Introduction to Politeness and Impoliteness Research in Global Contexts

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Im/politeness research has been a solid and growing research field in sociolinguistics, pragmatics and discourse analysis during the last four decades. The scientific interest in this topic is not accidental and may be explained by the general pragmatic turn of modern interdisciplinary linguistic studies which are not focused on language as an abstract system, but on its functioning in various contexts and types of interaction. Knowledge of the strategies and politeness mechanisms used in various social and cultural contexts promotes mutual understanding in communication. In this introduction to the special issue on im/politeness in global contexts we will briefly position the topic of im/politeness research, and highlight advancements in im/politeness theory, method and data. We then turn to a brief synopsis of each individual paper and highlight the theoretical and methodological contributions and innovations proposed by our authors. We end with a discussion of the results and a brief outlook on future research.

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1. Introduction In 2014 the Russian Journal of Linguistics dedicated a special issue to Geoffrey Leech and gave im/politeness studies center stage. The volume brought a large number of scholars together who added their voices to other research outlets such as the Journal of Politeness Research, Pragmatics or the Journal of Pragmatics, to name just three of the prominent journals within pragmatics where politeness scholars find their readership. Five years later, we again turn to this topic and pursue im/politeness research in “global contexts”. When we issued the call for the present volume, we thought of global contexts in two ways. On the one hand, we hoped that our contributors would continue the trend to work on a variety of different languages and contexts in order to enhance our understanding beyond languages like English or Japanese, two languages which have received much attention to date. We have achieved this aim in that our authors work on a wide variety of languages, here presented in alphabetical order: Arabic, English, Greek, Korean, Russian, Spanish and Mandarin Chinese, as spoken in Taiwan. On the other hand, we also encouraged submissions which enhance our theoretical and methodological understanding of im/politeness phenomena in global contexts[1]. The contributions could achieve this either by addressing a cross-cultural and/or cross-linguistic perspective or by adding their insights to previous research on comparable discourse contexts as found in different languages and cultures. In what follows, we will first briefly position the topic of im/politeness research to contextualize the contributions to the special issue. We then turn to a brief synopsis of each individual paper and highlight the theoretical and methodological contributions and innovations proposed by our authors. We end with a discussion of the results and a brief outlook on future research. 2. Advancements in im/politeness theory, method and data Ever since the early surge of politeness research epitomized by the work of Lakoff (1973), Brown and Levinson (1978, 1987) and Leech (1983, see also 2014), politeness research has been a solid and growing research field in pragmatics[2], discourse analysis and sociolinguistics and there is no sign of decline in interest. While the early work on politeness combined a Gricean understanding of the creation of meaning with speech act analysis and was thus interested in pragmatic variation on the utterance level, the field has expanded considerably in the last decades. In earlier overviews, Locher (2014, 2018) reported on several areas of expansion, which can be subsumed in two blocks. The first cluster is about theoretical and methodological advancements, while the second cluster concerns the type and scope of data as well as the range of linguistic phenomena studied. For comprehensive and recent overviews, the reader is referred to the Palgrave Handbook of Linguistic (Im)politeness (Culpeper et al. 2017). In this brief introduction to the field, we can only highlight a number of pertinent issues. Early research was particularly interested in discussing how mitigation achieves face protection of both the hearer and the speaker. This research typically worked on particular speech acts on the utterance level. As a consequence, mitigation was almost used synonymously with politeness. This was the case no matter whether the interactants themselves were thinking of their mitigation practices as acts of expressing politeness. In contrast, a lay understanding of politeness often associates politeness with prescribed rules in etiquette books, which include linguistic phenomena but also forms of comportment more generally, and is thus of a multi-modal nature and draws on different ideologies of proper comportment. This multi-modal aspect of politeness norms has been acknowledged by many scholars who include facial expression and gestures in their analysis (typically, qualitative discourse analysis and conversation analysis) and who are interested in uncovering the interplay between different norms, but multimodality has featured less in research that works with discourse production and completion tasks or corpus linguistics. The difference between emic (lay) and etic (theoretical, scholarly) understanding of im/politeness has given rise to the discursive approach to im/politeness (see Eelen 2001). In fact, the most important contributions of the discursive turn were to remind us of the evaluative and situated nature of concepts such as impoliteness or politeness, the importance that emotions play in assessments and to argue for the link of identity construction with these processes of judging (e.g. Haugh et al. 2013, Linguistic Politeness Research Group 2011, Langlotz & Locher 2017, Locher 2004, 2015, Locher and Watts 2005, 2008). It is by now standard practice to combine etic and emic approaches in order to account for the interplay between the perspectives[3]. For example, while face-aggravating, face-maintaining and face-enhancing are etic concepts, they can be linked to particular emic assessments as impolite or rude in the analysis of particular interactions (see Locher 2015: 8, Haugh & Chang, this volume, and Fernández-Amaya, this volume). In general, the type of data that has been systematically researched over the last decades has been widened in scope. First, research into historical forms of politeness surface structures as well as the development of historical forms has thrived (e.g. Culpeper & Kádár 2010, Jucker & Kopaczyk 2017, Paternoster & Fitzmaurice 2019, Rathmayr 2009). This research highlights how norms are negotiable and changeable and that linguistic politeness strategies have developed over time and are embedded in their cultural context and ideologies of conduct. Second, scholars became interested in impoliteness and rudeness effects as well and have moved away from focusing primarily on mitigation of face-threats. The scope of linguistic phenomena studied has thus been broadened to include face-aggravating behavior (e.g. Bousfield 2008, Bousfield & Locher 2008, Culpeper 2011, specialized conferences such as LIAR - the linguistic impoliteness and rudeness conferences). Third, while there is still a strong branch which looks at individual speech acts on the utterance level, many studies work with longer stretches of talk and are interested in how relational meaning is negotiated over several turns in context (see Garcés-Conejos Blitvich & Sifianou 2019: 94). Finally, the type of data studied nowadays is varied and includes naturally-occurring face-to-face oral data, multimodal computer-mediated data, and written data of all shades and forms (e.g. fictional and non-fictional). Not surprisingly, especially the study of computer-mediated data has gained particular momentum since the early 2000s in special issues, monographs, and many research articles (see also Parvaresh, this volume and below). In addition, scholars work with elicited data in its own right or to complement findings based on naturally-occurring data (e.g. interviews or discourse production and completion tasks). From a theoretical point of view, this broadening in scope has important repercussions for theorizing im/politeness. The changeability and negotiability in expressing face concern reported from historical research means that we also have to revisit our understanding of what exactly is universal in politeness research. If it is not the surface realization, then it likely to be the capacity of human beings (model person in Brown and Levinson’s 1987 framework) to recognize one’s own and the addressee’s face needs and to use language strategically for effect. In fact, much research effort has been invested into identifying culture specific features of understanding, perception and expression of politeness and the results also show changeability, negotiability and variability. As numerous cross-cultural studies have shown, while expressing politeness seems to be universal, how this is being done is in essence a culture specific phenomenon (e.g. Leech 2005, 2014). Ideas about what is polite and what is not might differ cross-culturally (see Larina 2003, 2004, 2009, 2013, Rathmayr 2003, Sifianou 1992, Watts 2003 among others). The same act of communication (verbal or non-verbal) perceived as polite in one culture may be considered as inappropriate, impolite and even rude in another (Larina 2015: 197, see also Haugh and Chang, this volume)[4]. As a consequence, much research effort is invested in teasing apart how large scale ideologies as well as norms developed in different contexts and on different levels (e.g. personal, cultural, situational and co-textual norms; Culpeper 2008: 30) inform and shape politeness. Knowing what effect a particular phrasing might have means that interlocutors are aware of the norms of a lingua-culture in its different levels and can exploit this knowledge to maintain, challenge/aggravate or enhance their own or their addressee’s face. They do this in situ, i.e. they exploit the indexical force of their linguistic choices at the time and in their context. In doing so, there is an intricate interplay between societal ideologies, the norms of a particular community of practice and the activity types they activate and the actual indexicalities evoked by the interactants[5]. In addition, the broadening of scope also sheds more light on the study of pragmatic variability in expressing different speech acts and in negotiating meaning in longer stretches of data in different contexts more generally. This is because this field has not just been a concern of im/politeness scholars (see Locher 2015 for elaboration on this point). The im/politeness research community has reached out to other fields and there are by now a number of theories and approaches that can cross-fertilize each other. Among them are Arundale’s face-constituting theory (e.g. Arundale 2010, 2013), Spencer-Oatey’s rapport management (Spencer-Oatey 2005, 2009), relational work in interpersonal pragmatics (Locher & Watts 2005, 2008; Locher & Graham 2010), Faircloughian genre and discourse inspired studies (Garcés-Conejos Blitvich 2010, Garcés-Conejos Blitvich & Sifianou 2019), the impact of politeness on communicative styles (House 2006, Larina 2003, 2009, 2015), and research on identity construction (e.g. Bucholtz & Hall 2005, 2008; Hall & Bucholtz 2013).The latter is an especially promising research avenue since politeness judgements always also have repercussions on identity construction, which in its turn guides the way people interact (see Garcés-Conejos Blitvich 2009, Garcés-Conejos Blitvich & Sifianou 2017, Larina et al. 2017a, Locher 2008). In Parvaresh’s (this volume) report on the 2019 meeting of the International Symposium of Politeness, these general trends are confirmed. Scholars convened to report on research about both politeness as well as impoliteness and they demonstrate an enriching mix of methodologies and theories. He reports that the study of im/politeness in historical data is going strong, that researching online data is still a hot issue, that the study of aggressive language helps to tease out the indexicality of relational messages, that conceptualising morality in addition to personal, cultural, situational and co-textual norms (Culpeper 2008: 30) has gained in importance, that research which takes the evaluative notion of im/politeness into account (Locher 2004) is continued, that notions of impoliteness and conflict are being elaborated on, that individual speech acts continue to be studied comparatively across lingua-cultures and on their own and, finally, that ethical considerations and risks involved in data collection was discussed numerous times. Overall, the research field is thus striving. In what follows, we will introduce the papers in this special issue which add their voices to this discussion. 3. Issues covered in the collection The collection presents nine original research papers. The first paper by Haugh and Chang focuses on the speech act of criticism from a cross-linguistic and cross-cultural perspective. Since the authors highlight the methodological challenges of an analysis of this kind, they set the scene for later papers concerning an approach to im/politeness in global contexts. This paper is followed by a theoretical paper presenting a meta-analysis of the changing role of indirectness in im/politeness studies by Terkourafi. The following three papers focus on different languages and explore these with different methodologies: Rhee employs a historical approach on Korean; Bragina and Sharonov use corpus linguistics and discourse analysis on Russian, and Vlasyan and Kozhukhova work with discourse production tasks on Russian. The papers thus demonstrate how we can gain insights about different languages, contexts and cultures with the help of a wide variety of different methodologies. This trajectory is continued in the remaining papers as well. However, the papers in the last group all introduce research on naturally-occurring data derived from computer-mediated communication. Im/politeness in online contexts has intensively been worked on in the last two decades (for overviews see, e.g., Graham & Hardaker 2017, Locher 2006, Locher et al. 2015). The papers in this volume continue the discussion of methodological and theoretical approaches and add insights into different languages and cultures in online practices. We will position these contributions one by one. The starting point for this collection is a paper by Michael Haugh and Wei-Lin Melody Chang. They work with elicited data where informants meet for the first time. Their data sets consist of dyads in English recorded in Australia and dyads in Mandarin Chinese recorded in Taiwan. The focus of analysis are acts of criticism of the conversational partner. While much research in the past focused on comparing the linguistic realization of speech acts, the authors argue that an integrated sequential and indexical analysis will help us better understand not only cross-linguistic differences but also the different status of the content of the speech act and the indexical value of the speech act in the different cultures. They address the methodological challenge of approaching data as researchers who are part or are not part of the studied community, the implications of this presence/absence of membership for analysis and the consequences on theorizing im/politeness. Their paper works as an important reminder that the label “criticism” per se might have different connotations in different cultures and that only comparing linguistic form might fall short of a comprehensive analysis since the members themselves might have different interpretations of the speech act. This important insight is further elaborated on in Fernández-Amaya’s (this volume) contribution on disagreement (see below). Marina Terkourafi turns our attention to the role of linguistic indirectness in im/politeness studies in the light of processes of urbanization and globalization. While the use of indirectness has been associated with face-saving and has been described as a universally safe strategy (Brown & Levinson 1987), Terkourafi offers an alternative interpretation. In doing so she combines im/politeness studies with network theory (Milroy 1987). She explains that ingroup knowledge is needed to interpret indirectness and therefore what Terkourafi terms accidental