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Learning Politeness

Disagreement in a Second Language


Ian Walkinshaw

This book examines how Japanese learners of English learned about managing politeness while they were studying at language schools in New Zealand. Specifically, it investigates how they learned to produce and interpret a range of disagreement strategies during oppositional talk with native speakers of English. Employing a combined qualitative and quantitative approach to data analysis, the book discusses the initial pragmatic competence of the learners, and describes how their competence developed over a ten-week period.
The book outlines some points of cultural divergence which may have influenced the direction and the extent of the learners’ pragmatic development. It also sheds light on the language-acquisition strategies utilised by the learners during their tenure in the host culture. Most crucially, the book illuminates patterns of directness and indirectness in the learners’ selected disagreement strategies. These patterns challenge the generally accepted theory that politeness always increases with social distance.
Contents: Japanese learners of English – Disagreement speech acts – Theories of politeness – Face-threat – Individualism and collectivism – Power distance – Second language/Culture acquisition – Shifts in production of disagreements – Utterance length – Shifts in recognising and interpreting disagreements – Enryo-based assessments of pragmatic variation – Power-risk assessments of pragmatic variation – Environmental and pedagogical factors influencing pragmatic acquisition.