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The Differences Between Male and Female Speech Act of Apologizing

( A case Study in English Education Department)


Ajeng Cahya Destiani
Milda Nurmalia Gunawan
Email : milda.nurmalia95@gmail.com
Heva
Email : hevasyifa13@gmail.com
Nanda Islamiah
Email : Nandaislamiah66@gmail.com

Abstract
The aim of this study is to investigate the act of apologizing used by males and
females students in order to find out whether there are similarities and
differences between them. The data are having 6 apology situations by using
questionnaires. To analyze the data from all responses, The respondents of
the study are students of English education consisting of 10 males and 10
females. The study reveals that in general, there is no significant difference
between males and females of students of English education in using apologizing
strategy.
Key word : Male, female, Apologizing
1.0 Introduction
To express apology is a common occurrence for people to do since in
their social interaction they cannot avoid for doing wrong. Trosborg (1995)
mentions many ways to express apology called apology strategies such
as by expressing regret, giving explanation, requesting for forgiveness,

and offering to repair or replace someones property. The socialization


between men and women in term of using apology strategies Holmes (1995)
explains that males may give more weight to their function as self-oriented
face threatening acts damaging the speakers face and thus, apologizing is
avoided where possible. On the other hand females typically use more polite
speech acts than males do. Females may perceive apology primarily as
other oriented speech acts aimed at facilitating social harmony Bonvillan
(1986).
The aim of this paper is to investigate the act of apologizing used by males
and females students in order to find out whether there are similarities
and differences between their usages of apology. The paper tries to know
what are the strategies used by males and females students in apology
situation and are there any similarities and differences between their usages
of apologies.
2.0 Theoritical Foundation
2.1 Apologies
Just as in the case of speech acts that have various definitions,
apology has been defined in different ways. As there are different types of
speech acts, there are different types or strategies of apologies, as well.
The following section is an overview of the most important and common
definitions of apology as well as the different strategies of apology.
As a type of speech act, apology is the topic of many studies that aim at
explaining what it is. They also examine how apologies can be classified in
different ways (e.g. by syntactic structure, topic, goals, addressee, etc) and
how apologies are performed and perceived in English.
Olshtain and Cohen (1983) hold that apologizing as a speech act is
usually called for when some behavior has caused a violation of the social
norms. Olshtain and Cohen (1983), while describing the apology speech act
set, assume that apologizing is a two-party act, in the sense that there
are two participants: one perceiving himself as deserving an apology, and
the other perceived as responsible for causing the infraction (p.21). This
process entails that there is a circle of interaction between the recipient and

the apologizer.
Leech (1983) views apologies as an attempt to redress an imbalance
between the speaker and the addressee created by the fact that the speaker
committed an insult against the addressee. According to him, it is not
enough to apologize; the apology needs to be successful in order for
the hearer to forgive the speaker, and thus reestablish the balance
(pp.104-105).
Owen (1983) limits the concept of apology. According to him apologies
are remedial moves that follow what he calls a "priming move" on the part
of the person who expects the apology, which is a move that triggers the
apology. He restricts the use of the term apology to only those utterances
that actually contain the explicit phrases Im sorry or I apologize and
variants of these. Such a definition would exclude from the start any
indirect ways of apologizing. Owens definition would apply only to
explicit apologies (pp, 62-63).
In the case of apologies, Owen (1983: 63) believes that the use of this
act is restricted in English to the utterances that involve the following:
1- Apology, apologies, or apologize,
2- Sorry,
3- I'm afraid + sentence pro-form.
According to Holmes (1995)
Apologies are:
Hearer-oriented face-supportive acts. Apologies have been seen as
negative politeness strategies aimed at remedying the effects of an offence
or a face-threatening act and restoring social harmony and equilibrium
(p184).
However, because apologies are not the only convivial acts, Trosborg
(1995) states that apology is designed to repair damage in social
interaction. She also adds that:
It coincides with social goal of maintaining harmony between speaker
and hearer. This act is face-saving for the hearer and functions to
diminish friction in interaction. For these
anticipated

that

speakers

would

not

reasons,

hesitate to

it

might

be

issue apologies.

However, as apologies are issued at the cost of the speaker, who often has

to humiliate him /herself, these acts are face-threatening to the speaker.