indirectness is only accessible to this ingroup. As a consequence, indirectness might become disfavored as a strategy. By presenting a meta-analysis of three studies in different linguistic and cultural contexts which offer a diachronic perspective on the use of indirectness (Morgan 1991 on the use of indirectness in a community of African-American women; He 2012 and others on complimenting in Chinese; Jucker 2012 on the development of English politeness), Terkourafi draws our attention to the hypothesis that the overall weakening of networks might be the reason for a potential increase in direct rather than indirect linguistic strategies. To explore this hypothesis further is of interest for im/politeness studies as it questions one of the pillars of im/politeness studies. Seongha Rhee turns our attention to Korean, one of the most grammatically indexical languages with respect to politeness phenomena. In fact, “in Korean the speaker-addressee relationship is reflected in mandatory sentence-final verbal morphology” (Rhee & Koo 2017: 101). In addition, there is a diverse pronoun system and a complex address term system, which comprises both kinship as well as terms derived from work hierarchies and seniority. Positioning his research in an understanding of ‘emergent grammar’ (Hopper 1987) and grammaticalization processes, Rhee explores in particular the development of the first and second person pronouns and their link to address terms from a historical perspective. In doing so, he is able to show how politeness considerations of defining one’s place in society by expressing respect to others (+honorific) and displaying one’s lower position with respect to others (+humiliative) is achieved through linguistic indexicals. This pronoun and address term system is highly dynamic and continuously develops in order to fulfil the expressive needs of the interactants. This development is steered by the pressure and challenge to choose adequate markers since choosing the wrong level or omitting the use of proper address terms might result in undesired pragmatic effects. Rhee argues that, just like words and phrases employed to avoid taboo lose their mitigating power over time, the pronouns change their power of indexing politeness and positioning through frequent use. As a consequence, “[+Honorific] terms are constantly innovated to upgrade the diminishing honorification effect and the first-person reference terms are constantly innovated to strengthen the [+Humiliative] meaning” (Rhee, this volume). This study demonstrates that the research community can gain much from broadening the scope of data to include a diachronic perspective. In showing that the pronoun politeness indexicals are dynamic over time, we are reminded of the dynamic nature of linguistic realisations of acts of positioning that express politeness concerns per se[6]. However, what seems to be stable is the need to express these differences in positioning and politeness. Natalia Bragina and Igor Sharonov present a corpus linguistic analysis of over 200 naturally-occurring Russian dialogues from the Russian National Corpus that involve face-threatening and face-aggravating behavior. They focus in particular on instances where a conversational partner reprimands an interlocutor for the perceived, inappropriate nature of a previous statement. The context of these interactions is everyday informal communication. The authors label these reprimands “pedagogical aggression” because of their corrective nature and their negative stance towards the addressee. Due to these features, the authors argue that these reprimands become impolite in turn and are set in contrast to responses which aim at neutralizing a previously perceived inappropriate contribution (which the authors call empathy strategy). The form that the contributions containing pedagogical aggression take are “1) a pseudo-question (rhetorical question or a question to the assumptions of an interlocutor), 2) mocking citations from the interlocutor’s speech, [and] 3) rhymed pseudo-answers” (Bragina & Sharonov, this volume). In this article the authors focus on the third type. They show that this strategy is assessed by native speakers as impolite, but possible, since there is an unspoken presumption according to which aggressive-educational speech behavior is allowed against an interlocutor who made a communicative mistake in informal communication. There is a set of speech formulas in the Russian language for the realization of this strategy. In intimate contexts the use of rhymed pseudo-answers can sound humorous and not lead to conflict. However, the authors show that, in further communication, the interlocutors take care to explain and make amends for his or her attack against the addressee. In a conflictual dialogue, stereotypical pseudo-answer phrases are used to break off the contact with the interlocutor or to switch to another mode of communication. The authors’ study convincingly shows that the strategy of pedagogical aggression becomes particularly noteworthy because it is contrasted with the empathy strategy. This finding highlights that the indexical power of politeness or impoliteness in situ is derived by processes of contrasting behavior with each other. This theoretical point links to insights on the discursive nature of im/politeness judgements, as proposed and developed by a number of scholars (e.g. Haugh et al. 2013, Linguistic Politeness Research Group 2011, Locher & Watts 2005, 2008, 2015), and as further developed in this volume by Tzanne and Sifianou (see below). Gayane Vlasyan and Irina Kozhukhova work on im/politeness in Russian by means of elicited data obtained through a discourse production test with 101 participants of three age groups: schoolchildren, university students and adults. The task was to issue an invitation in scenarios which differed according to age and social status of the interactants considering both symmetrical (informal context) and asymmetrical (formal context) relations. The respondents were supposed to invite (a) a friend/colleague and (b) a teacher/ boss to an event or a birthday party. The authors wanted to establish whether a difference is made in formal and informal contexts and how this reflects on a particular Russian understanding of the speech act invitation. They report that there are indeed differences in politeness strategies and linguistic means of expression in formal and informal contexts. Overall, however, there is a preference for issuing direct invitations, which correlates with the Russian style of communication in general (see Larina 2003, 2008, 2009, 2015). The results show that in symmetrical contexts in the groups of schoolchildren and students the most typical form of invitation is the imperative (literal translation: Girls, come to my place on Saturday to celebrate my birthday). In the group of adults as well as in all the three groups in formal (asymmetrical) context, it is the performative (I invite you to my birthday party). However, indirect invitations are not uncommon but they are less frequent and are not favored by any of the groups under the study. This finding is consistent with the idea that in Russian giving options while inviting “could be interpreted as evidence of the Speaker’s insincerity, rather than a demonstration of respect for the Hearer’s wants” (Leech & Larina 2014: 15) and could be perceived negatively. Rather than hedging, the respondents of all three groups used many intensifiers both in informal and formal contexts (literal translation: You must come / Your presence is mandatory / Rejection is not accepted / I (we) really want to see you / I (we) will be very glad to see you). Thus the authors demonstrate that Russian inviters place high value on signaling the speaker’s interests. The paper adds to our knowledge of the speech act of invitation since it analyses new data and argues that in Russian culture invitation appears not to be a face-threatening act. The authors support the idea that in Russian culture, which is of a collectivist type (Larina et al. 2017a,b), directness does not always violate principles of politeness and in many speech acts and contexts is expected and perceived positively. The findings also show that culture-specific differences in communication are not random but systematic and regular use of typical strategies leads to the formation of communicative features, the totality of which forms a communicative ethno-style (Larina 2015: 197). As mentioned in the previous section, the research community has long recognized that politeness judgements are linked to norms of different types. Culpeper (2008: 30) speaks of personal, cultural, situational and co-textual norms that shape interaction. Kádár and Haugh (2013: 95), in turn, mention localised norms, “community of practice/organisational or other group-based norms,” and societal/cultural norms. To gain access to and tease these norms apart is one of the challenges of im/politeness research. Angeliki Tzanne and Maria Sifianou take up this challenge and ask where and how researchers can gain an entry point into establishing what a community’s particular lay conceptualizations of politeness and impoliteness are. In their research, they thus tackle the tricky question of how to discover norms, i.e. how to know what is perceived as (im)polite in a particular context as an analyst. Rather than studying interactions between participants or turning to etiquette books (both valid sources, of course), they argue that scholars can also gain much insight from looking at media coverage of im/politeness issues. They are therefore interested in meta-discussions in the public space, which point to a societal rather than individual understanding of impoliteness. Their data consists of two online articles on impoliteness in Greece written by one journalist, which were shared in the media and received reader comments. Analyzing the articles and the comments with the help of the concepts of discursive identity construction and van Dijk’s (1998, 2006a, b) insights into ideological positive self-presentation and negative other-presentation, the authors show that impoliteness is not only perceived as a linguistic phenomenon but encompassed all kinds of behaviour in the public and private space, and that, crucially, the “‘polite’ and ‘impolite citizen’” are “co-constructed as binary opposites by the journalist and posters” (Tzanne and Sifianou, this volume). While such views are stereotypical to a certain extent, they reveal recurrent and pervasive lay understandings of im/politeness norms. The authors reveal that the ingroup of polite citizens are constructed as superior to the impolite outgroup and are differentiated along lines of power, knowledge, education, civilization and intelligence. The contribution thus demonstrates how insights from online meta-discussions can further our understanding of lay conceptualizations of im/politeness. Once more, the process of acts of contrasting is brought home. That the parameters of contrasting can easily shift, however, was shown in a comparable analysis