PRAGMATIC POLITENESS AND INTERACTION
A. Background of Study
As human being we need to do the interaction with other people. Every interaction will has different sense depend on the person who do it. As a human we also are able to separate fromthe socialinteraction. Especially when we talk about linguistic interaction. We will know if there are many factors that talk about it. To get the sense of interaction we should look at various factors which relate to social distance and closeness. Every interaction that people do usually got the impact from their culture and behavior. So when we do the interaction with them. We will think how to show our politeness to our listener/ partner. To show it we usually adapted from their culture and behavior. Pragmatic is the one of the study that talk about it especially in the politeness and interaction.
People are not born polite but acquire it from learning. When we are communicating with each other consciously or unconsciously, cultural backgrounds affect our behaviors and reactions. People live in a certain cultural environment, and his/her behaviors are featured by his/her cultures. In order to avoid cultural misunderstandings which will lead to communication failure, people should abide by a certain courtesy criteria. The American philosopher and logician, Paul Grice pointed out that in conversation, the participants must first of all be willing to cooperate; otherwise, it would not be possible for them to carry on the talk. In another hand, I will talk it more in this paper because when we learn to get sense of interaction we will examine about Politeness and Interaction too.
B. Problem of Study
Based on the above background, the problem in this study can be formulated as follows.
1. What is the definition of Politeness and Interaction?
2. What is the Politeness Principle?
A. Definition of Politeness and interaction
Politeness theory is the theory that accounts for the redressing of the affronts to face posed by face-threatening acts to addressees. First formulated in 1978 by Penelope Brown and Stephen Levinson, politeness theory has since expanded academia’s perception of politeness. Politeness is the expression of the speakers’ intention to mitigate face threats carried by certain face threatening acts toward another (Mills, 2003, p. 6). Another definition is “a battery of social skills whose goal is to ensure everyone feels affirmed in a social interaction”. Being polite therefore consists of attempting to save face for another.
According to dictionary.com, politeness is defined as “showing good manners towards others” or as being “refined or cultured” (2011); however, in the field of linguistics the concept of politeness is much more complex. This website outlines some of the theorists who have made major contributions to the development of politeness theory and its role in discourse. We found that Lakoff, Leech and Brown and Levinson were some of the earliest linguists to study politeness. Since then, many other theorists have either built on their ideas and principles or tried to disprove them. Fraser and Nolen and Scollon and Scollon propose a more social interactional perspective on politeness. Eelen and Watts, on the other hand, differ from previous theorists by dividing politeness into two separate definitions and by stressing the differences within politeness due to culture.
According to Brown and Levinson (1987) everyone has self-public image which has relation to emotional and social sense of self and expects everyone else to recognize.Politeness refers to the common notion of the term, that is, the way politeness manifests itself in communicative interaction. Politeness is one of the constraints of human interaction, whose purpose is to consider other`s feelings, establish levels of mutual comfort, and promote rapport. Hill et al. (1986: 282). Politeness is what we think is appropriate behaviour in particular situations in an attempt to achieve and maintain successful social relationships with others (Lakoff 1972: 910).
According to To Watts (2003:39) politeness can be identified as follows:
1. Politeness is the natural attribute of a ‘good’ character.
2. Politeness is the ability to please others through one’s external actions .
3. Politeness is the ideal union between the character of an individual and his external actions .
Leech defines politeness as a type of behaviour that allows the participants to engage in a social interaction in an atmosphere of relative harmony. In stating his maxims Leech uses his own terms for two kinds of illocutionary acts. He calls representatives “assertives”, and calls directives “impositives”. According to Yule politeness is the awareness of another person face. The word “face” in this case refers to the public self-inage of a person. The examples of politness:
· A student to teacher
Student : Excuse me Mr. Buckingham, but can I talk to you for a minute?