(P-146)
2.2 Womens and Mens Language Theories
Gender manifest behavioral differences constructed within society
experienced by each person. A common reason that is given as to why
apologies are difficult is because an apology causes loss of status. One
could argue that the reason women apologize more than men is because
evolutionary pressure has made status more important for men, because
men need status to compete for mates. Thus, since status matters
relatively less for women, they can apologize more.
According to Connell (2002) being a man or woman is not a fixed state.
They have different behavioral in dealing with things they face. It is because
men and women are socialized different (Eckert, 1998). It also occurs in term
of their conversational strategies including the speech act of apology. Holmes
(1995) identifies several differences between men and women in using
apology as follows:
1.Women use significantly more apologies
than men do.
2.Women use most apologies for the hearers of equal power, while men
apologize to women of different status.
3.Women use most apologies for female friends whereas men use most for
socially distance.
4.Womens apologies are more often than mens in the case of space and
talk offences.
Further he says that women and men differently may use apology since they
have different perceptions of when they are appropriate. Women do an
apology as being polite while men avoid apologies where it is possible.
They will apologize if it will cause offence.
The differences between men and women also are explained by Bonvillan
(1986) stating that females typically use more polite speech act than males
do. According to Fishman (1978) formal features that characterize
womans speech such as asking question aims to ensure reaction. In

contrast, mens speech is marked by features (e.g. statement) than do little


insure to further talk.
2.3

Speech

Acts

and

Politeness
The speech act theory is also closely related to the concept of
politeness. Early studies on politeness claim that this concept is universal
(Lakoff, 1973; Brown
& Levinson, 1987). According to Lakoff (1973) there are three main rules of
politeness, namely dont impose, give options, and make [the hearer] feel
good be friendly (p. 298). Lakoff (1990) defines politeness as a set of
"interpersonal relations" (p. 34) aimed at making communication smooth
through keeping the possibility of conflict and confrontation which are innate
in human communication, to the minimum.
Brown and Levinson politeness theory (1987) is the most common
approach. Brown and Levinson regard politeness as a universal phenomenon
found in every culture; such a claim is evidenced by their observation of
similarities in the linguistic strategies employed by speakers of different
languages i.e. different cultures. They propose that an individual's face
motivates strategies of politeness. Brown and Levinson (1987) define face as
the public self-image that every member wants to claim for himself (p. 61).
They distinguish between negative face and positive face. Positive face is the
desire to be liked and appreciated by others. Negative face is the desire not
to be imposed upon, disturbed. Brown & Levinson consider that face is
"something that is emotionally invested, and that can be lost, maintained, or
enhanced, and must be constantly attended to in interaction." (P.61).

2.4 . Gender and apology


In sociolinguistic studies, gender is associated with social constructs
that are influenced by socio-cultural conditions. By biological gender, people
are labeled male and female. By social gender, people are classified by their
roles in a community. Norms in a society also determine what can and what
cannot be done by men and women, such as the type of job, roles in the
family and environment, how to dress, and how to speak (in our case, how

both men and women use language to apologize to the same gender and ,also,
to each other).
The literature that deals with the gender effects on language
reveals two contradictory views. The first point of view claims that men
and women speak different languages due to the fact that they are members
of different cultures (Maltz and Borker 1982;Tannen 1990; Gray 1992).
However, the other theory claims that men and women behave in different
ways because this approach puts men as the ones who control and dominate a
conversation. Women then become the ones who are dominated (subordinate).
Furthermore, Maltz and Borker (1982) and Tannen (1990) present the
"difference" approach which is based on the theory of cultural differences
proposed by.
come

Central to this approach is the claim that men and women

from two different subcultures. The differences of these two

subcultures lead to the differences of communicative competence of men and


women. In fact, this approach does not concentrate on the imbalance of power
distribution of men and women, but more on differences in internal norms of
men and women at the time of interaction.
3.0 Research Methodology
3.1 Research Design
The method use Qualitative research by using open ended questionaire.
3.2 Research Aims
1. To investigate how do male and female apologize in sam sex
conversation.
2. To investigate how do male anad female apologize in mix sex.
3. To investigate what are the causes of the differeces.
3.3 Research Site and Participants
In Suryakancana University, the students of English Education Department
grade 3/A
3.4 Sample
There are ten males and ten females as a respondent.

