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Speech Acts and Politeness across Languages and Cultures

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Leyre Ruiz de Zarobe and Yolanda Ruiz de Zarobe

Speech Acts and Politeness are among the main areas of interest in pragmatics. These communicative phenomena can be considered universal and at the same time language and culture-specific. It is this latter dimension that has been at the centre of recent developments in pragmatics, and it is also the focus of this book.
The aim of this book is to reflect this development, providing evidence from four main areas crucial to pragmatics across languages and cultures: a description of a variety of speech acts and politeness strategies in different languages and cultures, a cross-cultural comparison of several speech acts and patterns of politeness, an in-depth analysis of issues concerning the learning and teaching of speech acts and politeness in second/foreign languages, as well as some methodological resources in pragmatics.
This book is intended for researchers, scholars and students interested in the field of pragmatics, in general, or in the fields of cross-cultural and second/foreign language pragmatics, and specifically for those interested in speech acts and politeness. It will also be useful to any scholar interested in how communication and culture are related.

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Section 1 Speech Acts and Politeness in Some Languages and Cultures 25

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Section 1 Speech Acts and Politeness in some Languages and Cultures EVA OGIERMANN About Polish Politeness 1. Politeness theories Since the late 1970s ample research has been devoted to the study of politeness in different languages and cultures. However, the theoreti- cal frameworks on which these studies are based have been developed by researchers with an Anglo-Saxon cultural background. And these frameworks build on concepts developed by other Anglo-Saxon schol- ars, such as ordinary language philosophers Austin, Searle, Grice, and sociologist Goffman. Politeness frameworks based on pragmatic theory tend to con- ceptualise politeness as “strategic conflict avoidance” (Leech 1980: 19), used “to reduce friction in personal interaction” (Lakoff 1975 [2004: 64]) or minimize face-threat (Brown/Levinson 1987). For some Non-Anglo-Saxon researchers, this conceptualisation of politeness seems to portray interpersonal communication as “a fundamentally dangerous and antagonistic endeavour” (Kasper 1990: 194) and to suggest that people are “always on the verge of a war which they try to avoid by being polite” (Sifianou 1992: 82). More recent approaches to the study of politeness, notably those developed by British researchers Mills (2003) and Watts (2003, 2005) – and referred to as discursive politeness theories – provide an even more critical picture of politeness. Mills argues against viewing it as “necessarily ‘a good thing’” (2003: 59) and draws attention to manipulative uses of politeness, while Watts asserts that politeness “may easily be non-altruistic and clearly egocentric” (2005: 69). It seems that theoretical work on politeness has moved from equating politeness with strategic face-threat mitigation to viewing...

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