A Cross-Cultural Pragmatic Study of Online Complaints by Japanese and Malaysian Hotel Guests in English

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Hariyani Madon
Kuldip Kaur Maktiar Singh


This study examined the rhetorical moves of complaints and the complaint strategies used by Japanese and Malaysian hotel guests between two cultural groups. Swales's (1981) move analysis was applied to identify and analyse the moves, while Trosborg's (1995) taxonomy of strategies was employed to analyse the speech act of complaints. The study's objectives are to investigate the communicative moves used by Japanese and Malaysian when expressing their regret through TripAdvisor and to analyse the complaint strategies used by Japanese and Malaysians when performing complaints online. The descriptive qualitative research method was employed, and data comprised 40 negative reviews towards hotels in Langkawi. The study used online reviews from TripAdvisor's website, to examine the negative feedback from Japanese and Malaysian guests in the English language were posted. The findings showed that the complaints' communicative moves had six moves: Opening, Dissatisfaction, Explanation, Recommendation, Closing, and Compliment, which were adapted from Morrow and Yamanouchi (2020). Moreover, findings of the move frequencies revealed that both the Japanese and Malaysian hotel guests would elaborate their frustration in detail as the 'Explanation' move. However, Malaysian travellers indicated more reasons and sequences of frustration than Japanese travellers. Furthermore, the sequence of the moves is not in a proper structure of conveying a complaint on TripAdvisor, whereby the 'Compliment' move was found either in the beginning, in the middle or in the ending parts of the text. Taxonomy of the complaint strategies by Trosborg (1995) was verified as follows: 1) 27.5% of No Explicit Reproach, 2) 35% of Disapproval Expression, 3) 22.5% of Accusation, and 4) 15% of Blame. In summary, the findings revealed that the two groups have comparable approach selections but differ in terms of complaint moves, complaint strategies, and language phrases for expressing frustration. Thus, knowing cross-cultural similarities and differences in speech acts can help avoid possible intercultural miscommunication, and managing negative customer reviews is pertinent for the hotel industry to improve intercultural communication.

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Madon, H. ., & Maktiar Singh, K. K. (2023). A Cross-Cultural Pragmatic Study of Online Complaints by Japanese and Malaysian Hotel Guests in English. Journal of Communication, Language and Culture, 3(1), 71–97. https://doi.org/10.33093/jclc.2023.3.1.6