Vol 23, No 4 (2019): Politeness and Impoliteness Research in Global Contexts


Introduction to Politeness and Impoliteness Research in Global Contexts

Locher M.A., Larina T.V.


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.
Russian Journal of Linguistics. 2019;23(4):873-903
pages 873-903 views

Indexical and Sequential Properties of Criticisms in Initial Interactions: Implications for Examining (Im) Politeness across Cultures

Haugh M., Chang W.M.


Cross-cultural studies of (im)politeness have tended to focus on identifying differences in linguistic behaviour by which speech acts are delivered, which are then explained as motivated by underlying cultural differences. In this paper, we argue that this approach unnecessarily backgrounds emic or cultural members’ understandings of (im)politeness. Through a comparative analysis of criticisms in initial interactions amongst Taiwanese speakers of Mandarin Chinese and amongst Australian speakers of English, we draw attention to the way in which similarities in the locally situated ways in which criticisms are delivered and responded to (i.e. their sequential properties) can mask differences in the culturally relevant meanings of criticisms (i.e. their indexical properties) in the respective languages. We conclude that cross-cultural studies of (im)politeness should not only focus on differences in the forms or strategies by which speech acts are accomplished, but remain alert to the possibility that what is ostensibly the same speech act, may in fact be interpreted in different ways by members of different cultural groups.
Russian Journal of Linguistics. 2019;23(4):904-929
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Indirectness in the Age of Globalization: A Social Network Analysis

Terkourafi M.


Indirectness has traditionally been viewed as commensurate with politeness and attributed to the speaker’s wish to avoid imposition and/or otherwise strategically manipulate the addressee. Despite these theoretical predictions, a number of studies have documented the solidarity-building and identity-constituting functions of indirectness. Bringing these studies together, Terkourafi 2014 proposed an expanded view of the functions of indirect speech, which crucially emphasizes the role of the addressee and the importance of network ties. This article focuses on what happens when such network ties become loosened, as a result of processes of urbanization and globalization. Drawing on examples from African American English and Chinese, it is argued that these processes produce a need for increased explicitness, which drives speakers (and listeners) away from indirectness. This claim is further supported diachronically, by changes in British English politeness that coincide with the rise of the individual Self. These empirical findings have implications for im/politeness theorizing and theory-building more generally, calling attention to how the socio-historical context of our research necessarily influences the theories we end up building.
Russian Journal of Linguistics. 2019;23(4):930-949
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Politeness Pressure on Grammar: The Case of First and Second Person Pronouns and Address Terms in Korean

Rhee S.


Grammar is constantly emergent as an aggregate whole of discourse tendencies that are present in language use between interlocutors, hence the notion ‘emergent grammar’ (Hopper 1987). These tendencies are formed by diverse discursive needs, including the need to signal politeness, which is assumed to be universal (Brown and Levinson 1987). This need is particularly important in Korean, in which politeness is highly grammaticalized, i.e., the politeness marking is not only a pragmatic but grammatical issue. The two areas where the speaker’s decision is most clearly visible are the choice of sentence-enders, modulated up to six levels, and the choice of personal reference, e.g., pronouns and address terms. This study is a diachronic investigation of the personal reference system in Korean, exploring the effect of pressure of politeness. Despite the high level of grammaticalization of politeness marking, the personal reference system is a highly unstable paradigm, i.e., it has not undergone a high level of ‘paradigmaticization’ (Lehmann 1995 [1982]). Since personal reference terms are highly variable, the speakers often avoid using them for fear of the addressee perceiving that the choice is of insufficient honorification or that the very act of using reference terms is impolite when they could be omitted. Furthermore, personal reference terms with the [+Honorific] feature constantly deteriorate through frequent use. Therefore, a look into Korean reference terms shows that [+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.
Russian Journal of Linguistics. 2019;23(4):950-974
pages 950-974 views

“Pedagogical” Agression in Russian Everyday Communication

Bragina N.G., Sharonov I.A.


The article is devoted to speakers’ responses to inappropriate communicative behavior in Russian everyday communication. The analytic part of the article presents a short review of both classical and modern works on (im)politeness theories, which show that communicative strategies in response to the wrong communicative behavior in a particular context have not been investigated and described sufficiently in modern Politeness theories, investigating face-aggravating communication. The aim of this work is to describe a strategy that we define as “pedagogical aggression”, which manifests itself in a variation of impolite answers whose purpose is to “punish” the interlocutor for a communicative error. This strategy is in contrast to what we call “empathy” strategy since - instead of trying to neutralize the interlocutor’s error - “pedagogical aggression” emphasizes it by “teaching” the addressee to be more considerate in adhering to norms. The material for the research was collected in the Russian National Corpus and analysed by drawing on discourse analysis, pragmatics and (im)politeness theories. The study showed that “pedagogical aggression” is realized in three face-aggravating communicative tactics: (1) a pseudo-question (rhetorical question or a question to the assumptions of an interlocutor), 2) mocking citations from interlocutor’s speech, 3) rhymed pseudo-answers. The last tactic was given special attention in the study. We grouped the pseudo-answers in four types corresponding to typical discourse situation. This tactic is based on an unspoken rule, according to which it is permissible to point out in a playful way a communicative error made by the interlocutor. In response to an inappropriate question with this or that interrogative pronoun (where, who, why, etc.), the speaker can allow himself or herself to “punish” the interlocutor with a pseudo-answer, so that he or she will be more careful, more attentive and will not repeat such mistakes. The considered tactic of rhymed pseudo-response is rooted in language with the help of formulaic phrases. The research contributes to (im)politeness theory and the study of communicative interaction.
Russian Journal of Linguistics. 2019;23(4):975-993
pages 975-993 views

Formal and Informal Russian Invitation: Context and Politeness Strategies

Vlasyan G.R., Kozhukhova I.V.


