Language and Cultural Values: Adventures in applied ethnolinguistics
  • ISSN 2214-3157
  • E-ISSN: 2214-3165
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The Danish word lige [ˈliːə] is a highly culture-specific discourse particle. English translations sometimes render it as “please,” but this kind of functional translation is motivated solely by the expectation that, in English, one has to ‘say please’. In the Danish universe of meaning, there is in fact no direct equivalent of anything like English please, German bitte, or similar constructs in other European languages. Consequently, Danish speakers cannot ‘say please’, and Danish children cannot ‘say the magic word’. However, lige is in its own way a magic word, performing a different kind of pragmatic magic that has almost been left unstudied because it does not correlate well with any of the major Anglo-international research questions such as “how to express politeness” or “how to make a request.” This paper analyzes the semantics of lige in order to shed light on the peculiarities of Danish ethnopragmatics. It is demonstrated not only that Danish lige does a different semantic job than English please, but also that please-based and lige-based interactions are bound to different interpretations of social life and interpersonal relations, and reflect differing cultural values.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): Danish; discourse particles; ethnopragmatics; lige; pedagogical scripts; please
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