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On Apologising in Negative and Positive Politeness Cultures

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Abstract

This book investigates how speakers of English, Polish and Russian deal with offensive situations. It reveals culture-specific perceptions of what counts as an apology and what constitutes politeness. It offers a critical discussion of Brown and Levinson's theory and provides counterevidence to the correlation between indirectness and politeness underlying their theory. Their theory is applied to two languages that rely less heavily on indirectness in conveying politeness than does English, and to a speech act that does not become more polite through indirectness. An analysis of the face considerations involved in apologising shows that in contrast to disarming apologies, remedial apologies are mainly directed towards positive face needs, which are crucial for the restoration of social equilibrium and maintenance of relationships. The data show that while English apologies are characterised by a relatively strong focus on both interlocutors’ negative face, Polish apologies display a particular concern for positive face. For Russian speakers, in contrast, apologies seem to involve a lower degree of face threat than they do in the other two languages.

Subjects: Sociolinguistics and Dialectology; Discourse studies; Slavic linguistics; Pragmatics

  • Affiliations: 1: University of Portsmouth

References

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