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On the power of the complaint and the complaints of the disempowered

On the power of the complaint and the complaints of the disempowered 1IntroductionThere is growing consensus that significant social services, in, for example, medical practice, law, and teaching, are both better conceived and implemented as symbiotic collaborations with the so-called recipient than top-down acts of magnanimity. Existing modes of ‘doctoring’, ‘lawyering’ and teaching have been critically examined and faulted for neglecting the need for collaborative and cooperative practice (e.g., Wodak, 1996; Renkema, 2004), in which due respect is paid to the crucial contribution of the recipient. In L2 instruction, this understanding is expressed in recent research on critical pedagogy (e.g., Norton and Toohey, 2004; Canagarajah, 2004). There is clear interest in replacing the teacher-driven impart-knowledge model with one properly cognizant of both its equally significant interactive contributors. In the move towards this integrated practice, the character of present-day teaching and the role of the learner that it both allows for, and in fact enforces, is being critically examined in local classrooms. This enterprise will eventually give an idealized conception of a symbiotic teaching-learning practice tangible localized manifestations.It cannot be irrelevant to this endeavour to understand whether, and if so how significantly, students feel they can contribute to the character of the program of studies they have undertaken. The objective of this paper is to examine how Chinese learners of EFL frame their complaints on English language learning (ELL for future reference) to understand their perceived sense of entitlement to complain. A complaint is an expression of entitlement, but the selected mode of complaining is in addition an index of the degree of speaker-assumed entitlement.I want to assess the aggrieved’s choice of complaint-kind to gauge how entitled s/he feels to complain. This goal will be achieved in two distinct steps.I will first carry out a detailed examination of complaint as an expression of entitlement, using prototype examples from instances of typical everyday usage and an online registry of complaints. This examination will identify two kinds of complaint, distinguished by their dissimilar expressions of entitlement: complaint proper (Cp), which communicates entitlement in blaming and asking for correction of what is intrinsically correctable, and lament (Lt), which conveys the lack thereof by simply ‘lamenting’ something that cannot be solved.I will then assess complaints on ELL, taken from Chinese students’ English narratives, to determine how they manage their complaint-framing, and choice between Cp and Lt, to effect the expression of entitlement that they consider appropriate.In what follows, we will begin in section 2 with a review of the relevant literature on the complaint, to suggest its significant study as an expressive, but no apparent treatment as an expression of entitlement. Section 3 will then provide a framework for the conception of the complaint as an expression of entitlement. It willexamine the constituent structure of the prototype Cp and Lt to show their multiple points of difference as expressions of entitlement,evidence their dissimilar appropriateness for inherently addressable and unaddressable concerns,demonstrate how ultimate choice between them happens with recognition of the complainant’s perception of the concern, and social standing/authority relative to the addressee, andsuggest that level of entitlement can be managed, beyond the basic choice between CP or Lt, for example, by adopting more, rather than less, Lt- defining features in the framing of a Cp.Section 4 will then apply this conceptual framework to the examination of student complaints, to assess their choices of complaint-framing and entitlement-expression.2On complainingThe assessment of the complaint as an index of entitlement distinguishes this study from other recent analyses.Searle (1976) describes complaints as expressive speech acts. They “exhibit … the psychological state of the aggrieved party” either explicitly or implicitly (Henry and Ho, 2010). This psychological state is the focus of most definitions of the complaint. For Traverso (2009) “the slightest negative valence” suggests a complaint (: 2383). Olshtain and Weinbach (1993) (and also Wierzbicka, 1991 and Edmonds and House, 1981, before them) are more specific in their characterization of the requisite ‘negative valence’:the speaker (S) expresses displeasure or annoyance—censure—as a reaction to a past or on-going action, the consequences of which are perceived by S as affecting her unfavorably. This complaint is usually addressed to the hearer (H), whom the S holds, at least partially, responsible for the offensive action.108They also highlight the justifiability feature of the complaint, as a response to a “socially unacceptable act” (Olshtain and Weinbach, 1993: 108), which is itself a precondition to the complaint.For Heinemann and Traverso (2009: 2381) complaints, as “feelings of discontent about some state of affairs, for which responsibility can be attributed to “someone” (to some person, organization or the like)”, are set in contrast to ‘troubles talk’, where the psychological emphasis is on “the teller and his (or her own) experiences” (Jefferson and Lee, 1981: 411; Haugh, 2016: 729). Other researchers differentiate complaints proper from a subclass for which the psychological emphasis is on ‘lightening the load’, rather than seeking redress, a kind of complaining referred to as ‘griping’ (DuFon, 1995) and ‘whinghing’ (Eggins and Slade, 1997).A number of studies also distinguish between two separate components of negative valency, the first in the description of the objected to circumstance, and the second to the speaker disposition adopted in reaction to this circumstance (Drew and Holt, 1988; Traverso, 2009; Pakkanen, 2011: 384).The shared conception of complaint as an expressive, vocalizing displeasure for an ‘other-caused’ disadvantage has also generated studies of different kinds:There are studies with a pragmatics orientation, which assume that complaints, in general, address the at-fault individual, and give primary focus to its face threat (Brown and Levinson, 1987) and therefore also on ways to mitigate it. Such studies have been carried out on complaints in different languages, for example, in English (Geluykens and Kraft, 2003, 2007; Murphy and Neu, 1996), Chinese (Du, 1995), Spanish (Bolivar 2002; Pinto and Raschio, 2008) and German (Geluykens and Kraft, 2003). The pragmatic approach has also been adopted in the assessment of its second language acquisition use, sometimes with acknowledgement of the influence of first language complaining practices (cf., for example, in Chinese, Arent, 1996; in Danish, Trosborg, 1995; in French, Kraft and Geluykens, 2002; and in German, Geluykens and Kraft, 2003, 2007). Much of this research is on elicited data, garnered through a discourse completion test (DCT), and many studies (e.g., Trosborg, 1995; Geluykens and Kraft, 2003, 2007) have examined complaints, using the Olshtain and Weinbach (1987) five- strategy taxonomy: 1) below the level of reproach, 2) expression of annoyance or disapproval, 3) explicit complaint, 4) accusation and 5) warning, immediate threat.The expressive character of the complaint is differently addressed in studies with an ethnomethodological orientation and conversational analytical approach, which have examined complaints in spontaneous talk, in either personal (Drew, 1998; Drew and Holt, 1988; Drew and Walker, 2009, Dersley and Wootton, 2000; Haakana, 2007; Laforest, 2002) or professional (Heinemann, 2009; Vasquez, 2009) contexts. The suggestion, here, is that a complaint may be cathartic, that is, serving ‘to vent’ (Wolfe and Powell 2006: 14), or otherwise seek affiliation/sympathy/solidarity (Drew and Walker, 2009; Traverso, 2009), and frequently carry out both these emotive functions at the same time (Wolfe and Powell, 2006).Finally the negative expressivity of the complaint is still differently addressed in accounts that assess its capture in rhetorical, lexico-semantic and syntactic, or prosodic and/or visual representation, in different languages (Pomerants, 1986; Drew and Holt, 1988; Wyrwas, 2002; Edwards, 2005; Monzoni, 2009; Selting, 2012).To my knowledge, however, the complaint’s expression of entitlement is not directly addressed in the extant literature.3Complaining and entitlementBecause my interest is in the complaint as a marker of entitlement, it is first important to emphasize that complaints are expressions of discontent which vocalize a disadvantage caused by someone, or something, other than the speaker (as in 1b and c). In a self-caused disadvantage, one is not conveying entitlement (e.g., 1a).(1) a. I’m depressed because I’m not working well. (? I am entitled to complain.)b. I’m depressed because I’m not allowed to work well. (I am entitled to complain.)c. I’m depressed because it is perpetually overcast in this city. (I am entitled to complain.)3.1Complaint proper (Cp) versus lament (Lt)We can also distinguish between two types of complaint on the basis of their different expressions of entitlement: Lt (as in c/; elsewhere also described as ‘wining’ and ‘whinging’) and Cp (as in b/).b/. I’m depressed because I’m not allowed to work well. (I am entitled to complain, and I am entitled to expect something to be done about it.)c/. I’m depressed because it is perpetually overcast in this city. (I’m entitled to complain, and ? I’m entitled to expect something will be done about it.)The componential analysis of Cp and Lt as discoursal acts of speech/ ‘pragmemes’1 captures the details pertaining to the above-illustrated difference in entitlement. I will use the following complaint features, in an analysis of sample A (a Cp) and sample B (a Lt) to suggest the source of the difference in entitlement between these complaint-types:The claim, which is an assertion representing a problem.The addressee, who is the at-fault party, a third-party who is not directly culpable but with interest/influence in effecting needed change, or a third-party without connection to the problem.The disadvantage by other feature of the problem, which is expressed in, or implied by, the claim, and makes the problem complaint-worthy2Attribution of blame, which when present can be in, or follow as a separate assertion after, the claim, to hold the responsible party to task for the problem.A possible justification, which gives evidence to support the complaint-worthy character of the problem.The directive/statement on needed change, which when present makes a demand, request, suggestion, or declaration, specifying the need to address the problem.The affect/stance, which is negative and with or without the expression of helpless victimization.3.1.1Cp: The entitled complaintSample A1) Montana is burning to the ground and is in a state of emergency, 2) Oregon is in a state of emergency and has entire cities surrounded by fire and you’re not showing it! 3) You are ignoring it! 4) Idaho’s entire upper half is burning down with a university right in the path and yet you show nothing. 5) Weather is Fiery as well as wet and windy. 6) Equal coverage people! 7) But then you are an X owned news station so I should already know the answer to that question.From: The Weather Channel Customer Service (https://www.complaintsboard.com/the-weather-channel)The claim: In this example of a Cp, the claim appears in sentences 1, 2, 3 and 4. (Sentence 1, by itself, suggests a serious concern, but not the problem of this complaint. This problem becomes evident in sentences 2, 3 and 4, in which it is explicitly stated that the weather reporters are not showing Oregon and Idaho on fire. The reader infers, retrospectively, that this oversight is, in fact, also the complaint-worthy problem with respect to Montana, in sentence 1.)The addressee: The complaint is addressed directly to the at-fault party.The disadvantage by other: The failure to report the fire emergencies poses potential danger. This is caused by the reporters.The attribution of blame: The blame attribution is explicit in sentences 2, 3 and 4, where the addressed weather reporters are told that they are responsible for failing to disseminate vitally needed information on these incidents of fire.The justification: There is justification for the claim in sentence 5, which asserts that there is reason to expect the coverage of incidents of fire in weather reports.The directive/statement on needed change: There is also a directive in sentence 6, in which the reporters are told to give as much coverage to fire incidents as they do to other weather conditions.The affect: The negative affect is enhanced by the use of various negative markers:– negative constructions, e.g., “you’re not showing it!” (sentence 2).– intensifiers, e.g., ‘entire cities’ (sentence 2), and ‘entire upper half’ (sentence 4), ‘right in the path’ (sentence 4), ‘yet you are showing nothing’ (sentence 4), ‘surrounded by fire’ (sentence 2).– repetition of negative constructions, e.g., ‘you’re not showing it’, in sentences 2 and 4, ‘you’re ignoring it’, in sentences 3 and 4.– other repeated syntax, e.g., “Montana is burning to the ground and is in a state of emergency”, in sentence 1, and “Oregon is in a state of emergency … you’re not showing it”, in sentence 2, and “Idaho’s upper half is burning … yet you are showing nothing”, in sentence 4, which serves to suggest a progressively increasing sense of urgency.– repetition of lexis with negative connotations, e.g., ‘emergency’ in sentences 1 and 2, ‘burning’/ ‘fire’/ ‘fiery’ in sentences 1, 2, 4, and 5.