Cover Page

Cite item


Single-moment studies have traditionally been carried out with the aim of investigating the pragmalinguistic and sociopragmatic skills of non-native speakers compared to those of native speakers of a particular language. The present study aims to investigate the parallel skills in expressing politeness of Maltese bilingual speakers rather than differences between native and non-native speakers in this respect. Since the variety of English spoken in Malta has often been characterised as distinct from British English, we used a small-scale spoken discourse completion task to examine the extent to which British English and Maltese affect the expression of politeness in Maltese English, in the context of requests and apologies. To this end, we compared the responses provided by three distinct groups of participants in terms of the use of particular politeness strategies, as well as the frequency and intonation of politeness markers. The re-sults obtained remain largely inconclusive partly due to certain limitations arising from use of the discourse completion task methodology. They nevertheless do provide preliminary evidence, which is, to our mind, worth exploring further, of a close similarity between Maltese English and Maltese in terms of the into-nation that accompanies markers of politeness.

About the authors

Martina Cremona

University of Malta

Martina Cremona is a graduate of Linguistics at the University of Malta. Research interests: sociolinguistics, politeness theory and cross-cultural studies. Msida, MSD 2080, Malta

Stavros Assimakopoulos

University of Malta

Stavros Assimakopoulos is a Senior Lecturer in Linguistics at the University of Malta. Research interests: linguistics, philosophy and cognitive psychology, inferential pragmatics and discourse analysis. He recently edited two volumes: Pragmatics at its Interfaces (Mouton de Gruyter, 2017) and Current issues in Intercultural Pragmatics (John Benjamins, 2017; with Istvan Kecskes). Msida, MSD 2080, Malta

Alexandra Vella

University of Malta

Alexandra Vella is a Professor of Linguistics at the University of Malta. Research interests: phonetics and phonology, particularly intonational phonology. Her main research focus is on prosody and intonation in Maltese and its dialects, and on the influence of the language background of Maltese speakers on the intonational structure of Maltese English. She is also interested in interlanguage phonology and in accent and dialect variation. Msida, MSD 2080, Malta


