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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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Conclusion: My politeness, your politeness … our politeness?


Based on Cooke’s translation theory, Constructive Realism, and functional perspectives on translation we argued that the concept of politeness can be considered part of human beings’ REALITIES and that due to the biological and cognitive abilities of all human beings, they are able to translate in general and translate politeness in particular. Translation, in this discussion, is considered a transcultural communication strategy enabling human beings of different cultures to communicate with each other intra- and interlingually, consisting of the processes of understanding, explaining, defamiliarizing and negotiating.

In spite of its translatability and universal aspects the translation of politeness requires the consideration of its culture-specific aspects as well. Politeness can be considered a survival skill, since human beings depend on social interactions and the maintenance of relationships for their survival. Furthermore, humans learn implicitly and explicitly the communicative behavior during processes of socialization in the lingua-cultural contexts they are confronted with. Therefore, we hypothesized that individuals with a similar lingua-cultural biography are more inclined to share patterns of realizing and perceiving politeness than are individuals with diverging lingua-cultural biographies. The hypothesis was approached through an empirical research, based on the analysis of survey and DCT results and of twitter messages exchanged in customer service contexts. To assess this hypothesis the de- and encoding of modality in requests was analyzed. The results of the empirical study have demonstrated that communicative patterns are partially distinct, and partially homogenous.

For example, in both analyses, the common preference of...

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