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The importance of pragmatic competence in language teaching and learning has been highlighted in many studies; however, scarcity of such studies in the Omani context can be easily identified. The study investigates how female Omani higher education students express compliments in English and whether these are pragmatically, linguistically and communicatively appropriate. The research data were collected from 51 female college students through a response-based questionnaire containing 18 social scenarios to test their responses on the linguistic accuracy and pragmatic appropriateness of compliments. Native speaker’s ratings on these revealed that 61.02% of students’ responses were linguistically deficient and 23.96% pragmatically incompetent. It was found that many students used linguistic and pragmatic considerations of complimenting from their mother tongue while communicating in English which resulted in infelicitous or defective performance of the speech act under examination. This entails an urgent need to integrate pragmatic and cultural knowledge into EFL skills courses in Oman, especially those that focus on speaking, in order to raise students’ awareness of what is considered appropriate and acceptable in English and avoid serious cross-cultural errors in inter-language communication.
Keywords: compliments, speech acts, female EFL students, linguistic accuracy, pragmatic competence
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