– sarcasm in “But then you are an X owned news station so I should already know the answer to that question”, in sentence 7.Despite the use of all these negative markers, any possible suggestion of helpless victimization is made void by the directive “Equal coverage people!”, in sentence 6, not to mention the sarcasm that follows in sentence 7.This standard example of Cp shows that the attribution of blame, directive/statement on change and the affect/stance play a definitional role in the entitlement expressed by Cp.The attribution of blame is unavoidable in the specification of the problem of sample A since the problem, the failure to report fire incidents, must be attributed to a volitional agent. In attributing blame the speaker also claims a right to do so; it is an act of entitlement.Likewise, the directive is not only a demand for rectification; it also evidences the right to seek, and expect, it. If the directive of sentence 6 is elided, it is still inferable, by implicature, from the claim and its expressed blame-attribution. (For example, from ‘Oregon is in a state of emergency and has entire cities surrounded by fire and you’re not showing it!’ we can infer a directive, as a plea to correct the oversight.) But in eliding it, the speaker chooses not to express a right to seek and, in consequence of seeking, expect rectification. This makes a significant difference to the character of the complaint.The affect/stance is also significant. While complaints are negative expressives, Cps are not expressions of helpless victimization.I think it is fair to say, therefore, that the standard Cp, with its attribution of blame, directive on change, and negative but unintimidated stance is the complaint of an entitled speaker, demanding rectification and communicating the right to blame, seek, and in consequence of seeking, expect redress.3.1.2Lt: The disentitled complaintSample B“Man alive, these sub-zero temperatures will be the death of me!”The claim: In this sample, the whole utterance is the claim. It represents the severity of the cold as the problem.The addressee: Since the problem is the consequence of natural causes, it cannot be addressed to any at-fault party.The disadvantage by other: The by-natural-causes character of the threat is self-apparent.The attribution of blame: There is obviously, therefore, no possible attribution of blame.The justification: There is also no justification.The directive/statement on needed change: Because the cold is the work of nature, there is also no directive on change.The affect: The negative markers used are idiomatic expressions—“Man alive” and “will be the death of me”—and both qualify as extreme exaggerations. They are not only negative, but also convey victimization and helplessness.The claim, here, without the attributed blame of the Cp cannot convey a directive on change by implicature. The missing attribution of blame and the missing directive/statement on needed change also mean there is no expressed right to blame or seek, and in consequence of seeking, expect rectification. Along with this is the stance, which is not only negative but also expressive of victimization and helplessness.The standard Lt is, therefore, the complaint of a speaker entitled to, very literally, only lament, who does not blame and makes no claim to a right to seek, and in consequence of seeking, expect redress. In essence it is a profoundly disentitled complaint.3.1.3The concern-specific character of Cp and LtAlthough it has been suggested that Lt is the likely choice, over Cp, to complain about sensitive social and/or political problems in places where free speech is restricted (Lee and Hall, 2009), it appears that these discoursal routines are actually appropriate for quite different kinds of concern.Lt, the expression of disentitlement, seems to be appropriate for complaints about things that are definitionally outside the sphere of one’s control, like the weather, or the inevitability of growing old, for which one does not seek correction because, of course, one cannot. Cp, the expression of entitlement, on the other hand, seems appropriate to address whatever is amenable to alteration and rectification.(2) a. City authorities should do something about the intolerably high levels of air pollution.b City authorities should do something about the inevitability of death.The obvious felicity of 2a, and the infelicity of 2b, above, demonstrates that Cp is suitable only for things that are amenable to oversight, control and alteration. Likewise the felicitous lament in 3a, and the questionable felicity of 3b, suggests that Lt is appropriate only for things that are not manageable and rectifiable:(3) a. Sadly we have to age/die.b. Sadly we have to be judged by the colour of our skin/tortured/raped.3.1.4Concern-specificity and the role of perspectiveThis neat dichotomization is something of an idealization, however.(4) Husband to wife: You’ve taught her no self-control, and that needs to change. Look at her; she’s frightfully obese.Wife: It’s called a food addiction, Harry. Unfortunately, your daughter has a food addiction. You’ve got to learn to accept it.Perceptual differences can present different complaint-concern to mode-of-complaint correlations. In 4, above, the husband perceives his daughter’s over-indulgence as a lack of discipline/self-control, and therefore as a problem that is addressable, and generates a Cp. The wife, on the other hand, sees it as an addiction, a pathological condition for which there is no real cure, and hence, unaddressable, and generates a Lt.3.1.5Concern-specificity and the accommodation of the complaintAdditionally, whereas Cp is the complaint-mode for a problem regarded inherently correctable for the socially dominant, this is not at all the case when the complainant is a subordinate. In the same vein, whereas Lt is likely to be set aside for only what is inherently irreparable by the privileged, this exclusivity is not apparent in its use by disadvantaged people. Therefore, expectably, subordinates addressing their boss are not free to voice a Cp like 5a, below.(5) a. Your lack of training in management is creating a dysfunctional workplace environment. (Please) update your knowledge and adopt a more enlightened approach.Nor does the Lt-framed complaint of 5b, which is on a man-made problem that is patently correctable, seem infelicitous, as did the comparable example of 3b:(5) b. Sadly, we have to be supervised by uninspiring, ill-informed and incompetent management.3.2Managing the power of the complaint3.2.1Mitigation and CpIt is also note-worthy that while the much studied mitigation of face-threat does make Cp more palatable (as in 5c compared to 5a), the essential entitlement of the complaint is not affected by the adoption of politeness strategies (as is evident in the parenthetical comments following 5c, which give explicit expression to this right without creating any contradiction.)(5) c. Is the lack of training in management perhaps creating a dysfunctional workplace environment? Might updated knowledge and a more enlightened approach help? (I hate to be seen to be complaining, but one does expect better.)3.2.2Lt and politenessThe Lt—the diametric opposite of Cp with respect to the speaker’s entitlement—is by definition third-party directed and shows no scope for deferential address. Neither the prototype Lt of 6a, nor the Lt-framed complaint on a man-made problem of 6b is deferential, though they both convey speaker disentitlement.(6) a. These sub-zero temperatures will be the death of me.b. Sadly we have to be supervised by uninspiring, ill-informed and incompetent management.Clearly entitlement and politeness are separately managed dimensions of complaint-framing; the definitionally entitled complaint can be deferential, and the definitionally disentitled complaint is not.3.2.3‘Lt-izing’ the complaintBut though we cannot diminish the expression of entitlement by being polite, we can in fact chip away at it by adopting more, rather than less, Lt-defining features in making a complaint, e.g., by making the complaint to a third party, giving expression to not only negativity but also helpless victimization, and/or eliding the directive/statement on change.3.3Interim summaryWe have suggested that there are two exploitable constructs for the expression of differentially entitled complaints: the Cp and the Lt. They are in theory selected for different kinds of concerns, the Cp for the inherently addressable problem, and the Lt for what cannot be corrected. Cp communicates entitlement because it blames and asks for correction of what is intrinsically correctable, and Lt the lack thereof because it simply ‘laments’ something that cannot be solved. Choice between Cp and Lt in their actual use, however, is dependent on the perception of the problem and the relative power of the complainant. Once selected, the vocalization of Cp can mitigate face-threat in various ways, to make the expression more, or less, deferential, but this does not take from the essential entitlement of the complaint. Selecting the Lt-frame, on the other hand, though it is an expression of disentitlement, does not, in consequence, convey deference. It is possible, however, to ‘Lt-ize’ the inherent Cp, that is, a complaint on a man-made problem. In this case, one opts to use more, rather than less, Lt-defining features in complaining about an inherently man-made problem to thereby diminish the entitlement of the complaint.4ELL and complaint-makingThe students’ complaints selected for assessment are about ELL, where this is the classroom experience of native speakers of Mandarin, recorded in 84 essays written in English on ELL by undergraduate students at an English medium university in China: 34 from Year II, 32 from Year III and 16 from Year IV. The students had a decade of EFL instruction before joining the university, and subsequently took an obligatory two-year intensive English course before enrolling in degree courses offered in English. They were given one hour to respond to the following prompt: “Describe your relationship with the English language. Represent what it was at its commencement, what it has been in the past, and what it is today.”Each essay records an experience which spans roughly ten years and typically starts with dislike and rejection of English. The complaints relate to this pre-degree phase of the more extensive reported experience. The assumed audience is one, and possibly more, teacher of the university’s English department. Whereas these university teachers are not responsible for the students’ education before they join the university, academics with ELT/EFL or applied linguistics specialism are assumed to have interest in, and influence on, the design of the pre-degree program. It is fair to assume that the students, therefore, feel they are addressing people without direct culpability for the concerns raised, but with some relevant authority, on an issue they care about.4.1Method4.1.1The role of different facets of ELL concernBefore examining how differentially entitled complaints are used by students to express their concerns about ELL, we will first acknowledge the aspects of ELL they identify as concerns, to consider possible correlation between these and the modes of complaining adopted to speak of them.The examined samples refer to several different foci of concern. There is a principal dichotomy set up between concerns about the English language itself and those about the ELL program. Concerns on the program fall into the three main categories, in which the following expectable order, left to right, suggests a student-acknowledged regulatory control by each on the one that follows: program objectives, implementation, and outcomes. In addressing objectives-related concerns, the students set up a distinction between teaching to produce English-users, and teaching about the language, viz., its grammatical systems. Under implementation students give select and separate emphasis to content and method (therefore labelled ‘core implementation features’ in what follows), from other features of implementation (labelled ‘other implementation features’ in what follows), which include the following:the English teacher(s),the obligatory or optional character of the course of studies/availability of choice,the opportunity for authentic language use,contextualization in, or decontextualization from, a relevant culture, andthe opportunity for independent thought and articulation in the language.4.1.2ELL Categories of complaintDifferent ELL categories of complaint are identified by noting the correlation between 1) the ELL concern addressed by the complaint and 2) the complaint-framing options that are used in its expression. This produces four categories of ELL complaint, labelled as Type A, B, C and D (cf. Table 1). These are described and explicated in representative examples, below. Each example is identified by the category of the complaint, as of type A, B, C or D, along with the ELL concern it addresses, and the framing options it selects, from the set of options: complaint claim, disadvantage by other, attributed blame, justification, directive on change, and affect/stance.Table 1Four types of ELL complaintType AType BType CType DComplaint concerns– the English language– objective/outcome;– core implementation features– core- & other implementation features;– outcome– other implementation featuresSelected framing options– no disadvantage by other;– no blame;– no directive on change;– negative stance but no helpless victimization– mitigated blame;– mitigated directive;– negative stance– explicit blame;– no directive;– negative stance with helpless victimization– mitigated blame;– no directive;– negative stance with helpless victimization4.2Findings4.2.1Samples of Type A: non-complaintsELL concern: The English languageFraming options: No disadvantage by other; no blame; no directive on change; negative affect but no helpless victimizationType A are expressions of dissatisfaction which, in communicating no ‘disadvantage by other’, do not qualify as complaints. This category is exemplified by sample 1, below.Sample 1, Year IV1) English only means a mean(s) of passing the test or getting a job. 2) English language itself don’t appear (to convey) emotions to me. 3) For example, when in a conversation by using English, the messages passed (on) are minimized at getting the information from others, but fails to express the feelings during the conversation.The claim—In this sample, the claim represents the limited