A pragmatic study of persuasion strategies in sales talk: A case of salespersons in selected markets and shops in Mongu town of Zambia/ Kapawa Yamboto

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Yamboto, Kapawa
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The current study is concerned with the linguistic realizations of persuasion strategies and how they are influenced by contextual factors in persuasive discourse by salespersons in selected markets and shops in Mongu town which is the capital of Western Province in Zambia. According to the 2010 National Census, its population was 179,585. The town also serves as the administrative headquarters of Mongu District. Mongu town is situated on the eastern edge of the 30-kilometre-wide Barotse Floodplain of the Zambezi River that runs from north to south. The markets in this area are not well structured in terms of infrastructure. A wide variety of commodities are found in these markets and they range from secondhand clothes, commonly referred to as ‘Salaula’ , new clothes, food stuffs like rice, mealie meal, cassava, bread, fish and vegetables, kitchen utensils, building materials like poles, reed mats and grass. There are salons, barber shops and restaurants. This makes them very crowded throughout the day. They attract customers from all walks of life especially the middle and low class. There is only one chain store- Shoprite. Given this background information and the nature of the study, the concept of ‘total-context’ is proposed to serve as a solution. Total-context refers to an integrated approach to the notion of context that incorporates the socio-cultural and situational factors as frames of reference for interpreting utterances, at the same time acknowledging the dynamic role of context as it is shaped by the ongoing interaction. An innovative data collection method, Natural Data Elicitation Technique, was introduced. Based on Quotes from the naturally-occurring speech data collected from salespersons in Mongu town, a qualitative analysis of the data was conducted to examine the linguistic devices that salespersons utilize to accomplish multiple and competing communication tasks in persuasive discourse. The results of the analysis show that the salespersons employed a variety of politeness strategies to persuade buyers, in which negative politeness was used more frequently than the other two, namely, bald-on-record and positive politeness strategies. Using hedges, including lexical items, syntactic structures and particles, and showing deference, are the most common negative politeness strategies used for persuasion purposes. The major bald-on-record strategies include disagreement and giving advice. The acts of showing concern, making promises and guarantees, and in-group language use, are the most frequent positive persuasive politeness strategies. The collectivist-oriented culture of the Malozi people, which values positive face over negative face, was reflected in the salespersons’ employment of positive politeness as a way of persuading their would-be customers. Social factors such as gender, social status and age are found to influence the use of polite persuasion strategies. Situational factors, namely the persuasive discourse and the on-going interactions, also affect the employment of politeness strategies. The study concludes that any theory that aims for universal value needs to take into account all the contextual factors by including a ‘total-context’ component in the model. To this end, a pragmatic approach is not only important, but also essential in analyzing a context-dependent notion such as persuasion.
Persuasion (psychology) , Salesmanship , Marketing , Sales Management