolin & Booth-Butterfield (1993) was of crucial importance. In their research, Dolin and Booth-Butterfield examined nonverbal comforting responses of 93 undergraduate students to a hypothetical scenario. The most important result of the research is the authors categorization of nonverbal comforting into 12 strategies: attentiveness, eye contact, crying, vocalics, instrumental activity, facial expression, proxemics, gesturing, hugs, pats, increased miscellaneous touch and emotional distancing. Details about 12 strategies were well-explained in Dolin & Booth-Butterfield (1993, p. 388). This classification of nonverbal comforting strategies has laid foundation for other researchers when further studying nonverbal comforting. There were, moreover, interesting findings from Dolin and Booth-Butterfields research that males reported fewer comforting strategies and less diverse comforting responses than females and comforting strategies use was positively correlated with affective orientation.

Later, in 1995, nonverbal comforting was further examined by Bullis & Horn with a broader sample of 229 students. Five other strategies (task activity, being there, setting the environment, rudeness, would not touch) were added to the original list of 12 nonverbal comforting strategies proposed by Dolin and BoothButterfield (1993). Details about these five strategies can be found in Bullis & Horn (1995, p. 13). One finding from this research was consistent with the previous study by Dolin and Booth-Butterfield. That is, females reported higher affective orientation, higher number of comforting behaviours and greater diversity than males. However, Bullis and Horn suggested that the relationship between affective orientation and nonverbal comforting strategy choices should continue to be tested. In the last few decades, there have been several studies on nonverbal comforting in communication. However, until now, no study on nonverbal comforting in the field of cross cultural communication has been searched out. This is a gap to fill in for those who are interested in contrasting nonverbal comforting strategies used by people from different countries. This paper has reviewed the previous studies on the act of comforting in both verbal and nonverbal communication. It is notable that Suzuki (2008; 2010) and Duong (2008) provided good theoretical framework for analyzing verbal comforting strategies. Also, Dolin and Booth-Butterfield (1993) and Bullis & Horn (1995) set up quite comprehensive framework for nonverbal comforting strategies. However, apart from Duongs research in 2008, it is regrettable that there is no other study on comforting in cross cultural communication. As comforting is a complicated and frequently used act in most cultures, more research should be conducted to understand the similarities and differences in how people from different cultures give comforting messages. This understanding will undoubtedly contribute to the success in cross cultural communication.

Bui Thi Anh Duong. (2008). A comparative study on comforting in American and Vietnamese cultures. M.A. Thesis, CFL-VNU, Hanoi. Bullis, C. & Horn, C. (1995). Get a little closer: Further examination of nonverbal comforting strategies. Communication Reports, 8 (1), 10-17. Dolin, D. & Booth-Butterfield, M. (1993). Reach out and touch someone: Analysis of nonverbal comforting responses. Communication Quarterly, 41, 383-393. Kerbrat-Orecchioni, C. (1997). A multilevel approach in the study of talk-ininteraction. Pragmatics, 7(1), 1-20. Linyu, X. (2007). A study on the speech act of comforting in Chinese. Retrieved June 25th , 2011 from Suzuki, T. (2008). A corpus-based study of the speech act of comforting: Naturalness and appropriateness for English language teaching. The Proceedings for the 13th Pan-Pacific Association of Applied Linguistics (PAAL 2008). 77-80. Suzuki, T. (2010). A corpus-linguistic approach to the verbal realization of comforting. The Cultural Review, 36, 81-103. Tokyo, Japan: Waseda Commercial Studies Association, School of Commerce, Waseda University.