ways in which the speaker uses English in the local context: English is ‘only’ a means of passing a test or getting a job (sentence 1), and is, in general, used exclusively for information dissemination; any affective component is left out (sentence 2).Disadvantage by other: The claim does not say that this limited function is the result of poor teaching. The use of ‘only’ suggests by lexical implicature that normatively language, as a means of communication, has a fuller functionality, but there is nothing to suggest that this is an other-caused disadvantage.Attribution of blame: There is no explicit or implied attribution of blame.Justifying the claim: There is an expansion of the statement of sentence 2—on the absence of affect in English messages—in sentence 3, which provides evidence suggesting students have a minimalistic kind of conversational exchange in English. But there is no justification to suggest deficient teaching and learning practice, which would allow for the perception of this limited functionality as an other-caused disadvantage.Directive/statement on change: The directive/statement on change is not expected with what reads as a simple statement of fact, and it is not present.Affect: A number of negative markers are utilized to enhance the negative stance, including negative constructions (sentences 2 and 3), intensifies (‘only’ in sentence 1 and ‘minimized’ in sentence 3), words with negative connotations (‘fails’ in sentence 3), and the repeated use of these (as in the repeated construction in ‘(it doesn’t) appear (to convey) emotions to me’ in sentence 2 and ‘(it) fails to express the feelings’ in sentence 3). This repetition and also the use of stative verbs in the simple present makes the experienced negative condition appear well-instated, rather than transient. But there is no suggestion of helpless victimization.In sum, this statement of discontent is not construed as other-caused, attributes no blame and comes with no directive/statement on needed change, and is, therefore, not framed as a complaint.Content-correlated choice of framing optionsThe samples of this category collectively suggest that claims without ‘disadvantage by other’, blame and directive/statement on change select the English language itself, rather than the ELL course of studies, as the vocalized concern.4.2.2Samples of Types B, C and D: complaintsThere are 41 instances of actual complaints in these data. These fall into three categories based on concern-correlation with selected complaint-framing options—Type B, C and D (cf. Table 1, above). They are individually exemplified in what follows.4.2.2.1Type BComplaint concerns: objective/outcome; core implementation featuresFraming options: disadvantage by other, mitigated blame, mitigated directive; negative stanceThere are 3 out of 41 complaints (that is, 7.3 %) that are of this kind; these are illustrated below in Samples 2 and 3.Sample 2, Year III1) When I entered primary school or high school, the department served English as a compulsory class. 2) All the students need to master it. 3) We just recite the words and grammar by rout … 4) Somehow I think this must be the most significant problem in the Chinese English teaching system facing now. 5) And it is necessary to reform the way of English teaching, not only focus on the words and grammar in use, but also need pay more attention to spoken language, about how to use English more flexible.The claim: The claim of this sample appears in sentence 3, where the problem is represented as the exclusive instructional focus on grammar and vocabulary with a reliance on ‘rote’ learning.Disadvantage by other: The ‘disadvantage by other’ is evident in the reference to ‘the department’ as responsible for making English compulsory in sentence 1 and is reinforced in the reference to the at fault ‘Chinese English teaching system’ in sentence 4.Attribution of blame: This treatment of the ‘disadvantage by other’ shows that blame is attributed explicitly and specifically, but it is, at the same time, depersonalized, and hence mitigated, in faulting a ‘department’ and a ‘system’ rather than a teacher/teachers or other authority figures who are responsible for the implemented system.Justification: Sentence 4 asserts the seriousness of this problem of ineffective English instruction and so serves to provide justification and support for the complaint. Directive on change—A need to reform is stated, and the kinds of change needed are specified, in sentence 5. As a statement of fact addressed to an audience with potential influence in effecting needed change, however, this is a conventionally indirect directive, hence, again mitigated.Affect: The negative affect is enhanced by the use of negative constructions (as in sentences 3 and 5), intensifies (as in ‘just’ in sentence 3, and ‘most’ in sentences 3 and 4), and repetition (e.g., of negative constructions, in sentences 3 and 5, and phrasal verbs—‘need to’ in sentences 2 and 5, and ‘necessary to’ in sentence 5) which enhances the suggestion of a well-instated negative condition and also creates an increasing sense of urgency. But any suggestion of helpless victimization is nullified by the statement on needed change, which conveys entitlement to seek, and by seeking, secure redress.In short, the complaint claim represents an other-effected problem, comes with mitigated attributed blame and mitigated directive, hence a deferential expression of entitlement, and conveys negative affect, but without the suggestion of helpless victimization.Sample 3, Year II:1) Before the university, the fundamental purpose of learning English is to pass the exam, so the teaching method is boring and dull in the class which means that students were always learning English grammar. 2) As a result, most students may achieve high marks in the exam, while they can’t use English language frequently during life. 3) For example, they can’t communicate with other foreigners without any hesitations. 4) It may be the disadvantage of this kind style of learning a language. … 5) To sum up, I think English language should be used more often in the daily life instead of the exam, and if so, I can then learn more without the barrier of language. 6) However, it’s a common phenomenon in China that most students can achieve high grades in English exam, they can’t speak in the daily life fluently. 7) It may be worth considering by the educators.The claim—The claim in Sample 3 appears in sentences 1 and 2, which represent the key goal of ELL in the school-going years as passing exams. The instruction in consequence is grammar-focused and uninteresting, and while securing students good marks, also limits their communication skills.Disadvantage by other: The disadvantage—the boredom (sentence 1) and the inability to use English for life purposes (sentence 2)—is represented as other-caused by “the purpose … to pass the exam” and the exam-focused “teaching method” (sentence 1), but also “educators” (sentence 7).Attribution of blame: Blame is therefore explicit, but also mitigated by first depersonalization in the reference to the objectionable ‘purpose’ and ‘method’ and then use of non-specific reference in ‘educators’.Justification—The evidence to support the claim appears in sentence 3, which provides an example of students’ insufficient proficiency, in their inability to communicate effectively with English-speaking foreigners.Directive on change: The directive appears in conventionally indirect form, in the statement of sentence 5: ‘I think English language should be used more often in the daily life instead of the exam’, and its qualified reiteration in sentence 7: ‘It may be worth considering by the educators’. It too is therefore mitigated.Affect: The negative affect is enhanced by the use of negative constructions (in sentences 2, 3 and 6), words with negative connotations (e.g., ‘boring’, in sentence 1, ‘dull’ in sentence 1, and ‘disadvantage’ in sentence 4) and intensifiers (e.g., ‘always’, in sentence 1). Repetition of constructions (in sentences 2, 3, and 6) and the use of stative verbs in the simple present serve to suggest a well-instated negative condition, rather than a transient state. Any suggestion of helpless victimization, however, is nullified by the statement on needed change (the indirect directive).Overall, this claim comes with mitigated blame attribution and mitigated directive, suggesting a deferential expression of entitlement, and negative stance but without the suggestion of helpless victimization.Content-correlation with framing optionsThe samples of this B-type, collectively, suggest that complaints that actually attribute blame and generate a directive, albeit with mitigation and hence deferentially, appear to focus on the core ELL program implementation features, of content and method, and also either determining objectives or resulting outcomes.4.2.2.2Type CComplaint concerns: core- and other-implementation features; outcomeFraming options: disadvantage by other, blame explicit, no directive; negative affect with helpless victimizationThere are 6 complaints out of the total set of 41 (that is, 14.6 %) that are of this kind; these are exemplified in Sample 4, 5 and 6, below.Sample 4, Year III1) I started the course of English learning when I was 8. 2) An innocent girl who had no idea about the foreign language and foreign world was taught by a ‘stereotype’ Chinese teacher. 3) I was consistently blamed by that teacher because of my failure to correctly use grammar. 4) To relief this torture, I detached myself from English the moment I decided to hate that teacher.The claim—The claim appears in sentence 3, where the student expresses extreme dissatisfaction with the teacher, specifically, with the teacher’s negative feedback that she (the student) received on her grasp of grammar.Disadvantage by other—The disadvantage to the student comes from being the target of censure, and it is other-caused, by the teacher (sentence 3).Attribution of blame—The attribution of blame is, therefore, explicit and unmitigated.Justification: Support for the claim in sentence 3, appears in sentence 4, where the student reports disengagement from ELL in consequence of the ‘hatred’ she felt for the concerned teacher.Directive on change—The directive, however, is missing.Affect: The negative affect here is strongly suggestive of helplessness, e.g., in the description of the complainant, herself, as ‘innocent girl’ (sentence 2) with ‘no idea’ (sentence 2) who ‘detached myself’ for ‘relief’ (sentence 4), and of the victimization she experienced, e.g., in the representation of herself as ‘blamed’ (sentence 3), experiencing ‘failure’ (sentence 3), ‘torture’ (sentence 4) and ‘hate’ (sentence 4).All in all, the claim, therefore, comes with unmitigated attributed blame, but without a directive, hence without entitlement to redress, and a negative stance with noticeable expression of helplessness and victimization.Sample 5, Year IV1) After English was regarded as the obliged subject in daily school study, I began to hate attending English classes. 2) The way of teacher teaching was boring: 3) she just let students read words follow them and then told students to remember these words. 4) In that time, I thought learning was not learning to use a language while it was just to remember knowledges with no alive. 5) Students actually did not really use English to interact or communicate with others in daily life.Claim of the complaint: The claim is in sentences 1 and 2, where the student objects to the compulsory English class and the teacher’s uninspiring method of instruction.Disadvantage by other: The disadvantage by other is explicit in the objection to obligatory English classes (sentence 1), and the expressed distaste for the teaching method (sentence 2).Attribution of blame: Blame is explicitly attributed to the teacher and her teaching (sentence 3).Justification: The claim is justified in a number of statements: that the classes were obligatory (sentence 1), the teacher was uninspiring (sentence 2), there was rote learning (sentence 3), and no real use of language (sentences 4 and 5).Directive on change: There is no directive on change.Affect: The negative affect here is again suggestive of helplessness, e.g., in the description of the course as obligatory (sentence 1), in students being ‘told’ to read and ‘remember’ words (sentence 3) and in the representation of the student herself/himself as ‘not learning to use language’, but rather just receiving dry facts (sentence 4), and ‘hating’ to attend class (sentence 1).Here, again, the claim comes with unmitigated attributed blame, but no directive, and therefore without entitlement to redress. In addition, there is negative stance with a clear expression of helpless victimization.Sample 6, Year II1) English teachers only pay attention to teaching grammar; however, most of English learners do not know the culture of English, so they could not speak or write English as a native speaker. 2) That’s the reason why Chinese people may not understand what local residents mean when they first time travel to Britain.Complaints claim—The claim appears in the first sentence, where it is asserted that teachers teach grammatical rules, but fail to provide a cultural context for the language students are learning.Disadvantage by other: The speaker disadvantage is evident in this, as is its other-caused nature.Attribution of blame—There is explicit and unmitigated reference to responsible party—‘English teachers’ (sentence 1).Justification: The claim is justified in the evidential statement of the second sentence, which provides an instance of the students’ shortcomings in occasions of authentic language use.Directive on change—The directive is absent.Affect: The stance is of a disadvantaged and disempowered individual; this is suggested by the focus on limitations, in the reference to ‘only’ in describing what is taught (sentence 1), and the use of negative constructions to suggest the consequential shortcomings: they ‘do not know the culture … could not speak or write (sentence 1) … (and) may not understand … local residents (in) Britain’ (sentence 2).Content-correlation with framing optionsThe Set-C complaints, with explicit attributed blame but missing directive, hence no entitlement to redress, and a negative stance with expressed helpless victimization, all refer to a particular teacher or teachers, in general, as the at-fault party. They show a focus on not only content and method but also other implementation features such as a more open-minded and enlightened teacher, and a more engaging, authentic and/or culture-highlighting program.4.2.2.3Type DComplaint concerns: other implementation featuresFraming options: Disadvantage by other; blame mitigated; directive missing; negative stance with helpless victimizationThere are 32 complaints of this kind (that is, 78 %); these are exemplified, below, in Samples 7 through 9.Sample 7, Year IV1) I started to learn English when I was in the primary school because of the compulsory education. 