3.5 Data Collection

The Discourse Completion Test (DCT) used as instruments were applied


to the respondents and they were instructed to write the utterance they
would say regarding the situation given on the test. To analyze the data,
all responses were categorized according to Cohen and Olshtain (1983)
apology speech act set which categorized in 5 main categories as
follows:
1) An expression of apology (Illocutionary Force Indicating Device IFID)
a. an expression of regret (e.g. Im sorry)
b. an offer of apology (e.g. I apologize)
c. a request for forgiveness (e.g. Excuse me, Forgive me)
2) An offer of repair/redress (REPR) (e.g. Ill pay for your
damage)
3) An explanation of an account (EXPL) (e.g. My daughter was ill, I
took her to hospital)
4) Acknowledging responsibility for the offense (RESP) (e.g. Its my
fault)
5) A promise of forbearance (FORB) (e.g. Ill never forget it again).
Tuncel (cited in Istifci) added some other categories in to the list
because he states that the lists do not cover all the responses of his
subjects in his research such as:
6) Deny (denial of fault or offense) (e.g. I did not cause the accident.
You parked your car on my way)
7) Blame (putting blame on the hearer) (e.g. Why didnt
you remind me?)
8)

Health (asking the state of health) (e.g. Are you all right? I can

take you to hospital)


9) Exclamation (EXL!) (expressing surprise) (e.g. Oh!, Oops!)
10) Request (e.g. can I use it for two days?

3.6 Instrument
The researcher used Questionaire Open ended.
4.0 Fingding and Discussion
4.1 Findings
As it was stated earlier that the aim of this paper was to
investigate the speech act realization used by male and female post
graduate students of English education in situations which required
apologies. The data were collected via Discourse Completion Test to
obtain apologetic responses. The responses from the respondents were
calculated and their frequencies were taken in order to make a
comparison between male and female. The analysis of situations in
which the distribution of the strategies is presented in a table for each
situation as follows:

Table1.
Frequency of the use of apologizing strategies by males and females in
situation 1
Strategie
IFID
REPR
BLAME

Males
N
6
2
1

%
60%
20%
10%

Females
N
5
2
1

%
50%
20%
10%

Situation 1 was about spill waters friend. The table 1 above


reveals that the most common category used by both males and female is
IFID (e.g. sorry Im deliberate spill your water), these categories were
used by 60% of males and 50% of females. The second place was
occupied by REPR (e.g I can change your water) used by 20% from both
of them.
The second place was occupied by BLAME (e.g because of that
dont put your water in any place) accounted 10% for each.

T
able 2.
Frequency of the use of apologizing categories by males and females in
situation 2
Strategie
IFID
REPR
BLAME

Males
N
4
2
1

%
40%
20%
10%

Females
N
2
3
0

%
20%
30%
0

Situation 2 was drop motorcycles friend. Table 2 demonstrates


that males used IFID more than females. It can be seen from the table
that 40% males employed IFID (e.g. Brother sorry Im not deliberate drop
your motocycle) while females only employed 20%. Though for REPR
categorie (e.g I can repair your motorcycle) females employed more than
men that is 30% but the different is not far that males employed 20%. The
second place was occupied by BLAME (e.g why you do not

to be

careful?) was only employed by males (10%) while none of females used
these categories.
T
able 3.
Frequency of the use of apologizing categories by males and females in
situation 3.
Strategie
IFID
REPR
BLAME

Males
N
1
2
1

%
10%
20%
10%

Females
N
0
2
1

%
0
20%
10

Situation 1 was about being late. The table 1 above reveals that the most
common category used by both males and female is IFID (e.g Im sorry, I
got a traffic jam) only one male used it (10%). The second place was

occupied by REPR (e.g It is my mistake) was same for both genders (20%).
The second place was occupied by BLAME (e.g if you get up must on time )
was only employed by females (10%) and employed by males (10%)
while none of females used these categories.

