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Socio-Cultural Attitudes to Ta'arof among Iranian Immigrants in Canada



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This thesis examines the adaptation of Iranian Canadians (immigrants from Iran in Canada) to the new cultural environment with a special focus on a paradigm shift in their lingua-cultural attitudes. More specifically, it examines the attitudes of Iranian Canadians to ta’arof, an important politeness phenomenon in Farsi that has attracted the attention of many scholars of linguistics and anthropology. The actual use of ta’arof as well as attitudes to its use are compared for two groups of first generation Canadian Iranians (60 participants total), with long and short periods of exposure to Canadian culture. All the participants come from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. This thesis is informed by linguistic relativity, acculturation and politeness theories. The study employs a questionnaire survey as its methodology, commonly used in sociolinguistic studies (e.g. Makarova & Hudyma, 2015; Clement, 1986). The questionnaire contains questions about the respondents' use of ta’arof in different situations, and their attitudes to ta’arof. In addition, it included some sociocultural questions aimed at evaluating the respondents’ level of acculturation. The goal of this study is to describe the use of ta’arof and attitudes to its use among first generation Canadian Iranians, as well as to examine whether social variables such as length of stay in Canada, gender, education and English proficiency contribute to a change in attitudes to ta’arof among first generation Iranian immigrants in Canada. The results show that all the social variables in this study, namely age, gender, education, English proficiency, length of stay in Canada and acculturation can be either positively or negatively correlated with the participants’ use of ta’arof and their attitudes to ta’arof. The results also indicate that “ethnic self-identification,” in terms of “Canadian,” “Iranian,” or “Iranian Canadian,” is positively correlated with “the length of stay in Canada.” The Iranian immigrants with longer duration of stay in Canada are more likely to identify themselves as “Iranian Canadian” than as “Iranian.” Other findings suggest that the Iranian immigrants who have lived for a long perid of time in Canada provide higher acculturation-level responses and use ta’arof less in their interactions with Iranians and non-Iranians in Canada, as compared to immigrants who have lived in Canada for a short period of time. The latter group yields lower acculturation-level responses, and their attitudes to ta’arof are significantly more positive. Overall, even though the Iranian Canadian participants report the use ta’arof in Canada not only in communication within the Iranian diaspora, but also sometimes in communication with members of other Canadian ethnic groups, they dislike the pressures imposed by ta’arof, do not want to teach it to their children, and have overall rather negative attitudes towards ta’arof and its use. With the increase of the duration of stay in Canada, the attitudes to ta’arof become significantly more negative.



Ta’arof, immigration, acculturation, politeness system, socio-cultural attitudes, Farsi, Iran, Iranian Canadians, Iranian.



Master of Arts (M.A.)


Linguistics and Religious Studies




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