2) Initially I hated to learn this new language as a child because I did not choose to do so. 3) Actually I have no choice to express my refusal to learn it. 4) And I’m unpleasant with this kind of feeling that cannot make decision for myself. 5) It’s just like my parents suddenly introduce some one strange to me and tell me that it’s your sister and you should share your candies with her. 6) This is quite similar to what I feel about English at the beginning that it’s my destiny to learn this new language.Claim of the complaint: The claim appears in sentence 2, where the learner expresses hatred for ELL because it was forced on him/her.Disadvantage by other than self: The disadvantage to speaker—the lack of choice—is explicit in this, and it is clearly other-caused.Attribution of blame: Blame is, therefore, attributed explicitly to ‘compulsory’ learning (sentence 1), and, therefore, absence of choice (sentences 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6). But in making the reference to the faulted party vague by depersonalizing it, as ‘compulsory education’ and a want of choice, rather than the person responsible for this policy, it is also mitigated.Justification for the claim: The lack of choice, expressed in the claim itself (subordinate clause, sentence 2), is reframed in various different ways in sentences 3, 4, 5 and 6 to emphasize its validity as a concern.Directive on change: The directive is missing.Affect: The negative stance here is strongly suggestive of helpless victimization, in repeated reference to lack of self determination, e.g., in ‘compulsory education’ in sentence 1, ‘did not choose to’, in sentence 2, ‘no choice’, in sentence 3, ‘cannot make decision for myself’ in sentence 3, ‘my destiny’ in sentence 4, ‘cannot refuse’ in sentence 4, and the accompanying emotional distress, e.g., ‘unpleasant (emotions)’ in sentence 4, and ‘hatred’ in sentence 3.The claim, therefore, comes with mitigated blame, hence deference to authority, but no directive, and therefore without entitlement to redress, and a negative stance with a strong suggestion of helpless victimization.Sample 8, Year III1) It seems English is just a ‘dead’ and ‘blind’ subject for the reason that we are only required to do reading and writing exercise. 2) However, we cannot deliver our opinion and ideas by speaking out. 3) Therefore more information was taught to us by teachers and we were forced to receive the information. 4) Students lie in a passive position so that I can’t transfer them (the information) to useful resources.Complaint claim—The claim appears in sentences 1 and 2, stating that ELL is a passive experience, a mere accumulation of knowledge, without opportunity to use the language independently, for self-expression.Disadvantage by other: Disadvantage is suggested in the lexical choices of sentence 1: ‘just’ conveys by implicature that ELL should be more/other than ‘reading and writing exercises’. The metaphoric description of English as ‘dead and blind’ also suggests a disabling absence of needed attributes; and ‘only’, in reference to what the local brand of ELL entails, again suggests, by implicature, that it should be more than it is. Subsequently, in sentence 2, a negative assertion focuses on what the implemented ELL fails to facilitate.These experienced disadvantages are also attributed to some responsible party other than the self, evident in the repeated use of the passive construction, for example, ‘we were only required to …’ (sentence 1) and ‘we were forced to …’ (sentence 3).Attribution of blame: While teachers are mentioned, their control of students’ use of English is expressed in passive constructions, with elided agent (e.g., ‘we are … required to’ (sentence 1) and ‘we were forced to’ (sentence 4)). Blame attribution is, therefore, mitigated.Justification: Sentences 3 and 4 speak of the consequences of such English instruction, stating that students ‘were forced to receive the information’ and allowed to do no more.Directive on change: The directive is missing.Affect: A marked helplessness and victimization is evident in the negative stance, here, in the expressed lack of self-determination, e.g., ‘we cannot deliver our opinion and ideas’ in sentence 2, ‘we are forced’ in sentence 3, and ‘students lie in a passive position’ in sentence 4.So the claim here comes with mitigated blame, hence is deferential, but without a directive, and so without entitlement to redress, and negative stance with a strong suggestion of helpless victimization.Sample 9, Year II1) My original intention of learning English is just for fun. 2) However it was distorted while English was treated as a subject. 3) I had to (do) a lot of exercises and completed a large number of tasks instead of reading simple lovely English novels.Claim of the complaint: The claim appears in sentence 2, where the learner expresses a thwarted interest in enjoying English language learning.Disadvantage by other than self: The disadvantage to speaker—the denied pleasure in learning—is explicit in this, and its other-caused character is evident in the elided agent, in the passive clause ‘English was treated as a subject’ (sentence 2), and the use of the deontic modal ‘had to’ to refer to the obligatory tasks (sentence 3).Attributing blame: Blame is, therefore, attributed but without overt reference to the responsible party, and hence it is mitigated.Justification for the claim: In sentence 3, the justification for the denied pleasure of learning English (sentence 1) places what the student was forced to do in contrast to what s/he would choose to do: ‘reading simple lovely novels’.Directive on change: The directive is missing.Affect: The negative stance comes with the characteristics of both helplessness and victimization, suggested by the need to accommodate an enforced set of tasks, that deny the student a say, the resulting unrealizable intent to enjoy learning (sentence 3), and the need to tolerate English as just ‘a (school) subject’ (sentence 2).The claim, therefore, comes with mitigated blame, hence deference to authority, but no directive, and therefore without entitlement to redress, and a negative stance with a clear suggestion of helpless victimization.Content correlation with framing optionsThe D-set complaints are like Type C, in expanding the sphere of implementation features beyond a primary focus on content and method, to a range of issues, including, freedom to influence the program, and opportunity for thought and self-expression in English. This concern is expressed with mitigated blame and elided directive. In choosing directive elision, both Type C and Type D complaints appear to imply that they envision the kind of radical program change that cannot be heard, let alone considered. Unlike Type C complaints, however, D complaints also choose to mitigate blame, in order to be deferential.4.3The role of mitigation and Lt-ization in ELL complaintsAll in all, only 7.3 % of complaints (those of Type B) actually voice both blame and directive; that is, no Lt features are adopted in their expression. But they do choose to mitigate both features in the interest of conveying a deferential entitlement. These complaints focus on core implementation features (that is, course content and instructional method) and objectives or outcome.A significantly larger number—14.6 % (those of Type C)—‘Lt-ize’ by eliding the directive, hence conveying no entitlement to seek and secure redress, but opt to keep the blame explicit. They, in consequence, show no deference to authority, but do forfeit the claim to redress. These complaints expand the scope of implementation beyond content and method.But the vast majority of complaints—78 % (those of Type D)—‘Lt-ize’ by eliding the directive, and also mitigate blame, and by doing so show deference and also forfeit the right to redress. These complaints are, exclusively, on ‘other implementation features’. The consistently selected framing option across concerns about ‘other implementation features’ is directive elision, and hence the relinquished right to redress.4.4DiscussionBecause the complaint concern here is man-made, it should, in theory, warrant a definitional Cp. This would be a claim about an ELL concern with the features of attributed blame (also an assertion of the right to blame) directive on change (also an assertion of the right to seek, and secure, redress), and negative affect, without the characteristic of helpless victimization. But, as we have seen, in actual fact only 7.3 % of the total number of complaints (Type B) come with blame, directive and negative affect without helpless victimization. Also, notably, they, without exception, appear with mitigated blame and directive, and hence all convey entitlement, deferentially. Clearly, the fact that the identified ELL problems are profoundly addressable does not, as a rule, empower students to assert the right to redress.The remaining complaints (Types C and D) are not even mitigated Cps. But nor are they full-fledged Lts.As stated earlier, the prototype Lt does not blame (and hence also conveys no the right to blame), expresses no directive (and hence also conveys no right to seek, and secure, redress) and communicates negative affect with a noticeable quality of helpless victimization.As we have seen, the non-Cp complaints (Types C and D) in these data (92.7 % of the total number) are unlike Lts in that they all express blame, and hence the entitlement to blame, though only a small percentage (14.6 % of the total number) express it without mitigation. This is an interesting departure from the Lt construct. It reflects the impact of the third-party addressee of these student complaints, who, as stated earlier, is an ELT professional, but one without direct culpability for the concerns raised. This makes blame, and blame-entitlement, much less impermissible; hence the consistent blame attribution across not only Types C and D, but in fact the total set of these complaints.What these non-Cp complaints (Types C and D) concomitantly share, however, is a measure of Lt-ization in the form of two Lt-features: 1) directive-elision, and thereby forfeit of the claim to seek, and expect, redress, and 2) negative stance with a clear expression of helpless victimization. Unlike blame attribution, directives, and the assertion of directive-entitlement, from the young and inexperienced could well be perceived presumptuous by their third-party addressee, especially in the Chinese context, where age and experience must be given due respect. This might appear particularly inappropriate when the concerns highlight the absence of ‘other implementation features’, through which students point to the need for innovative forms of teaching, that in a variety of ways acknowledge the student in the teaching-learning enterprise.The full sense of their disempowered status is, in fact, most apparent in the students’ choice of the directive-eliding non-CP complaints of Type D, which, as we have suggested, make for a significant majority (78 % of the total set). This, in make-up, part-CP, part-Lt hybrid expresses a compelling paradox in the consistent contradiction between the message communicated in words, and the implication conveyed by the manner in which that message is framed. The complaint-claim states a concern on some facet of the general absence of self-determination (in addressing one or more ‘other implementation features’), and in this identifies a deeply troubling short-coming (e.g., ‘I hated to learn this language …. because I did not choose to’; ‘We cannot deliver our opinion’; ‘I had to (do) … instead of reading simple lovely novels’; ‘Every problem seems to have a standard answer’; ‘Every question … a true or false answer.’) But the missing directive then relinquishes the right to seek, and secure, its redress, the right, that is, to be heard and to see appropriate action taken. In other words, the choice of complaint-kind, in fact, cedes the very right the student represents as denied him/her in the concern it voices. It is suggested, in effect, in one and the same utterance, that the student gives up the right to ask for what s/he claims to be denied him/her. Admittedly, of course, the student could not do otherwise; one is not surprised. Such strategically adopted message-making contortions are unavoidable when who will speak and what they will say are, to all intents and purposes, entirely regulated from above.5ConclusionIn sum, in the expression of complaints on ELL, in the Chinese context, what must qualify as an inherent Cp, because it is on a man-made patently addressable problem, is only, and always, used with mitigation and/or ‘Lt-ization’ in the interest of conveying speaker’s deference and/or disenfranchisement. In the vast majority of cases, students address issues related to program implementation, such as, the need for authentic English language use, and the opportunity for individual thought, creativity and self-determination in complaints that suggest their sense of disaffection and disenfranchisement, but with deference to authority. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png International Review of Pragmatics Brill

On the power of the complaint and the complaints of the disempowered

International Review of Pragmatics , Volume 15 (1): 28 – Jan 19, 2023