Invitation is a speech act which is perceived differently across cultures. Understanding the pragmatics of invitation requires knowledge of the notion of politeness and politeness strategies which comprise culture specific elements. Politeness is realized in various discourses, social contexts and speech acts. The purpose of the study is to identify politeness strategies in Russian invitation in formal and informal contexts in three age groups and see how they correspond to the understanding of politeness in Russian communicative culture. The empirical data for the study were obtained through discourse completion tests with 101 participants (issuers of the invitation) of different age and social status as well as through ethnographic observation. The research is based on Discourse Analysis and Politeness Theory (Brown & Levinson 1987; Larina2009, 2015; Locher 2006, 2013; Leech 2014; Mills 2003, 2017; Sifianou 1992; Terkourafi &Kadar 2017; Watts 2003, among others). We used discourse analysis to analyze the impact of the social and cultural context on the performance of invitation, the descriptive method which was used to analyze the pragmatic functions of invitation, as well as contextual interpretation of this speech act and the method of quantitative data processing. The study revealed some differences between a formal and informal invitation concerning politeness strategies and linguistic means of its expression. It also showed that in Russian culture issuing an invitation is not perceived as a face threatening speech act; in the analysed social contexts the preference is given to direct invitation, and the inviter’s imposition, as a rule, is perceived positively. The results contribute to a better understanding of Russian politeness and communicative style and can be implemented in intercultural pragmatics, intercultural communication and SL teaching.
Russian Journal of Linguistics. 2019;23(4):994-1013
pages 994-1013 views

Understandings of Impoliteness in the Greek Context

Tzanne A., Sifianou M.


Interest in non-academic ways of understanding of im/politeness has so far been evident primarily in analyses of the sequential development of real-life interactions. However, understandings of im/politeness can be found in other sources such as related articles in on-line newspapers and their ensuing comments. The main aim of this paper is to contribute to this rather neglected area in im/politeness research, thus placing emphasis on the underexplored societal rather than individual level of im/politeness. The data to be investigated comes from two on-line articles and the comments they received. The articles appeared in a popular Greek free press on-line newspaper, LIFO, in 2014 and 2017 and were written by the same journalist. Both articles and ensuing comments express lay understandings of impoliteness and are discussed in the paper in terms of van Dijk’s (1998, 2006a, b) ideological discourse analysis and ‘ideological square’ that revolves around positive self-presentation and negative other-presentation. In exploring understandings of impoliteness in this context, we identified two emerging social identities, those of ‘polite’ and ‘impolite citizen’, dynamically co-constructed as binary opposites by the journalist and posters involved. Despite the fact that on-line newspaper articles and their accompanying comments reflect stereotypical thinking, they also depict pervasive views and are worth exploring because they concern the societal level of im/politeness.

Russian Journal of Linguistics. 2019;23(4):1014-1038
pages 1014-1038 views

Divine impoliteness: How Arabs negotiate Islamic moral order on Twitter

Zidjaly N.A.


In this paper, I examine impoliteness-oriented discourse on Arabic Twitter as a resource for the negotiation of Islamic moral order. I do so by highlighting the responses Arabs post in reaction to a tweet which attacks Islamic cultural face. As the triggering act poses an indirect request to change an authoritative Islamic practice deemed immoral by the instigator of the tweet, sundry responses were generated to repair the damaged collective face through keeping intact or arguing against the questionable moral order. The main strategy I identify as a response to the professed face-attack is divine (im)politeness, intertextually referencing religious texts in favor of (or against) the existing (im)moral order. The rites of moral aggression also draw upon questions, provocation, personal attacks and projection of Islamic behavior onto unaddressed third parties (e.g., Christians and Hindus). The findings capture one moment of a historic shift in Islamic moral order and the role that impoliteness plays in digital Arabic contexts.
Russian Journal of Linguistics. 2019;23(4):1039-1064
pages 1039-1064 views

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

Fernández-Amaya L.


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).
Russian Journal of Linguistics. 2019;23(4):1065-1087
pages 1065-1087 views

Relational Work in Airbnb reviews

Hernández-López M.d.


Peer-to-peer businesses such as Airbnb have recently given rise to new travel trends in which electronic word of mouth, in the form of online consumer reviews (OCRs, henceforth), is the main trust mechanism with a threefold purpose: to make informed decisions regarding accommodation, gain good reputation, and manage the relational component as continuity from the offline stage of the experience. In the light of the above, this study will analyse 120 reviews (60 positive and 60 negative) written by Airbnb travellers and linked to three different emotional orientations: delighted/satisfied, ambivalent/neutral, and dissatisfied/disappointed. Taking an illocutionary and stylistic domain perspective, the reviews will be examined to understand how users manage relational work (Watts 1989, Locher and Watts 2005, Locher 2006, Locher and Watts 2008), and to ascertain what is likely to be the ‘norm’ in this particular genre (i.e., OCRs) and for the particular Virtual Community of Practice (VCoP, henceforth) (i.e., guests and hosts interacting in Airbnb). The results show that being polite seems to be the norm (hence being politic), while being rude or offensive is the exception. The data also suggest that users tend to be politic/polite through very enthusiastic and friendly messages, while dissatisfaction and ambivalence are shown by means of a process of depersonalisation, with a tone based on formality and distancing from the host. Information is also obtained from what is not said, which creates the implicature of dissatisfaction. This seems to be implicitly understood by the members of this VCoP, who seem to perceive sociability as pivotal to assess their experience.

Russian Journal of Linguistics. 2019;23(4):1088-1108
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