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Translating Politeness Across Englishes

The Princess and the Pea


Rehana Mubarak-Aberer

Due to the increasing lingua-cultural heterogeneity of today’s users of English, it has become necessary to examine politeness, translation and transcultural communication from a different perspective. This book proposes a concept for a transdisciplinary methodology to shed some light onto the opaque relationship between the lingua-cultural biographies of users of English and their patterns of perceiving and realizing politeness in speech acts. The methodology incorporates aspects of CAT tools and business intelligence systems, and is designed for long-term research that can serve as a foundation for theoretical studies or practical contexts, such as customer relationship management and marketing.

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4. What do we translate when we translate politeness?


4. What do we translate when we translate politeness?

4.1 Brief review of politeness models

How do translators know which questions to ask about politeness? In order to ask questions, it is necessary to have a certain basis of explicit and implicit knowledge about how politeness is conceptualized, expressed and perceived across different cultures. Considering the large number of potential cultures that translators might be confronted with, particularly when English is involved in the communication process, it can be challenging for translators to acquire this knowledge. When we aim at a functional translation of politeness, we need to ask which functions politeness can have, which of them can be considered universal and which of them culture-specific.

Based on the Gricean “Cooperative Principle”94 Leech and Lakoff proposed their conversational maxim- and pragmatic theory-based perspectives on politeness in the 1970s. Leech claims that interlocutors do not only adhere to the Cooperative Principle, but also follow the “Politeness Principle”95 which promotes social balance and the maintenance of a friendly relationship between the interlocutors96. He considers some speech act types as intrinsically polite and others as intrinsically impolite. In addition, he assumes that there is a positive correlation between indirectness and politeness, and claims that certain realizations of speech acts are more polite than others97. Similar to Leech, Lakoff argues that members of a society use politeness to strategically avoid and reduce communicational conflicts98. She proposes a universal dichotomy of pragmatic competence, i.e. that←43 | 44...

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