T
able 4.
Frequency of the use of apologizing categories by males and females in
situation 4.
Strategie
IFID
REPR
IFID + RESP

Males
N
2
0
1

%
20%
0
10%

Females
N
3
1
1

%
30%
10%
10%

Situation 4 was about spilling over the softdrink toward an elderly


ladys blouse . The table 1 above reveals that the most common category
used by both males and female is IFID (e.g. Sorry, the floor is slippery)
used by 20% of males and 30% of females. The second place was
occupied by REPR (e.g. Im sorry . Ill take tissues for cleaning it) were
only used by females 10% for each. The second place was occupied by
IFID + RESP (e.g Im sorry. This is my fault ) was used by both genders
with the same percentages (10%) for each.
T
a
bl
e
5.
Frequency of the use of apologizing categories by males and females in
situation 5.
Strategie
IFID + EXPL

Males
N
6

%
60%

Females
N
6

%
60%

IFID + BLAME 1
10%
0
0
EXPL + IFID
1
10%
0
0
Situation 5 was about personal insult. Table 5 explains that all
respondents used IFID and its combination regarded this situation. IFID and
EXPL (e.g Sorry, I didnt mean to be like that. Its misunderstanding)
preference was higher used by males (60%) and females (60%). Categories
of IFID + BLAME (e.g. Sorry, oh come on. Dont be too sentimental)
used by 10% of male. ( I didnt mean to insult you. Please dont get me
wrong) were used individually by males (10%) while EXPL + IFID.
T
able 6.
Frequency of the use of apologizing categories by males and females in
situation 6.
Strategie
IFID
IFID + EXPL
EXPL + IFID

Males
N
3
6
0

%
30%
60%
0

Females
N
2
1
0

%
20%
10%
0

Situation 6 was about stepping out on someones foot. As tables 6


reveals that just like situation 5, all respondents used IFID categories for
this situation. The use of single IFID was employed by both males (30%)
and females (20%) (e.g Im sorry). The IFID + EXPL (e.g. I do apologize
brother, I didnt mean to. Im in a hurry) category was mostly used by
males (60%) and only 10% was used by females.
4.2 Discussion
The aim of this paper is to know the use of categories of males and
females students of English education in situations which require apologies.
The discussion focuses on the most frequently used categories. The data
reveals that many similarities of apology categories used by males and females
in expressing their apology.
Generally both males and females mostly used IFID in all situations. In

situation #1, #2, #3, #5, and #6 both gender used IFID categories with high
percentage. The data shows that in situation, #5, and #6 both gender almost had
high similar percentage for the use of IFID + EXPL categories. Generally
they had similar tendency in using IFID + EXPL categories in those
situations. Both gender used the categories in order to lessen their guilty of
the offence so they mostly used explanation to tell the situation they faced at
the time. In term of the usage of single IFID category, both gender also used it
in situations #1, #3, #4, and #6.

As Owen (1983; cited in Suszczynska

1999;1059) IFIDs are the categories which are the most conventionalized and
routinized, being as it were in the center of the speech act category of
apologizing and representing verbal routines.
The next category mostly used by both gender was REPR (an offer of
repair or
compensation for the damage)

occurred in situations #1, #2, #3, and #4.

Though in general they had similar tendency in using the REPR category, but
the appearance was not the same frequency in each of the situation. For
instance, in situation #2 males used the category more than females. It is line
with what Holmes (1995) states regarded to situation #2 describing about
Dropping friends motorcycle that males were concerned by inconvenience
which cost another person money, and offences which result in damaging
anothers possession. Thus, males preferred to use REPR category as a
form of responsibility to pay the damage e.g. Brother sorry Im not deliberate
drop your motocycle.
It is contrast with situation #4 describing about spilling over the softdrink
toward an elderly ladys blouse in which females used REPR more frequent
than males. Females response regarded this situation was that they mostly
used REPR (an offer of repair or compensation for the damage) e.g. Oh, Im
so sorry.let me help you to clean it up.

On contrary, males mostly

employed RESP (acknowledging responsibility for the offense) category for


this situation combined with other categories such as EXL! + IFID + RESP
e.g. Oh, Im really sorry for this, mam. Its an accident and its my