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Brill
Copyright
Copyright © Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands
ISSN
1877-3095
eISSN
1877-3109
DOI
10.1163/18773109-01501004
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Abstract

1IntroductionThere is growing consensus that significant social services, in, for example, medical practice, law, and teaching, are both better conceived and implemented as symbiotic collaborations with the so-called recipient than top-down acts of magnanimity. Existing modes of ‘doctoring’, ‘lawyering’ and teaching have been critically examined and faulted for neglecting the need for collaborative and cooperative practice (e.g., Wodak, 1996; Renkema, 2004), in which due respect is paid to the crucial contribution of the recipient. In L2 instruction, this understanding is expressed in recent research on critical pedagogy (e.g., Norton and Toohey, 2004; Canagarajah, 2004). There is clear interest in replacing the teacher-driven impart-knowledge model with one properly cognizant of both its equally significant interactive contributors. In the move towards this integrated practice, the character of present-day teaching and the role of the learner that it both allows for, and in fact enforces, is being critically examined in local classrooms. This enterprise will eventually give an idealized conception of a symbiotic teaching-learning practice tangible localized manifestations.It cannot be irrelevant to this endeavour to understand whether, and if so how significantly, students feel they can contribute to the character of the program of studies they have undertaken. The objective of this paper is to examine how Chinese learners of EFL frame their complaints on English language learning (ELL for future reference) to understand their perceived sense of entitlement to complain. A complaint is an expression of entitlement, but the selected mode of complaining is in addition an index of the degree of speaker-assumed entitlement.I want to assess the aggrieved’s choice of complaint-kind to gauge how entitled s/he feels to complain. This goal will be achieved in two distinct steps.I will first carry out a detailed examination of complaint as an expression of entitlement, using prototype examples from instances of typical everyday usage and an online registry of complaints. This examination will identify two kinds of complaint, distinguished by their dissimilar expressions of entitlement: complaint proper (Cp), which communicates entitlement in blaming and asking for correction of what is intrinsically correctable, and lament (Lt), which conveys the lack thereof by simply ‘lamenting’ something that cannot be solved.I will then assess complaints on ELL, taken from Chinese students’ English narratives, to determine how they manage their complaint-framing, and choice between Cp and Lt, to effect the expression of entitlement that they consider appropriate.In what follows, we will begin in section 2 with a review of the relevant literature on the complaint, to suggest its significant study as an expressive, but no apparent treatment as an expression of entitlement. Section 3 will then provide a framework for the conception of the complaint as an expression of entitlement. It willexamine the constituent structure of the prototype Cp and Lt to show their multiple points of difference as expressions of entitlement,evidence their dissimilar appropriateness for inherently addressable and unaddressable concerns,demonstrate how ultimate choice between them happens with recognition of the complainant’s perception of the concern, and social standing/authority relative to the addressee, andsuggest that level of entitlement can be managed, beyond the basic choice between CP or Lt, for example, by adopting more, rather than less, Lt- defining features in the framing of a Cp.Section 4 will then apply this conceptual framework to the examination of student complaints, to assess their choices of complaint-framing and entitlement-expression.2On complainingThe assessment of the complaint as an index of entitlement distinguishes this study from other recent analyses.Searle (1976) describes complaints as expressive speech acts. They “exhibit … the psychological state of the aggrieved party” either explicitly or implicitly (Henry and Ho, 2010). This psychological state is the focus of most definitions of the complaint. For Traverso (2009) “the slightest negative valence” suggests a complaint (: 2383). Olshtain and Weinbach (1993) (and also Wierzbicka, 1991 and Edmonds and House, 1981, before them) are more specific in their characterization of the requisite ‘negative valence’:the speaker (S) expresses displeasure or annoyance—censure—as a reaction to a past or on-going action, the consequences of which are perceived by S as affecting her unfavorably. This complaint is usually addressed to the hearer (H), whom the S holds, at least partially, responsible for the offensive action.108They also highlight the justifiability feature of the complaint, as a response to a “socially unacceptable act” (Olshtain and Weinbach, 1993: 108), which is itself a precondition to the complaint.For Heinemann and Traverso (2009: 2381) complaints, as “feelings of discontent about some state of affairs, for which responsibility can be attributed to “someone” (to some person, organization or the like)”, are set in contrast to ‘troubles talk’, where the psychological emphasis is on “the teller and his (or her own) experiences” (Jefferson and Lee, 1981: 411; Haugh, 2016: 729). Other researchers differentiate complaints proper from a subclass for which the psychological emphasis is on ‘lightening the load’, rather than seeking redress, a kind of complaining referred to as ‘griping’ (DuFon, 1995) and ‘whinghing’ (Eggins and Slade, 1997).A number of studies also distinguish between two separate components of negative valency, the first in the description of the objected to circumstance, and the second to the speaker disposition adopted in reaction to this circumstance (Drew and Holt, 1988; Traverso, 2009; Pakkanen, 2011: 384).The shared conception of complaint as an expressive, vocalizing displeasure for an ‘other-caused’ disadvantage has also generated studies of different kinds:There are studies with a pragmatics orientation, which assume that complaints, in general, address the at-fault individual, and give primary focus to its face threat (Brown and Levinson, 1987) and therefore also on ways to mitigate it. Such studies have been carried out on complaints in different languages, for example, in English (Geluykens and Kraft, 2003, 2007; Murphy and Neu, 1996), Chinese (Du, 1995), Spanish (Bolivar 2002; Pinto and Raschio, 2008) and German (Geluykens and Kraft, 2003). The pragmatic approach has also been adopted in the assessment of its second language acquisition use, sometimes with acknowledgement of the influence of first language complaining practices (cf., for example, in Chinese, Arent, 1996; in Danish, Trosborg, 1995; in French, Kraft and Geluykens, 2002; and in German, Geluykens and Kraft, 2003, 2007). Much of this research is on elicited data, garnered through a discourse completion test (DCT), and many studies (e.g., Trosborg, 1995; Geluykens and Kraft, 2003, 2007) have examined complaints, using the Olshtain and Weinbach (1987) five- strategy taxonomy: 1) below the level of reproach, 2) expression of annoyance or disapproval, 3) explicit complaint, 4) accusation and 5) warning, immediate threat.The expressive character of the complaint is differently addressed in studies with an ethnomethodological orientation and conversational analytical approach, which have examined complaints in spontaneous talk, in either personal (Drew, 1998; Drew and Holt, 1988; Drew and Walker, 2009, Dersley and Wootton, 2000; Haakana, 2007; Laforest, 2002) or professional (Heinemann, 2009; Vasquez, 2009) contexts. The suggestion, here, is that a complaint may be cathartic, that is, serving ‘to vent’ (Wolfe and Powell 2006: 14), or otherwise seek affiliation/sympathy/solidarity (Drew and Walker, 2009; Traverso, 2009), and frequently carry out both these emotive functions at the same time (Wolfe and Powell, 2006).Finally the negative expressivity of the complaint is still differently addressed in accounts that assess its capture in rhetorical, lexico-semantic and syntactic, or prosodic and/or visual representation, in different languages (Pomerants, 1986; Drew and Holt, 1988; Wyrwas, 2002; Edwards, 2005; Monzoni, 2009; Selting, 2012).To my knowledge, however, the complaint’s expression of entitlement is not directly addressed in the extant literature.3Complaining and entitlementBecause my interest is in the complaint as a marker of entitlement, it is first important to emphasize that complaints are expressions of discontent which vocalize a disadvantage caused by someone, or something, other than the speaker (as in 1b and c). In a self-caused disadvantage, one is not conveying entitlement (e.g., 1a).(1) a. I’m depressed because I’m not working well. (? I am entitled to complain.)b. I’m depressed because I’m not allowed to work well. (I am entitled to complain.)c. I’m depressed because it is perpetually overcast in this city. (I am entitled to complain.)3.1Complaint proper (Cp) versus lament (Lt)We can also distinguish between two types of complaint on the basis of their different expressions of entitlement: Lt (as in c/; elsewhere also described as ‘wining’ and ‘whinging’) and Cp (as in b/).b/. I’m depressed because I’m not allowed to work well. (I am entitled to complain, and I am entitled to expect something to be done about it.)c/. I’m depressed because it is perpetually overcast in this city. (I’m entitled to complain, and ? I’m entitled to expect something will be done about it.)The componential analysis of Cp and Lt as discoursal acts of speech/ ‘pragmemes’1 captures the details pertaining to the above-illustrated difference in entitlement. I will use the following complaint features, in an analysis of sample A (a Cp) and sample B (a Lt) to suggest the source of the difference in entitlement between these complaint-types:The claim, which is an assertion representing a problem.The addressee, who is the at-fault party, a third-party who is not directly culpable but with interest/influence in effecting needed change, or a third-party without connection to the problem.The disadvantage by other feature of the problem, which is expressed in, or implied by, the claim, and makes the problem complaint-worthy2Attribution of blame, which when present can be in, or follow as a separate assertion after, the claim, to hold the responsible party to task for the problem.A possible justification, which gives evidence to support the complaint-worthy character of the problem.The directive/statement on needed change, which when present makes a demand, request, suggestion, or declaration, specifying the need to address the problem.The affect/stance, which is negative and with or without the expression of helpless victimization.3.1.1Cp: The entitled complaintSample A1) Montana is burning to the ground and is in a state of emergency, 2) Oregon is in a state of emergency and has entire cities surrounded by fire and you’re not showing it! 3) You are ignoring it! 4) Idaho’s entire upper half is burning down with a university right in the path and yet you show nothing. 5) Weather is Fiery as well as wet and windy. 6) Equal coverage people! 7) But then you are an X owned news station so I should already know the answer to that question.From: The Weather Channel Customer Service (https://www.complaintsboard.com/the-weather-channel)The claim: In this example of a Cp, the claim appears in sentences 1, 2, 3 and 4. (Sentence 1, by itself, suggests a serious concern, but not the problem of this complaint. This problem becomes evident in sentences 2, 3 and 4, in which it is explicitly stated that the weather reporters are not showing Oregon and Idaho on fire. The reader infers, retrospectively, that this oversight is, in fact, also the complaint-worthy problem with respect to Montana, in sentence 1.)The addressee: The complaint is addressed directly to the at-fault party.The disadvantage by other: The failure to report the fire emergencies poses potential danger. This is caused by the reporters.The attribution of blame: The blame attribution is explicit in sentences 2, 3 and 4, where the addressed weather reporters are told that they are responsible for failing to disseminate vitally needed information on these incidents of fire.The justification: There is justification for the claim in sentence 5, which asserts that there is reason to expect the coverage of incidents of fire in weather reports.The directive/statement on needed change: There is also a directive in sentence 6, in which the reporters are told to give as much coverage to fire incidents as they do to other weather conditions.The affect: The negative affect is enhanced by the use of various negative markers:– negative constructions, e.g., “you’re not showing it!” (sentence 2).– intensifiers, e.g., ‘entire cities’ (sentence 2), and ‘entire upper half’ (sentence 4), ‘right in the path’ (sentence 4), ‘yet you are showing nothing’ (sentence 4), ‘surrounded by fire’ (sentence 2).– repetition of negative constructions, e.g., ‘you’re not showing it’, in sentences 2 and 4, ‘you’re ignoring it’, in sentences 3 and 4.– other repeated syntax, e.g., “Montana is burning to the ground and is in a state of emergency”, in sentence 1, and “Oregon is in a state of emergency … you’re not showing it”, in sentence 2, and “Idaho’s upper half is burning … yet you are showing nothing”, in sentence 4, which serves to suggest a progressively increasing sense of urgency.– repetition of lexis with negative connotations, e.g., ‘emergency’ in sentences 1 and 2, ‘burning’/ ‘fire’/ ‘fiery’ in sentences 1, 2, 4, and 5.