How to Address Your Instructor: An Analysis of Classroom Discourse at Saudi Arabian Universities

Albatool Mohammed Abalkheel


Hofstede’s (1986) concept of national culture includes the key dimension of how power distance affects interactions between interlocutors on all levels and settings of a society, including that of the university. An examination of such interactions, including the expected linguistic behaviors of instructors and students, is quite useful, because cultural values and the archetypal roles of instructors and their students tend to shed light on the relationships and general atmosphere of not just the higher education setting, but also of the society as a whole. In the large power distance culture of Saudi Arabia, this concept is examined through an analysis of the different address terms students use in classroom discourse to address their instructors. Since the use of titles is related to classroom interaction, it is affected by power distance. This study investigates and analyzes the discourse of the classroom in Saudi universities to identify titles and address terms used in student-instructor communications. The research found that the terms students employ with instructors include social and academic terms; whereas first and last names were usually avoided. Effects of potential factors are explained in terms of Hofstede’s (1986) concept of power distance.

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