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Learning Politeness

Walkinshaw, Ian

Learning Politeness

Disagreement in a Second Language

Series: Contemporary Studies in Descriptive Linguistics - Volume 24

Year of Publication: 2009

Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Wien, 2009. 297 pp., num. tables and graphs
ISBN 978-3-03911-527-3 pb.  (Softcover)

Weight: 0.430 kg, 0.948 lbs

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Book synopsis

This book examines how Japanese learners of English learned about managing politeness while they were studying at language schools in New Zealand. Specifically, it investigates how they learned to produce and interpret a range of disagreement strategies during oppositional talk with native speakers of English. Employing a combined qualitative and quantitative approach to data analysis, the book discusses the initial pragmatic competence of the learners, and describes how their competence developed over a ten-week period.
The book outlines some points of cultural divergence which may have influenced the direction and the extent of the learners’ pragmatic development. It also sheds light on the language-acquisition strategies utilised by the learners during their tenure in the host culture. Most crucially, the book illuminates patterns of directness and indirectness in the learners’ selected disagreement strategies. These patterns challenge the generally accepted theory that politeness always increases with social distance.


Contents: Japanese learners of English – Disagreement speech acts – Theories of politeness – Face-threat – Individualism and collectivism – Power distance – Second language/Culture acquisition – Shifts in production of disagreements – Utterance length – Shifts in recognising and interpreting disagreements – Enryo-based assessments of pragmatic variation – Power-risk assessments of pragmatic variation – Environmental and pedagogical factors influencing pragmatic acquisition.

About the author(s)/editor(s)

The Author: Ian Walkinshaw has an M.A. in TES/FL from the University of Birmingham, UK, and a Ph.D. in applied linguistics from Victoria University of Wellington, NZ. His research interests are cross-cultural and interlanguage pragmatics, second language acquisition and ELT methodology. He has been involved in English language teaching in New Zealand, Japan, Britain and Vietnam, where he currently works as an EFL teacher, teacher-trainer and curriculum designer.


«This is an original, meticulously structured and well-written longitudinal study. It makes a valid contribution to the development of pragmatic competence – an area where very little research exists.» (Professor Dr Juliane House, University of Hamburg)


Contemporary Studies in Descriptive Linguistics. Vol. 24
Edited by Graeme Davis and Karl A. Bernhardt