– sarcasm in “But then you are an X owned news station so I should already know the answer to that question”, in sentence 7.Despite the use of all these negative markers, any possible suggestion of helpless victimization is made void by the directive “Equal coverage people!”, in sentence 6, not to mention the sarcasm that follows in sentence 7.This standard example of Cp shows that the attribution of blame, directive/statement on change and the affect/stance play a definitional role in the entitlement expressed by Cp.The attribution of blame is unavoidable in the specification of the problem of sample A since the problem, the failure to report fire incidents, must be attributed to a volitional agent. In attributing blame the speaker also claims a right to do so; it is an act of entitlement.Likewise, the directive is not only a demand for rectification; it also evidences the right to seek, and expect, it. If the directive of sentence 6 is elided, it is still inferable, by implicature, from the claim and its expressed blame-attribution. (For example, from ‘Oregon is in a state of emergency and has entire cities surrounded by fire and you’re not showing it!’ we can infer a directive, as a plea to correct the oversight.) But in eliding it, the speaker chooses not to express a right to seek and, in consequence of seeking, expect rectification. This makes a significant difference to the character of the complaint.The affect/stance is also significant. While complaints are negative expressives, Cps are not expressions of helpless victimization.I think it is fair to say, therefore, that the standard Cp, with its attribution of blame, directive on change, and negative but unintimidated stance is the complaint of an entitled speaker, demanding rectification and communicating the right to blame, seek, and in consequence of seeking, expect redress.3.1.2Lt: The disentitled complaintSample B“Man alive, these sub-zero temperatures will be the death of me!”The claim: In this sample, the whole utterance is the claim. It represents the severity of the cold as the problem.The addressee: Since the problem is the consequence of natural causes, it cannot be addressed to any at-fault party.The disadvantage by other: The by-natural-causes character of the threat is self-apparent.The attribution of blame: There is obviously, therefore, no possible attribution of blame.The justification: There is also no justification.The directive/statement on needed change: Because the cold is the work of nature, there is also no directive on change.The affect: The negative markers used are idiomatic expressions—“Man alive” and “will be the death of me”—and both qualify as extreme exaggerations. They are not only negative, but also convey victimization and helplessness.The claim, here, without the attributed blame of the Cp cannot convey a directive on change by implicature. The missing attribution of blame and the missing directive/statement on needed change also mean there is no expressed right to blame or seek, and in consequence of seeking, expect rectification. Along with this is the stance, which is not only negative but also expressive of victimization and helplessness.The standard Lt is, therefore, the complaint of a speaker entitled to, very literally, only lament, who does not blame and makes no claim to a right to seek, and in consequence of seeking, expect redress. In essence it is a profoundly disentitled complaint.3.1.3The concern-specific character of Cp and LtAlthough it has been suggested that Lt is the likely choice, over Cp, to complain about sensitive social and/or political problems in places where free speech is restricted (Lee and Hall, 2009), it appears that these discoursal routines are actually appropriate for quite different kinds of concern.Lt, the expression of disentitlement, seems to be appropriate for complaints about things that are definitionally outside the sphere of one’s control, like the weather, or the inevitability of growing old, for which one does not seek correction because, of course, one cannot. Cp, the expression of entitlement, on the other hand, seems appropriate to address whatever is amenable to alteration and rectification.(2) a. City authorities should do something about the intolerably high levels of air pollution.b City authorities should do something about the inevitability of death.The obvious felicity of 2a, and the infelicity of 2b, above, demonstrates that Cp is suitable only for things that are amenable to oversight, control and alteration. Likewise the felicitous lament in 3a, and the questionable felicity of 3b, suggests that Lt is appropriate only for things that are not manageable and rectifiable:(3) a. Sadly we have to age/die.b. Sadly we have to be judged by the colour of our skin/tortured/raped.3.1.4Concern-specificity and the role of perspectiveThis neat dichotomization is something of an idealization, however.(4) Husband to wife: You’ve taught her no self-control, and that needs to change. Look at her; she’s frightfully obese.Wife: It’s called a food addiction, Harry. Unfortunately, your daughter has a food addiction. You’ve got to learn to accept it.Perceptual differences can present different complaint-concern to mode-of-complaint correlations. In 4, above, the husband perceives his daughter’s over-indulgence as a lack of discipline/self-control, and therefore as a problem that is addressable, and generates a Cp. The wife, on the other hand, sees it as an addiction, a pathological condition for which there is no real cure, and hence, unaddressable, and generates a Lt.3.1.5Concern-specificity and the accommodation of the complaintAdditionally, whereas Cp is the complaint-mode for a problem regarded inherently correctable for the socially dominant, this is not at all the case when the complainant is a subordinate. In the same vein, whereas Lt is likely to be set aside for only what is inherently irreparable by the privileged, this exclusivity is not apparent in its use by disadvantaged people. Therefore, expectably, subordinates addressing their boss are not free to voice a Cp like 5a, below.(5) a. Your lack of training in management is creating a dysfunctional workplace environment. (Please) update your knowledge and adopt a more enlightened approach.Nor does the Lt-framed complaint of 5b, which is on a man-made problem that is patently correctable, seem infelicitous, as did the comparable example of 3b:(5) b. Sadly, we have to be supervised by uninspiring, ill-informed and incompetent management.3.2Managing the power of the complaint3.2.1Mitigation and CpIt is also note-worthy that while the much studied mitigation of face-threat does make Cp more palatable (as in 5c compared to 5a), the essential entitlement of the complaint is not affected by the adoption of politeness strategies (as is evident in the parenthetical comments following 5c, which give explicit expression to this right without creating any contradiction.)(5) c. Is the lack of training in management perhaps creating a dysfunctional workplace environment? Might updated knowledge and a more enlightened approach help? (I hate to be seen to be complaining, but one does expect better.)3.2.2Lt and politenessThe Lt—the diametric opposite of Cp with respect to the speaker’s entitlement—is by definition third-party directed and shows no scope for deferential address. Neither the prototype Lt of 6a, nor the Lt-framed complaint on a man-made problem of 6b is deferential, though they both convey speaker disentitlement.(6) a. These sub-zero temperatures will be the death of me.b. Sadly we have to be supervised by uninspiring, ill-informed and incompetent management.Clearly entitlement and politeness are separately managed dimensions of complaint-framing; the definitionally entitled complaint can be deferential, and the definitionally disentitled complaint is not.3.2.3‘Lt-izing’ the complaintBut though we cannot diminish the expression of entitlement by being polite, we can in fact chip away at it by adopting more, rather than less, Lt-defining features in making a complaint, e.g., by making the complaint to a third party, giving expression to not only negativity but also helpless victimization, and/or eliding the directive/statement on change.3.3Interim summaryWe have suggested that there are two exploitable constructs for the expression of differentially entitled complaints: the Cp and the Lt. They are in theory selected for different kinds of concerns, the Cp for the inherently addressable problem, and the Lt for what cannot be corrected. Cp communicates entitlement because it blames and asks for correction of what is intrinsically correctable, and Lt the lack thereof because it simply ‘laments’ something that cannot be solved. Choice between Cp and Lt in their actual use, however, is dependent on the perception of the problem and the relative power of the complainant. Once selected, the vocalization of Cp can mitigate face-threat in various ways, to make the expression more, or less, deferential, but this does not take from the essential entitlement of the complaint. Selecting the Lt-frame, on the other hand, though it is an expression of disentitlement, does not, in consequence, convey deference. It is possible, however, to ‘Lt-ize’ the inherent Cp, that is, a complaint on a man-made problem. In this case, one opts to use more, rather than less, Lt-defining features in complaining about an inherently man-made problem to thereby diminish the entitlement of the complaint.4ELL and complaint-makingThe students’ complaints selected for assessment are about ELL, where this is the classroom experience of native speakers of Mandarin, recorded in 84 essays written in English on ELL by undergraduate students at an English medium university in China: 34 from Year II, 32 from Year III and 16 from Year IV. The students had a decade of EFL instruction before joining the university, and subsequently took an obligatory two-year intensive English course before enrolling in degree courses offered in English. They were given one hour to respond to the following prompt: “Describe your relationship with the English language. Represent what it was at its commencement, what it has been in the past, and what it is today.”Each essay records an experience which spans roughly ten years and typically starts with dislike and rejection of English. The complaints relate to this pre-degree phase of the more extensive reported experience. The assumed audience is one, and possibly more, teacher of the university’s English department. Whereas these university teachers are not responsible for the students’ education before they join the university, academics with ELT/EFL or applied linguistics specialism are assumed to have interest in, and influence on, the design of the pre-degree program. It is fair to assume that the students, therefore, feel they are addressing people without direct culpability for the concerns raised, but with some relevant authority, on an issue they care about.4.1Method4.1.1The role of different facets of ELL concernBefore examining how differentially entitled complaints are used by students to express their concerns about ELL, we will first acknowledge the aspects of ELL they identify as concerns, to consider possible correlation between these and the modes of complaining adopted to speak of them.The examined samples refer to several different foci of concern. There is a principal dichotomy set up between concerns about the English language itself and those about the ELL program. Concerns on the program fall into the three main categories, in which the following expectable order, left to right, suggests a student-acknowledged regulatory control by each on the one that follows: program objectives, implementation, and outcomes. In addressing objectives-related concerns, the students set up a distinction between teaching to produce English-users, and teaching about the language, viz., its grammatical systems. Under implementation students give select and separate emphasis to content and method (therefore labelled ‘core implementation features’ in what follows), from other features of implementation (labelled ‘other implementation features’ in what follows), which include the following:the English teacher(s),the obligatory or optional character of the course of studies/availability of choice,the opportunity for authentic language use,contextualization in, or decontextualization from, a relevant culture, andthe opportunity for independent thought and articulation in the language.4.1.2ELL Categories of complaintDifferent ELL categories of complaint are identified by noting the correlation between 1) the ELL concern addressed by the complaint and 2) the complaint-framing options that are used in its expression. This produces four categories of ELL complaint, labelled as Type A, B, C and D (cf. Table 1). These are described and explicated in representative examples, below. Each example is identified by the category of the complaint, as of type A, B, C or D, along with the ELL concern it addresses, and the framing options it selects, from the set of options: complaint claim, disadvantage by other, attributed blame, justification, directive on change, and affect/stance.Table 1Four types of ELL complaintType AType BType CType DComplaint concerns– the English language– objective/outcome;– core implementation features– core- & other implementation features;– outcome– other implementation featuresSelected framing options– no disadvantage by other;– no blame;– no directive on change;– negative stance but no helpless victimization– mitigated blame;– mitigated directive;– negative stance– explicit blame;– no directive;– negative stance with helpless victimization– mitigated blame;– no directive;– negative stance with helpless victimization4.2Findings4.2.1Samples of Type A: non-complaintsELL concern: The English languageFraming options: No disadvantage by other; no blame; no directive on change; negative affect but no helpless victimizationType A are expressions of dissatisfaction which, in communicating no ‘disadvantage by other’, do not qualify as complaints. This category is exemplified by sample 1, below.Sample 1, Year IV1) English only means a mean(s) of passing the test or getting a job. 2) English language itself don’t appear (to convey) emotions to me. 3) For example, when in a conversation by using English, the messages passed (on) are minimized at getting the information from others, but fails to express the