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Gendered Communication in Iranian University Classrooms: The Relationship between Politeness and Silence in Persian Culture

Keywords: Classroom interaction , Gendered communication , Silence , Power , Politeness

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Abstract:

This study examined naturally-occurring university classroominteractions at Iranian universities and provided an analysis ofsilence patterns as politeness strategies used by male andfemale students. Since empirical studies of silence inclassroom settings are scarce, this paper aimed to explainsuch phenomena using participant interviews, classroomobservation and detailed discourse analysis of classroominteraction. Silence patterns and their interpretations werescrutinized in these observations and were discussed inrelation to specific conceptualization of politeness anddevices employed to exercise it. The study found that femalesseem to be the most silent in the cross-sex classrooms, whilethe distribution of silence is more nearly equal in the same sexclassrooms. Based on the comments from follow-upinterviews, reasons for intentional silence as a politenessstrategy were categorized into four groups: silence as a face savingstrategy, silence as a ‘don’t do the FTA’ strategy,silence as a power strategy, and silence as an off-recordstrategy.

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