Disagreement and (im)politeness in a Spanish family members’ WhatsApp group

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The present paper explores disagreement and impoliteness in a WhatsApp interaction within a Spanish family that took place during the 2018 International Women’s Day. The conversation is linguistically examined using categories of disagreement strategies proposed by previous authors (Pomerantz 1984, Brown and Levinson 1987, Rees-Miller 2000, Locher 2004, Kreutel 2007, Malamed 2010, Shum and Lee 2013). Furthermore, multimodal analysis (Dresner and Herring 2010, 2013, Jewitt 2013, Bourlai and Herring 2014; Herring 2015) is used to consider not only participants’ linguistic strategies for expressing disagreement, but also the function of multimedia elements and emojis (Dresner and Herring 2010, 2013, Yus 2014, 2017, Sampietro 2016a, 2016b, Aull 2019). The analysis is followed by an interview to better understand the participants’ communicative intentions towards disagreements in relation to (im)politeness. A total of 427 instances of disagreement are identified, with the most common strategies being giving opposite opinions and emotional or personal reasons. This is to be expected since the group is divided from the very beginning into detractors and supporters of feminism, and they are also defending their opposite viewpoints by giving examples from their own life experience. Based on the participants’ opinions, the most significant result is the fact that, although disagreement may lead to face-threat, and thus impoliteness in other contexts (Langlotz and Locher 2012, Sifianou 2012, Shum and Lee 2013), in this WhatsApp interaction, the Spanish family members did not consider it to be impolite, and it is even evaluated in positive terms by some of the participants (Angouri and Locher 2012).

About the authors

Lucía Fernández-Amaya

Pablo de Olavide University

Email: lferama@upo.es
Lecturer in English at the Department of Philology and Translation, Pablo de Olavide University, Seville Carretera de Utrera, Km 1, 41013, Seville, Spain


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