feelings during the conversation.The claim—In this sample, the claim represents the limited ways in which the speaker uses English in the local context: English is ‘only’ a means of passing a test or getting a job (sentence 1), and is, in general, used exclusively for information dissemination; any affective component is left out (sentence 2).Disadvantage by other: The claim does not say that this limited function is the result of poor teaching. The use of ‘only’ suggests by lexical implicature that normatively language, as a means of communication, has a fuller functionality, but there is nothing to suggest that this is an other-caused disadvantage.Attribution of blame: There is no explicit or implied attribution of blame.Justifying the claim: There is an expansion of the statement of sentence 2—on the absence of affect in English messages—in sentence 3, which provides evidence suggesting students have a minimalistic kind of conversational exchange in English. But there is no justification to suggest deficient teaching and learning practice, which would allow for the perception of this limited functionality as an other-caused disadvantage.Directive/statement on change: The directive/statement on change is not expected with what reads as a simple statement of fact, and it is not present.Affect: A number of negative markers are utilized to enhance the negative stance, including negative constructions (sentences 2 and 3), intensifies (‘only’ in sentence 1 and ‘minimized’ in sentence 3), words with negative connotations (‘fails’ in sentence 3), and the repeated use of these (as in the repeated construction in ‘(it doesn’t) appear (to convey) emotions to me’ in sentence 2 and ‘(it) fails to express the feelings’ in sentence 3). This repetition and also the use of stative verbs in the simple present makes the experienced negative condition appear well-instated, rather than transient. But there is no suggestion of helpless victimization.In sum, this statement of discontent is not construed as other-caused, attributes no blame and comes with no directive/statement on needed change, and is, therefore, not framed as a complaint.Content-correlated choice of framing optionsThe samples of this category collectively suggest that claims without ‘disadvantage by other’, blame and directive/statement on change select the English language itself, rather than the ELL course of studies, as the vocalized concern.4.2.2Samples of Types B, C and D: complaintsThere are 41 instances of actual complaints in these data. These fall into three categories based on concern-correlation with selected complaint-framing options—Type B, C and D (cf. Table 1, above). They are individually exemplified in what follows.4.2.2.1Type BComplaint concerns: objective/outcome; core implementation featuresFraming options: disadvantage by other, mitigated blame, mitigated directive; negative stanceThere are 3 out of 41 complaints (that is, 7.3 %) that are of this kind; these are illustrated below in Samples 2 and 3.Sample 2, Year III1) When I entered primary school or high school, the department served English as a compulsory class. 2) All the students need to master it. 3) We just recite the words and grammar by rout … 4) Somehow I think this must be the most significant problem in the Chinese English teaching system facing now. 5) And it is necessary to reform the way of English teaching, not only focus on the words and grammar in use, but also need pay more attention to spoken language, about how to use English more flexible.The claim: The claim of this sample appears in sentence 3, where the problem is represented as the exclusive instructional focus on grammar and vocabulary with a reliance on ‘rote’ learning.Disadvantage by other: The ‘disadvantage by other’ is evident in the reference to ‘the department’ as responsible for making English compulsory in sentence 1 and is reinforced in the reference to the at fault ‘Chinese English teaching system’ in sentence 4.Attribution of blame: This treatment of the ‘disadvantage by other’ shows that blame is attributed explicitly and specifically, but it is, at the same time, depersonalized, and hence mitigated, in faulting a ‘department’ and a ‘system’ rather than a teacher/teachers or other authority figures who are responsible for the implemented system.Justification: Sentence 4 asserts the seriousness of this problem of ineffective English instruction and so serves to provide justification and support for the complaint. Directive on change—A need to reform is stated, and the kinds of change needed are specified, in sentence 5. As a statement of fact addressed to an audience with potential influence in effecting needed change, however, this is a conventionally indirect directive, hence, again mitigated.Affect: The negative affect is enhanced by the use of negative constructions (as in sentences 3 and 5), intensifies (as in ‘just’ in sentence 3, and ‘most’ in sentences 3 and 4), and repetition (e.g., of negative constructions, in sentences 3 and 5, and phrasal verbs—‘need to’ in sentences 2 and 5, and ‘necessary to’ in sentence 5) which enhances the suggestion of a well-instated negative condition and also creates an increasing sense of urgency. But any suggestion of helpless victimization is nullified by the statement on needed change, which conveys entitlement to seek, and by seeking, secure redress.In short, the complaint claim represents an other-effected problem, comes with mitigated attributed blame and mitigated directive, hence a deferential expression of entitlement, and conveys negative affect, but without the suggestion of helpless victimization.Sample 3, Year II:1) Before the university, the fundamental purpose of learning English is to pass the exam, so the teaching method is boring and dull in the class which means that students were always learning English grammar. 2) As a result, most students may achieve high marks in the exam, while they can’t use English language frequently during life. 3) For example, they can’t communicate with other foreigners without any hesitations. 4) It may be the disadvantage of this kind style of learning a language. … 5) To sum up, I think English language should be used more often in the daily life instead of the exam, and if so, I can then learn more without the barrier of language. 6) However, it’s a common phenomenon in China that most students can achieve high grades in English exam, they can’t speak in the daily life fluently. 7) It may be worth considering by the educators.The claim—The claim in Sample 3 appears in sentences 1 and 2, which represent the key goal of ELL in the school-going years as passing exams. The instruction in consequence is grammar-focused and uninteresting, and while securing students good marks, also limits their communication skills.Disadvantage by other: The disadvantage—the boredom (sentence 1) and the inability to use English for life purposes (sentence 2)—is represented as other-caused by “the purpose … to pass the exam” and the exam-focused “teaching method” (sentence 1), but also “educators” (sentence 7).Attribution of blame: Blame is therefore explicit, but also mitigated by first depersonalization in the reference to the objectionable ‘purpose’ and ‘method’ and then use of non-specific reference in ‘educators’.Justification—The evidence to support the claim appears in sentence 3, which provides an example of students’ insufficient proficiency, in their inability to communicate effectively with English-speaking foreigners.Directive on change: The directive appears in conventionally indirect form, in the statement of sentence 5: ‘I think English language should be used more often in the daily life instead of the exam’, and its qualified reiteration in sentence 7: ‘It may be worth considering by the educators’. It too is therefore mitigated.Affect: The negative affect is enhanced by the use of negative constructions (in sentences 2, 3 and 6), words with negative connotations (e.g., ‘boring’, in sentence 1, ‘dull’ in sentence 1, and ‘disadvantage’ in sentence 4) and intensifiers (e.g., ‘always’, in sentence 1). Repetition of constructions (in sentences 2, 3, and 6) and the use of stative verbs in the simple present serve to suggest a well-instated negative condition, rather than a transient state. Any suggestion of helpless victimization, however, is nullified by the statement on needed change (the indirect directive).Overall, this claim comes with mitigated blame attribution and mitigated directive, suggesting a deferential expression of entitlement, and negative stance but without the suggestion of helpless victimization.Content-correlation with framing optionsThe samples of this B-type, collectively, suggest that complaints that actually attribute blame and generate a directive, albeit with mitigation and hence deferentially, appear to focus on the core ELL program implementation features, of content and method, and also either determining objectives or resulting outcomes.4.2.2.2Type CComplaint concerns: core- and other-implementation features; outcomeFraming options: disadvantage by other, blame explicit, no directive; negative affect with helpless victimizationThere are 6 complaints out of the total set of 41 (that is, 14.6 %) that are of this kind; these are exemplified in Sample 4, 5 and 6, below.Sample 4, Year III1) I started the course of English learning when I was 8. 2) An innocent girl who had no idea about the foreign language and foreign world was taught by a ‘stereotype’ Chinese teacher. 3) I was consistently blamed by that teacher because of my failure to correctly use grammar. 4) To relief this torture, I detached myself from English the moment I decided to hate that teacher.The claim—The claim appears in sentence 3, where the student expresses extreme dissatisfaction with the teacher, specifically, with the teacher’s negative feedback that she (the student) received on her grasp of grammar.Disadvantage by other—The disadvantage to the student comes from being the target of censure, and it is other-caused, by the teacher (sentence 3).Attribution of blame—The attribution of blame is, therefore, explicit and unmitigated.Justification: Support for the claim in sentence 3, appears in sentence 4, where the student reports disengagement from ELL in consequence of the ‘hatred’ she felt for the concerned teacher.Directive on change—The directive, however, is missing.Affect: The negative affect here is strongly suggestive of helplessness, e.g., in the description of the complainant, herself, as ‘innocent girl’ (sentence 2) with ‘no idea’ (sentence 2) who ‘detached myself’ for ‘relief’ (sentence 4), and of the victimization she experienced, e.g., in the representation of herself as ‘blamed’ (sentence 3), experiencing ‘failure’ (sentence 3), ‘torture’ (sentence 4) and ‘hate’ (sentence 4).All in all, the claim, therefore, comes with unmitigated attributed blame, but without a directive, hence without entitlement to redress, and a negative stance with noticeable expression of helplessness and victimization.Sample 5, Year IV1) After English was regarded as the obliged subject in daily school study, I began to hate attending English classes. 2) The way of teacher teaching was boring: 3) she just let students read words follow them and then told students to remember these words. 4) In that time, I thought learning was not learning to use a language while it was just to remember knowledges with no alive. 5) Students actually did not really use English to interact or communicate with others in daily life.Claim of the complaint: The claim is in sentences 1 and 2, where the student objects to the compulsory English class and the teacher’s uninspiring method of instruction.Disadvantage by other: The disadvantage by other is explicit in the objection to obligatory English classes (sentence 1), and the expressed distaste for the teaching method (sentence 2).Attribution of blame: Blame is explicitly attributed to the teacher and her teaching (sentence 3).Justification: The claim is justified in a number of statements: that the classes were obligatory (sentence 1), the teacher was uninspiring (sentence 2), there was rote learning (sentence 3), and no real use of language (sentences 4 and 5).Directive on change: There is no directive on change.Affect: The negative affect here is again suggestive of helplessness, e.g., in the description of the course as obligatory (sentence 1), in students being ‘told’ to read and ‘remember’ words (sentence 3) and in the representation of the student herself/himself as ‘not learning to use language’, but rather just receiving dry facts (sentence 4), and ‘hating’ to attend class (sentence 1).Here, again, the claim comes with unmitigated attributed blame, but no directive, and therefore without entitlement to redress. In addition, there is negative stance with a clear expression of helpless victimization.Sample 6, Year II1) English teachers only pay attention to teaching grammar; however, most of English learners do not know the culture of English, so they could not speak or write English as a native speaker. 2) That’s the reason why Chinese people may not understand what local residents mean when they first time travel to Britain.Complaints claim—The claim appears in the first sentence, where it is asserted that teachers teach grammatical rules, but fail to provide a cultural context for the language students are learning.Disadvantage by other: The speaker disadvantage is evident in this, as is its other-caused nature.Attribution of blame—There is explicit and unmitigated reference to responsible party—‘English teachers’ (sentence 1).Justification: The claim is justified in the evidential statement of the second sentence, which provides an instance of the students’ shortcomings in occasions of authentic language use.Directive on change—The directive is absent.Affect: The stance is of a disadvantaged and disempowered individual; this is suggested by the focus on limitations, in the reference to ‘only’ in describing what is taught (sentence 1), and the use of negative constructions to suggest the consequential shortcomings: they ‘do not know the culture … could not speak or write (sentence 1) … (and) may not understand … local residents (in) Britain’ (sentence 2).Content-correlation with framing optionsThe Set-C complaints, with explicit attributed blame but missing directive, hence no entitlement to redress, and a negative stance with expressed helpless victimization, all refer to a particular teacher or teachers, in general, as the at-fault party. They show a focus on not only content and method but also other implementation features such as a more open-minded and enlightened teacher, and a more engaging, authentic and/or culture-highlighting program.4.2.2.3Type DComplaint concerns: other implementation featuresFraming options: Disadvantage by other; blame mitigated; directive missing; negative stance with helpless victimizationThere are 32 complaints of this kind (that is, 78 %); these are exemplified, below, in Samples 7 through 9.Sample 7, Year IV1) I started to learn English when I was in the primary school because of the compulsory education. 