· Friend to friend
Hey Bucky, got a minute?
politeness = the means empoyed to show awareness of another person’s face,
showing awareness for a socially distant person’s face respect, deference showing awareness for a socially close person’s face friendliness, solidarity
B. The Approches of Politeness
1. Leech’s (1983) Maxims of Politeness
a. Tact maxim
The tact maxim is minimizing cost to other and maximizing benefit to other. This maxim is applied in Searle’s speech act, commissives and directives called by Leech as impositives. Commissives is found in utterances that express speaker’s intention in the future action. Then, Directives/ impositives are expressions that influence the hearer to do action. The example of the tact maxim is as follows:
“Won‘t you sit down?”
“Could I interrupt you for half a second – what was the website address?”
It is the directive/ impositive utterance. This utterance is spoken to ask the hearer sitting down. The speaker uses indirect utterance to be more polite and minimizing cost to the hearer. This utterance implies that sitting down is benefit to the hearer.
The tact maxim states: ‘Minimize the expression of beliefs which imply cost to other; maximize the expression of beliefs which imply benefit to other.’ The first part of this maxim fits in with Brown and Levinson‘s negative politeness strategy of minimising the imposition, and the second part reflects the positive politeness strategy of attending to the hearer’s interests, wants, and needs:
Could I interrupt you for a second?
If I could just clarify this then.
b. Generosity maxim
The generosity maxim states to minimizing benefit to self and maximizing cost to self. Like tact maxim, the generosity maxim occurs in commissives and directives/ impositives. Unlike the tact maxim, the maxim of generosity focuses on the speaker, and says that others should be put first instead of the self. This maxim is centered to self, while the tact maxim is to other. The example will be illustrated as follows:
You relax and let me do the dishes.
You must come and have dinner with us.
maximize cost/minimize benefit to yourself
Could I copy the web address?
It is an advice utterance that is involved in directive illocutionary act. In this case the speaker implies that cost of the utterance is to his self. Meanwhile, the utterance implies that benefit is for the hearer.
c. Approbation maxim
The approbation maxim requires to minimizing dispraise of other and maximizing praise of other. This maxim instructs to avoid saying unpleasant things about others and especially about the hearer. This maxim occurs in assertives/ representatives and expressives. Assertives/ representatives are utterances that express the true propositional. Meanwhile, expressive are utterances that show the speaker feeling. The example is sampled below.
A: “The performance was great!”
B: “Yes, wasn’t it!”
minimize dispraise/maximize praise of the other person
Mary you’re always so efficient – do you have copy of that web address?
The Approbation maxim states: ‘Minimize the expression of beliefs which express dispraise of other; maximize the expression of beliefs which express approval of other.’ It is preferred to praise others and if this is impossible, to sidestep the issue, to give some sort of minimal response (possibly through the use of euphemisms), or to remain silent. The first part of the maxim avoids disagreement; the second part intends to make other people feel good by showing solidarity.
-I heard you singing at the karaoke last night. It sounded like you were enjoying yourself!
-Gideon, I know you’re a genius – would you know how to solve this math problem here?
In the example, A gives a good comment about the performance. He talks the pleasant thing about other. This expression is a congratulation utterance that maximizes praise of other. Thus this utterance is included the approbation maxim.
d. Modesty maxim
In the modesty maxim, the participants must minimize praise of self and maximize dispraise of self. This maxim is applied in assertives/ representatives and expressives like the approbation maxim. Both the approbation maxim and the modesty maxim concern to the degree of good or bad evaluation of other or self that is uttered by the speaker. The approbation maxim is exampled by courtesy of congratulation. On other hand, the modesty maxim usually occurs in apologies. The sample of the modesty maxim is below.
1. “Please accept this small gift as prize of your achievement.”
2. “Oh, I’m so stupid – I didn’t make a note of our lecture! Did you?”
maximize dispraise/minimize praise of yourself
Oh I’m so stupid – I didn’t make a not of that web address. Did you?
