Face threatening acts in the discourse of the academic clinic in Kenyan secondary schools
Mwaniki, Esther N.
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In Kenya today, secondary school students sometimes describe themselves as neglected because they feel they are denied the opportunity to express their views. Considering the many communicative events in schools, this is puzzling. The study posits that the communication may be marred, causing the students neither to enjoy nor benefit from the fora provided. This study, “Face Threatening Acts in the Discourse of The Academic Clinic in Kenyan Secondary Schools” is an attempt at a pragmatic examination of the verbal communication of parents, teachers and students during the academic clinic forum in Kenyan secondary schools. The problem the study examines is the possibly ineffective communication in the formal conversation of the academic clinic. The ineffectiveness is explained using the concept of face threatening acts which is a major tenet of the Politeness Theory of Brown and Levinson (1987), which has been used in this study together with The Speech Acts Theory of Austin and Searle (1975). To this end, the first two objectives of the study are to identify the face threatening acts in the utterances of parents and teachers respectively in their formal conversation with the student during the academic clinic. The third is to determine the extent to which students read face threat in the conversation of the academic clinic. The research design is mainly qualitative as the data collected is in the form of conversations. The location of the study is Kiambu County of Kenya. Systematic random sampling is used to select thirty students from three public secondary schools who (together with their parents and teachers) participate in this study. Their conversations are tape-recorded and then transcribed. Out of the thirty conversations, ten are picked for content analysis. A questionnaire is also used to examine students‟ perception of face threat in parents‟ and teachers‟ utterances during the academic clinic. The data is presented in transcribed conversations, tables, graphs and piecharts.The findings show that both parents and teachers do threaten the students‟ face. Teachers‟ utterances are more threatening than the parents‟. It also emerges that it is the negative face that receives more threat. The questionnaire shows that students do read face threat in the conversation of the academic clinic. It is clear that while the forum is still a useful day, there is need to improve the communicative competence of the participants. The findings of the study have implications for parents and teachers, social scientists, Parents‟ Association, the relevant ministry, as well as school administration.