by Locher and Luginbühl (2019). As in Tzanne and Sifianou’s contribution, online newspaper articles and reader comments were analyzed. In this case, the triggering texts contrasted German politeness with Swiss (German) politeness norms. Interestingly, the Swiss speakers of German dialects were observed to construct a unified Swiss versus German politeness understanding, but have been observed to uphold a difference in dialectal norms when talking only about the Swiss. This is because there are many dialects in Switzerland but, apparently, for the process of comparison with an outgroup, this fact is simplified, and as a consequence different norms were constructed as well. Najma Al Zidjaly’s contribution adds yet another perspective to the im/politeness discussion. Her paper is entitled “Divine impoliteness: How Arabs negotiate Islamic moral order on Twitter” and is the result of engaging in a long-term online ethnography which observes Arab identity construction on social media. Al Zidjaly has demonstrated in numerous publications how the religious moral order imbues Arab identity construction and understanding of self (e.g. Al Zidjaly 2014, 2017, 2019). For this paper, the author chose to analyse one particular tweet which triggered many comments and kept the media spot light for a considerable time. This post discussed a well-known prayer that includes Muslims but excludes non-Muslims by omission from getting well (i.e. by not mentioning them). The tweet author questions the morality of this exclusivity/omission and invites discussion. Since questioning the Quran and the hadiths (“the reported sayings of the prophet of Islam documented in the authoritative books of Sahih Al-Bukhari and Sahih Al-Muslim”, Al Zidjaly, this volume) is not allowed, the discussion is controversial from the beginning. As it turns out in the discussion of the participants, the prayer’s wording is neither taken from the Quran nor the hadiths so that voicing different opinions and engaging in discussions of these opinions becomes possible. A recurrent strategy is what Al Zidjaly terms “divine impoliteness”, i.e. commentators turn to and quote religious authoritative texts, which are aggressive towards others, in order to legitimize the face-loss of the omitted parties who are being excluded from prayers of getting well. In Al Zidjaly’s view, these online discussions are evidence of a “shift in Islamic moral order”, the discussion of which has become increasingly possible in online contexts. Since work on im/politeness in Arabic is only slowly increasing in number (e.g. Badarneh 2019, Farhat 2013, Labben 2018), this paper is particularly welcome as it highlights the complexity of different types of norms that intertwine in im/politeness considerations and particularly spotlights the religious moral order as an aspect that secular Western scholars might be less aware of. Lucía Fernández-Amaya’s contribution presents a case study of a naturally-occurring WhatsApp conversation among family members, which took place during 14 hours in Spain and comprises over 9900 words. This close-knit group discusses the demonstration held in the context of International Women’s Day, which took place on the same day. As it turns out, the family members hold diametrically opposed views on feminism and express these views in the WhatsApp chat. This results in prolonged arguments where people position and defend their own point of view as well as react to others’ contributions. The linguistic focus of the study is thus the expression of disagreement and alignment and disaffiliation with each other. In a qualitative analysis of 427 instances of disagreement, Fernández-Amaya first establishes a typology of disagreements and then codes the established strategies systematically in order to arrive at the overall distribution of the strategies (giving opposite opinions and emotional or personal reasons are most frequent) and the distribution among the members of the family. In doing so, she is able to show how the family members differ in their preferences. In a second step, the contributors to the WhatsApp discussion were sent an electronic questionnaire and relevant passages to establish whether the directness of the disagreement and the often diametrically opposed positions expressed resulted in impoliteness judgements. Adding to research on disagreement and relational work, which reported that the expression of disagreement is often expected and not necessarily negatively marked (for an overview, see e.g., Angouri and Locher 2012), the author found that the family members did not consider the uttered face-threats to be severe or impolite. Instead, their close bond and family ties allowed them to express themselves without fear of damaging their relationships and some even evaluated the encountered disagreement in positive terms. Just as Haugh and Chang (in this volume) reminded us in their study of criticism in first encounters, the indexical value of a speech act as well as its realization have to be analyzed in context in order to make statements about their evaluative status with respect to im/politeness norms. The final research contribution of the special issue and of the block on computer-mediated communication is written by María de la O Hernández-López, who works on naturally-occurring consumer reviews in English on the peer-to-peer business platform Airbnb. Similar to the work by Dayter and Rüdiger (2014), who worked on comments on Couchsurfing, Hernández-López also highlights how the reviewers engage in a delicate