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Pragmatic and Cross-Cultural Competences

Focus on Politeness

Edited By Thomas Szende and George Alao

The L2 speaker is able to function in the target culture only when s/he is able to understand, anticipate and produce the choices that the said society makes. Being polite therefore means: knowing how to draw on the conventions of a society, taking into account the expectations of an interlocutor regarding social relations at any given point, and is based on the appropriate language register to the communication situation; being able to balance standard and non-standard features and to adjust one’s speech by moving it towards more or less familiarity, or formality. The learner therefore needs to be aware of the pragmatic flexibility of speakers – native and experts – who move from one register to another and juggle between respect and caution, first degree meaning and irony, exuberance and excess, with difference in levels, nature and degrees of politeness.

 

This volume contains contributions whose theoretical reflections, field work experiences and authentic data from diverse African, Asian and European languages, literatures and cultures as well as a variety of corpora shed new light on politeness as a central phenomenon in pragmatics, and on what is at stake when teaching or learning the subject. It also opens up a conceptual dialogue with a whole range of domains likely to enrich the debate: sociolinguistics, literature, translation studies, semiotics, cultural anthropology, social psychology, etc.

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Chapter VII: Politeness and terms of address and reference in French and Yorùbá (Festus A. Soyoye)

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Chapter VII

Politeness and terms of address and reference in French and Yorùbá

Festus A. Soyoye

Obafemi Awolowo University (Nigeria)

Introduction

Address and reference terms are unavoidable in conversations in languages that have them, unlike many other aspects of verbal communication. Unlike reference terms, address terms can be said to be universally present units of every conversational interaction, no matter the object, scope or intention of the communication. Both of these terms are markers of interlocutors’ social status as well as markers of social distance carrying cognitive-social meanings of (im)politeness, (non)formality, arrogance and (non)appropriateness in verbal interactions (Moghaddam et al., 2013; Akindele, 2008; Philipsen and Huspek, 1985). This study sets out to identify, analyse and contrast the address and reference terms of Standard French and Standard Yorùbá to see how the terms carry cognitive-social meanings/markers of power, (im)politeness, (non)formality, arrogance and appropriateness in verbal interactions.

Basic principles and definition of terms

The basic assumption of our study is that native speakers have hundred percent communicative competence and therefore use address and reference terms appropriately. The implication of this is that the choice of a term is made consciously to carry the meaning wanted by the speaker and that the hearer can also decode such meaning. This study also assumes that address and reference sub-systems of languages are undeniably linked to politeness:

Seen as the exercise of language...

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