2) Initially I hated to learn this new language as a child because I did not choose to do so. 3) Actually I have no choice to express my refusal to learn it. 4) And I’m unpleasant with this kind of feeling that cannot make decision for myself. 5) It’s just like my parents suddenly introduce some one strange to me and tell me that it’s your sister and you should share your candies with her. 6) This is quite similar to what I feel about English at the beginning that it’s my destiny to learn this new language.Claim of the complaint: The claim appears in sentence 2, where the learner expresses hatred for ELL because it was forced on him/her.Disadvantage by other than self: The disadvantage to speaker—the lack of choice—is explicit in this, and it is clearly other-caused.Attribution of blame: Blame is, therefore, attributed explicitly to ‘compulsory’ learning (sentence 1), and, therefore, absence of choice (sentences 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6). But in making the reference to the faulted party vague by depersonalizing it, as ‘compulsory education’ and a want of choice, rather than the person responsible for this policy, it is also mitigated.Justification for the claim: The lack of choice, expressed in the claim itself (subordinate clause, sentence 2), is reframed in various different ways in sentences 3, 4, 5 and 6 to emphasize its validity as a concern.Directive on change: The directive is missing.Affect: The negative stance here is strongly suggestive of helpless victimization, in repeated reference to lack of self determination, e.g., in ‘compulsory education’ in sentence 1, ‘did not choose to’, in sentence 2, ‘no choice’, in sentence 3, ‘cannot make decision for myself’ in sentence 3, ‘my destiny’ in sentence 4, ‘cannot refuse’ in sentence 4, and the accompanying emotional distress, e.g., ‘unpleasant (emotions)’ in sentence 4, and ‘hatred’ in sentence 3.The claim, therefore, comes with mitigated blame, hence deference to authority, but no directive, and therefore without entitlement to redress, and a negative stance with a strong suggestion of helpless victimization.Sample 8, Year III1) It seems English is just a ‘dead’ and ‘blind’ subject for the reason that we are only required to do reading and writing exercise. 2) However, we cannot deliver our opinion and ideas by speaking out. 3) Therefore more information was taught to us by teachers and we were forced to receive the information. 4) Students lie in a passive position so that I can’t transfer them (the information) to useful resources.Complaint claim—The claim appears in sentences 1 and 2, stating that ELL is a passive experience, a mere accumulation of knowledge, without opportunity to use the language independently, for self-expression.Disadvantage by other: Disadvantage is suggested in the lexical choices of sentence 1: ‘just’ conveys by implicature that ELL should be more/other than ‘reading and writing exercises’. The metaphoric description of English as ‘dead and blind’ also suggests a disabling absence of needed attributes; and ‘only’, in reference to what the local brand of ELL entails, again suggests, by implicature, that it should be more than it is. Subsequently, in sentence 2, a negative assertion focuses on what the implemented ELL fails to facilitate.These experienced disadvantages are also attributed to some responsible party other than the self, evident in the repeated use of the passive construction, for example, ‘we were only required to …’ (sentence 1) and ‘we were forced to …’ (sentence 3).Attribution of blame: While teachers are mentioned, their control of students’ use of English is expressed in passive constructions, with elided agent (e.g., ‘we are … required to’ (sentence 1) and ‘we were forced to’ (sentence 4)). Blame attribution is, therefore, mitigated.Justification: Sentences 3 and 4 speak of the consequences of such English instruction, stating that students ‘were forced to receive the information’ and allowed to do no more.Directive on change: The directive is missing.Affect: A marked helplessness and victimization is evident in the negative stance, here, in the expressed lack of self-determination, e.g., ‘we cannot deliver our opinion and ideas’ in sentence 2, ‘we are forced’ in sentence 3, and ‘students lie in a passive position’ in sentence 4.So the claim here comes with mitigated blame, hence is deferential, but without a directive, and so without entitlement to redress, and negative stance with a strong suggestion of helpless victimization.Sample 9, Year II1) My original intention of learning English is just for fun. 2) However it was distorted while English was treated as a subject. 3) I had to (do) a lot of exercises and completed a large number of tasks instead of reading simple lovely English novels.Claim of the complaint: The claim appears in sentence 2, where the learner expresses a thwarted interest in enjoying English language learning.Disadvantage by other than self: The disadvantage to speaker—the denied pleasure in learning—is explicit in this, and its other-caused character is evident in the elided agent, in the passive clause ‘English was treated as a subject’ (sentence 2), and the use of the deontic modal ‘had to’ to refer to the obligatory tasks (sentence 3).Attributing blame: Blame is, therefore, attributed but without overt reference to the responsible party, and hence it is mitigated.Justification for the claim: In sentence 3, the justification for the denied pleasure of learning English (sentence 1) places what the student was forced to do in contrast to what s/he would choose to do: ‘reading simple lovely novels’.Directive on change: The directive is missing.Affect: The negative stance comes with the characteristics of both helplessness and victimization, suggested by the need to accommodate an enforced set of tasks, that deny the student a say, the resulting unrealizable intent to enjoy learning (sentence 3), and the need to tolerate English as just ‘a (school) subject’ (sentence 2).The claim, therefore, comes with mitigated blame, hence deference to authority, but no directive, and therefore without entitlement to redress, and a negative stance with a clear suggestion of helpless victimization.Content correlation with framing optionsThe D-set complaints are like Type C, in expanding the sphere of implementation features beyond a primary focus on content and method, to a range of issues, including, freedom to influence the program, and opportunity for thought and self-expression in English. This concern is expressed with mitigated blame and elided directive. In choosing directive elision, both Type C and Type D complaints appear to imply that they envision the kind of radical program change that cannot be heard, let alone considered. Unlike Type C complaints, however, D complaints also choose to mitigate blame, in order to be deferential.4.3The role of mitigation and Lt-ization in ELL complaintsAll in all, only 7.3 % of complaints (those of Type B) actually voice both blame and directive; that is, no Lt features are adopted in their expression. But they do choose to mitigate both features in the interest of conveying a deferential entitlement. These complaints focus on core implementation features (that is, course content and instructional method) and objectives or outcome.A significantly larger number—14.6 % (those of Type C)—‘Lt-ize’ by eliding the directive, hence conveying no entitlement to seek and secure redress, but opt to keep the blame explicit. They, in consequence, show no deference to authority, but do forfeit the claim to redress. These complaints expand the scope of implementation beyond content and method.But the vast majority of complaints—78 % (those of Type D)—‘Lt-ize’ by eliding the directive, and also mitigate blame, and by doing so show deference and also forfeit the right to redress. These complaints are, exclusively, on ‘other implementation features’. The consistently selected framing option across concerns about ‘other implementation features’ is directive elision, and hence the relinquished right to redress.4.4DiscussionBecause the complaint concern here is man-made, it should, in theory, warrant a definitional Cp. This would be a claim about an ELL concern with the features of attributed blame (also an assertion of the right to blame) directive on change (also an assertion of the right to seek, and secure, redress), and negative affect, without the characteristic of helpless victimization. But, as we have seen, in actual fact only 7.3 % of the total number of complaints (Type B) come with blame, directive and negative affect without helpless victimization. Also, notably, they, without exception, appear with mitigated blame and directive, and hence all convey entitlement, deferentially. Clearly, the fact that the identified ELL problems are profoundly addressable does not, as a rule, empower students to assert the right to redress.The remaining complaints (Types C and D) are not even mitigated Cps. But nor are they full-fledged Lts.As stated earlier, the prototype Lt does not blame (and hence also conveys no the right to blame), expresses no directive (and hence also conveys no right to seek, and secure, redress) and communicates negative affect with a noticeable quality of helpless victimization.As we have seen, the non-Cp complaints (Types C and D) in these data (92.7 % of the total number) are unlike Lts in that they all express blame, and hence the entitlement to blame, though only a small percentage (14.6 % of the total number) express it without mitigation. This is an interesting departure from the Lt construct. It reflects the impact of the third-party addressee of these student complaints, who, as stated earlier, is an ELT professional, but one without direct culpability for the concerns raised. This makes blame, and blame-entitlement, much less impermissible; hence the consistent blame attribution across not only Types C and D, but in fact the total set of these complaints.What these non-Cp complaints (Types C and D) concomitantly share, however, is a measure of Lt-ization in the form of two Lt-features: 1) directive-elision, and thereby forfeit of the claim to seek, and expect, redress, and 2) negative stance with a clear expression of helpless victimization. Unlike blame attribution, directives, and the assertion of directive-entitlement, from the young and inexperienced could well be perceived presumptuous by their third-party addressee, especially in the Chinese context, where age and experience must be given due respect. This might appear particularly inappropriate when the concerns highlight the absence of ‘other implementation features’, through which students point to the need for innovative forms of teaching, that in a variety of ways acknowledge the student in the teaching-learning enterprise.The full sense of their disempowered status is, in fact, most apparent in the students’ choice of the directive-eliding non-CP complaints of Type D, which, as we have suggested, make for a significant majority (78 % of the total set). This, in make-up, part-CP, part-Lt hybrid expresses a compelling paradox in the consistent contradiction between the message communicated in words, and the implication conveyed by the manner in which that message is framed. The complaint-claim states a concern on some facet of the general absence of self-determination (in addressing one or more ‘other implementation features’), and in this identifies a deeply troubling short-coming (e.g., ‘I hated to learn this language …. because I did not choose to’; ‘We cannot deliver our opinion’; ‘I had to (do) … instead of reading simple lovely novels’; ‘Every problem seems to have a standard answer’; ‘Every question … a true or false answer.’) But the missing directive then relinquishes the right to seek, and secure, its redress, the right, that is, to be heard and to see appropriate action taken. In other words, the choice of complaint-kind, in fact, cedes the very right the student represents as denied him/her in the concern it voices. It is suggested, in effect, in one and the same utterance, that the student gives up the right to ask for what s/he claims to be denied him/her. Admittedly, of course, the student could not do otherwise; one is not surprised. Such strategically adopted message-making contortions are unavoidable when who will speak and what they will say are, to all intents and purposes, entirely regulated from above.5ConclusionIn sum, in the expression of complaints on ELL, in the Chinese context, what must qualify as an inherent Cp, because it is on a man-made patently addressable problem, is only, and always, used with mitigation and/or ‘Lt-ization’ in the interest of conveying speaker’s deference and/or disenfranchisement. In the vast majority of cases, students address issues related to program implementation, such as, the need for authentic English language use, and the opportunity for individual thought, creativity and self-determination in complaints that suggest their sense of disaffection and disenfranchisement, but with deference to authority.

Journal

International Review of PragmaticsBrill

Published: Jan 19, 2023

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