  1. Assimakopoulos, S. (2014) The Background of politeness universals. Russian Journal of Linguistics 18: 35-43.
  2. Blum-Kulka, Shshana & Elite Olshtain. (1984) Requests and apologies: A cross-cultural study of speech act realization patterns (CCSARP). Applied Linguistics 5: 196-213.
  3. Blum-Kulka, Sh. (1982) Learning how to say what you mean in a second language: A study of speech act performance of learners of Hebrew as a second language. Applied Linguistics 3: 29-59.
  4. Boersma, Paul & David Weenink. (2017) PRAAT: Doing phonetics by computer (Version 6.0.31). Last accessed 30 August 2017.
  5. Bolinger, D. (1989) Intonation and its uses: Melody in grammar and discourse. California: Stanford University Press.
  6. Brincat Massa, M. (1986) Interferenze inglesi sulla lingua maltese. Journal of Maltese Studies 16: 45-52.
  7. Brown, P. &. Levinson S.S. (1987) Politeness: Some universals in language use. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  8. Camilleri, Antoinette & Albert Borg. (1992) Is Maltese an endangered language? Paper presented at the 15th International Congress of Linguists. Laval University, Quebec.
  9. Camras, L. A. (1984) Children’s verbal and nonverbal communication in a conflict situation. Ethology and Sociobiology 5: 257-268.
  10. Caruana, C. Forthcoming. Conversational patterns in Maltese talk shows: A perspective on politeness. MA thesis: University of Malta.
  11. Cole, J. & Shattuck-Hufnagel S. (2016) New methods for prosodic transcription: Capturing variability as a source of information. Journal of the Association for Laboratory Phonology 7: 1-29.
  12. Cruttenden, A. (1997) Intonation (2nd ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  13. Cruttenden, A. (2001) Gimson’s pronunciation of English (6th ed.). London: Edward Arnold.
  14. Culpeper, J. (2011) Politeness and impoliteness. In Handbook of Pragmatics: Vol. 5: Sociopragmatics, ed. by Karin Aijmer & Gisle Andersen, 391-436. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
  15. Gallaher, B. (2014) The speech act set of direct complaints in American and Russian cultures. Russian Journal of Linguistics 18: 167-177.
  16. Gazizov, R. A. (2014) Lexical ways of expressing explicit politeness in German linguoculture. Russian Journal of Linguistics 18: 76-84.
  17. Goffman, E. (1967) Interaction ritual: Essays on face to face behavior. New York: Anchor Books.
  18. Gu, Yueguo (1990) Politeness phenomena in modern Chinese. Journal of Pragmatics 14: 237-257.
  19. Kasper, G. & Rose. K. R. (2002) Pragmatic development in a second language. Oxford: Blackwell.
  20. Ladd, D. R. (1978) Stylised intonation. Language 54: 517-539.
  21. Ladd, D. R. (1996). Intonational phonology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  22. Lakoff, R. T. (1989) The limits of politeness: Therapeutic and courtroom discourse. Multilingua 8: 101-129.
  23. Laplante, D. & Ambady, N. (2003) On how things are said: Voice tone, voice intensity, verbal content, and perceptions of politeness. Journal of Language and Social Psychology 22: 434-442.
  24. Leech, G., Larina. T. (2014) Politeness: West and East. Russian Journal of Linguistics 18: 9-34.
  25. Leech, G. (1983) Principles of pragmatics. London: Longman.
  26. Lim, Tae-Seop. (1994) Facework and interpersonal relationships. In The challenge of facework: Crosscultural and interpersonal issues, ed. by Stella Ting-Toomey, 209-229. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
  27. Loveday, L. (1981) Pitch, politeness and sexual role: An exploratory investigation into the pitch correlates of English and Japanese politeness formulae. Language and Speech 24: 71-89.
  28. Mao, LuMing Robert. (1994) Beyond politeness theory: ‘Face’ revisited and renewed. Journal of Pragmatics 21: 451-486.
  29. Mifsud, M. (1995) Loan verbs in Maltese: A descriptive and comparative study. Leiden: E.J. Brill.
  30. Nespor, M. & Vogel. I. (2007) Prosodic phonology: With a new foreword. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
  31. O’Connor, Joseph D. & Gordon F. Arnold. (1973) Intonation of colloquial English: A practical handbook (2nd edn). London: Longman.
  32. Pierrehumbert, J. (1980) The phonetics and phonology of English intonation. Ph.D. thesis: Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  33. Salgado, E. F. (2011) The pragmatics of requests and apologies. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
  34. Schelchkova, E. B. (2013) The speech act of invitation in the American and Russian communicative cultures (results of an empirical research). Russian Journal of Linguistics 17: 109-115.
  35. Sifianou, M. (1992) Politeness phenomena in England and Greece. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
  36. Vella, A. & Farrugia, P-J. (2006) MalToBI: Building an annotated corpus of spoken Maltese. In Proceedings of the 3 rd International Conference on Speech Prosody. Dresden.
  37. Vella, A. (2012) Languages and language varieties in Malta. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 16, 532-552.
  38. Vella, A. (1995) Prosodic structure and intonation in Maltese and its influence on Maltese English. PhD thesis: University of Edinburgh.
  39. Vella, A. (2009) On Maltese prosody. In Introducing Maltese Linguistics: Selected Papers from the 1st International Conference on Maltese Linguistics, Bremen, 18-20 October, 2007, ed. by Bernard Comrie, Ray Fabri, Elizabeth Hume, Manwel Mifsud, Thomas Stolz and Martine Vanhove, 47-68. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
  40. Watts, R. J. (2003) Politeness. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  41. Wichmann, A. (2004) The intonation of please-requests: A corpus-based study. Journal of Pragmatics 36: 1521-1549.

Copyright (c) 2017 Cremona M., Assimakopoulos S., Vella A.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

This website uses cookies

You consent to our cookies if you continue to use our website.

About Cookies