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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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In our infancy, before we are cursed with the gift of speech, we live, writes the poet John Berger, “in a seamless experience of wordlessness”1. An innocent age, when one is able to live immediately and wholly. Before we have learned to wield the scalpel of language to dissect and discard the unsayable.

Yet, is not all experience wordless? How do you say: It’s alright. Don’t worry. I understand, in Greek?

A hilltop on an autumn evening. The sea glinted softly in the distance. We had wound through chestnut groves and sleepy vineyards for hours, the little red car panting up white roads, past houses the colour of the sky and chapels that had lived there for ever.

On the road in front of us, mounds of grapes lying in the dust. A man in a Cretan cap was loading them into wicker panniers on the back of a grey donkey. He worked slowly and thoroughly, picking up stray bunches and placing them gently into the baskets. The donkey stood still and placid, blinking patiently at the flies and the slanted sunlight.

We waited. Finished the water in the flask. Smiled at the donkey. Finally, the last grapes were loaded and my companion spluttered the car back to life. The old man came over to my side of the car, motioned me to open the window. He reached through and placed a bunch of golden grapes in my hands,...

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