act when writing reviews. This is because both the host’s as well as guest’s public faces on the platform are at stake since both parties are being rated and their earning possibilities in case of the host and their acceptance rate as guest will be affected by the ratings. By analyzing 120 reviews, Hernández-López establishes three different emotional orientations: delighted/satisfied, ambivalent/neutral, and dissatisfied/disappointed. The established forms and distribution are then linked to a discussion of what norms prevail (following Locher and Watts 2005, 2008). The results point to a clear preference of being polite, while avoiding overtly being rude or offensive. Due to this positivity norm, however, what is not being said is also informative and implies dissatisfaction on this peer-to-peer business platform. Linguistically, messages leaning toward the negative pole of the cline are characterized through “a process of depersonalisation, with a tone based on formality and distancing from the host”, while messages leaning towards the positive end of the cline are characterized through the use of enthusiastic and friendly vocabulary and content. Furthermore, with respect to this peer-to-peer business platform, Hernández-López shows how sociability is constructed as key for both the host’s and the guest’s behavior. Methodologically, the paper adds to our understanding of how the norms of a particular community can be studied. She established patterns of stance and content distribution and was then able to compare her results to similar (but not identical) reviewer platforms such as Couchsurfing or TripAdvisor (Dayter and Rüdiger 2014, Rosen et al. 2011, Vásquez 2011, 2014). The special issue is wrapped up with two reviews of books that belong to the im/politeness research field: Daria Dayter reviews Mills’ (2017) book English Politeness and Class, while Zso2fia Demjen discusses Locher’s (2017) book on Reflective Writing in Medical Contexts, which is written from an interpersonal pragmatics perspective. Vahid Parvaresh, finally, reports on the recent research trends observed during The 12th International Conference on (Im)Politeness, which was held in Cambridge, UK, in 2019. 4. Discussion and outlook The papers in this special issue reflect the enriching cross-fertilization of theories, methods and approaches which is typical of present-day im/politeness research. It is noteworthy that rather than focusing on politeness, several papers are on conflict and disagreement and thus reflect on politeness by studying how face-aggravation surfaces and is contrasted with expectations about politeness. They cover criticism in first encounter (Haugh & Chang), discussions of the religious moral order and prayers that are face-aggravating (Al Zidjaly), and disagreement in a family about feminism (Fernández-Amaya). In the case of the practice of reviewing in Airbnb studied by Hernández-López, overt face-aggravation is avoided but the omission of face-enhancing relational work is interpreted as negative. This finding was only possible by establishing the virtual community of practice norms rather than only counting on the linguistic surface structure to index face-maintenance. The two papers on reprimands and invitations in Russian reveal cultural indexicals of im/politeness in the speech acts involved (Bragina & Sharonov, Vlasyan & Kozhukhova). In Tzanne and Sifianou’s contribution we learn about the ingroup and outgroup creation of impolite and polite identities. Rhee’s paper demonstrates how norms established to index respect and hierarchies in address terms changes over time as these very forms become weaker in their expressive power. Terkourafi’s contribution questions the classic understanding of the connection between indirectness and im/politeness and posits a hypothesis of increasing directness in connection with urbanization and globalization. The papers have in common that they add insights about im/politeness discourses in different cultures. They use and combine different methods to uncover the norms based on which interactants arrive at im/politeness (and more generally relational) judgements. The data used reflects a wide scope from semi-authentic data (first encounters), discourse production tests, examples from large and custom-made corpora, online ethnography, and historical texts. These papers can be taken to reflect developments in im/politeness research. Rather than deploring that there is no single, unified im/politeness theory, we consider this variety enriching and wish to endorse the call for mixed methodologies and openness towards studying both culture specifics as well as universals in relational practices. While clearly much more needs to be done to understand the complexity of how different norms interact, how they give rise to im/politeness judgements and effects, and how we can uncover these processes of relational indexicalities, we are confident that the articles presented in this issue can be of use to the research community and become an impulse for further reflection, research and discoveries.

About the authors

Miriam A Locher

University of Basel

Nadelberg 6, 4051 Basel, Switzerland Professor of the Linguistics of English at the University of Basel

Tatiana V Larina

RUDN University (Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia)

6 Miklukho-Maklaya str., 117198 Moscow, Russian Federation Full Professor at RUDN University, the Editor-in-Chief of the Russian Journal of Linguistics


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