fault. But it is understandable since the addressee was a lady. Males


would feel less convenience to give an offer to clean her blouse. It can be
noted that in a certain situation social variable can influence the usage of
apologizing strategies employed by respondents like in situation #4.
Yet, from the responses above the REPR category was used by both genders
as a remedial support (Trosborg 1995). They considered a spoken apology
was not sufficient to re-establish their social relationship with the hearer.
In terms of the usage of other categories such as REQUEST (asking for
something politely), FORB (promising for not repeating the action again),
QUESTIONING (asking a question), and BLAME (putting the blame on other
person) were used variously by both gender. For REQUEST category combined
with IFID or EXPL was used by males and females with the same percentage in
situation #1. While FORB category was only used by a male in situation #5. For
QUESTIONING category it was used by both genders in situation #3. It is
interesting to find that a male used BLAME category in situation #5 regarding
the situation about personal insult. While other persons from both genders
mostly used IFID + EXPL in order to avoid misunderstanding, he used BLAME
category rather than EXPL or the other categories though it was combined with
IFID category i.e Sorry, oh come on. Dont be too sentimental. Generally,
from the data it can be said that there is no significant differences
between males and females of postgraduate students of English education
in using apologizing strategy. Gender factor does not become strong factor that
influences the realization of apologizing speech act. It is proven by the facts
that both genders employed many similar categories and there was no highly
different tendency between them to express their apologizing speech acts.
5.0 Conclusion and Suggestion
5.1 Conclusion
Based on the data, the paper comes to the following conclusions:
(1) Generally both males and females mostly used IFID + EXPL
(giving explanation, cause, or reason) categories in all situations. Both

genders used the categories in order to lessen their guilty of the offence
so that they mostly used explanation to tell the situation they faced at
the time.
(2) For some extents, females tended to use EXL! (expressing surprise).
It might happen
because females are more expressive
than males.
(3)

Both genders also mostly used REPR (an offer of repair or

compensation for the


damage) in some situations. This category was used by both genders as
a remedial support (Trosborg 1995). They considered a spoken apology
was not sufficient to re- establish their social relationship with the
hearer.
(4) The result of this paper shows that in many situations both genders
have similarity in
using apologizing strategies. They employed most similar categories in
term of certain situations.
5.2 Suggestion
On the basis of the results of this study, the researcher suggests the
following suggestion:
1. Comparing and contrasting the apology strategies used by the
participants from different age groups of the same culture to see whether
or not they all used the same strategies and determining the differences
between the strategies used by different groups.
2. Comparing and contrasting the apology strategies used by participants
from same- sex groups to see whether or not they all used the same
strategies and determining the differences between the strategies used by
these groups.

3. Examining apology using oral responses which will bring into focus
supra segmental factors like tone.
4. Comparing other types of speech acts that might cause misunderstanding
or present the speaker as impolite like requesting.
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Austin, J. L. (1962). How to Do Things with words. Oxford: Oxford
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Eckert, P. and MCConnell-Ginet, S. (1998). Communities of Practice: Where
Language, Gender, and Power All Live, in Coates, J. ed. Language and
Gender: A Reader, Oxford: Blackwell.
Fishman, Pamela M. (1978). Interaction: The Work Women Do. Rowley: Social
Problems. Newbury House.
Grundy, P. (2008). Doing Pragmatics. Third Edition. London: Hodder
Education. Huang, Y. (2007). Pragmatics. Oxford: Oxford University
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Holmes, J. (1995). Women, Men, and Politeness. London: Longman.
Istifci, I. (2009). The Use of Apologies by EFL Learners. Journal of English
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Levinson, S.D. (1983). Pragmatics. Cambrigde:CUP.
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Appendix
Discourse Completion
Test
Read these shorts descriptions of each situation; write the responses in the spaces
provided.
1. What will you do if you spiil drinking water of someone ?
Male : sorry i am not deliberate spiil your grinking water, because of that done put
you water in aniplace.
Female : sister i am sorry i am not deliberate spiil your drinking water, i can buy
another one.
2. What will you do if you dropping motoecycle of someone.?
Male : sorry brother i am not deliberate to droppe your motorcycle.
Female : sorry sister i am not deliberate to droppe motorcycle, i will repair your
motorcycle.
3. What will you do if you come late?
Male : Im sorry, I got a traffic jam
Female : it is my mistake
4. What will you do spilling over the softdrink toward an elderly ladys blouse
Male : Sorry, the floor is slippery
Female : Im sorry . Ill take tissues for cleaning it
5. What will you do if you insult someone feeling ?
Male : I didnt mean to insult you. Please dont get me wrong
Female : Sorry, oh come on. Dont be too sentimental
6. What will you do about stepping out on someones foot
Male : I do apologize brother, I didnt mean to. Im in a hurry
Female : i am sorry.