In this case, the utterance above is categorized as the modesty maxim because the speaker maximizes dispraise of himself. The speaker notices his utterance by using “small gift”.
e. Agreement maxim
In the agreement maxim, there is tendency to maximize agreement between self and other people and minimize disagreement between self and other. The disagreement, in this maxim, usually is expressed by regret or partial agreement. ‘ It is in line with Brown and Levinson‘s positive politeness strategies of ‘seek agreement’ and ‘avoid disagreement,’ to which they attach great importance. However, it is not being claimed that people totally avoid disagreement. It is simply observed that they are much more direct in expressing agreement, rather than disagreement. This maxim occurs in assertives/ representatives illocutionary act. There example will be illustrated below.
A: “English is a difficult language to learn.”
B: “True, but the grammar is quite easy.”
A: I don’t want my daughter to do this, I want her to do that.
B: Yes, but ma’am, I thought we resolved this already on your last visit.
minimize disagreement/maximize agreement between self and other
Yes, of course you’re right, but your decision might make her very unhappy
From the example, B actually does not agree that all part of English language difficult to learn. He does not express his disagreement strongly to be more polite. The polite answer will influence the effect of the hearer. In this case, B’s answer minimize his disagreement using partial agreement, “true, but…”.
f. Sympathy maxim
The sympathy maxim explains to minimize antipathy between self and other and maximize sympathy between self and other. In this case, the achievement being reached by other must be congratulated. On other hand, the calamity happens to other, must be given sympathy or condolences. This maxim is applicable in assertives/ representatives. The example is as follows. This includes a small group of speech acts such as congratulation, commiseration, and expressing condolences – all of which is in accordance with Brown and Levinson’s positive politeness strategy of attending to the hearer’s interests, wants, and needs.
1. “I’m terribly sorry to hear about your father.”
2. I am sorry to hear about your father.
minimize antipathy/maximize sympathy between self and other
I was very sorry to hear about your father’s death
It is a condolence expression which is expressed the sympathy for misfortune. This utterance is uttered when the hearer gets calamity of father’s died or sick. This expression shows the solidarity between the speaker and the hearer.
Politeness Principle: Table
A description of the six maxims of the politeness principle as they are formulated by Leech, are indicated below.
1. The tact maxim
In impositives and commisives
The speaker minimizes the cost (and correspondingly maximizes the benefit) to the listener .
2. The generosity maxim
In impositives and commissives.
The speaker minimizes the benefit (and correspondingly maximizes the cost) to herself.
3. The approbation maxim
In expressives and assertives.
The speaker minimizes dispraise (and correspondingly maximizes praise) of the listener.
4. The modesty maxim.
In expressives and assertives.
The speaker minimizes praise (and correspondingly maximizes dispraise) of herself.
5. The agreement maxim.
The speaker minimizes disagreement (and correspondingly maximizes agreement) between herself and the listener.
6. The sympathy maxim.
The speaker minimizes antipathy (and correspondingly maximizes sympathy) between herself and the listener.
Leech’s theory of politeness also establishes five scales, which are used for determining how the maxims should be used and balanced.
1. The Cost Benefit Scale: weighs the costs and benefits that an act will have on the speaker and the audience.
2. Optionality Scale: weighs how much choice the goals of the speaker allow the audience.
3. Indirectness Scale: weighs how hard the audience must work to understand the speaker.
4. Authority Scale: weighs the right for the speaker to impose their ideas onto the audience.
5. Social Distance Scale: weighs the degree of familiarity between the speaker and audience (Fraser, 1990).
According to Leech, different situations call for different degrees of politeness. He outlines four main situations, which call for politeness.
1. Competitive: the speech goal competes with the social goal. In this situation politeness is viewed as being negative. For example, giving an order.
2. Convivial: the speech goal matches the social goal. In this situation politeness is viewed as being positive. For example, thanking someone.
3. Collaborative: the speech goal is indifferent the social goal. For example, making an announcement.
4. Conflictive: the speech goal conflicts with the social goal. For example, making an accusation (Fraser, 1990).
2. Brown and Levinson’s Politeness Theory
Perhaps the most thorough treatment of the concept of politeness is that of Penelope Brown and Stephen Levinson, which was first published in 1978 and then reissued, with a long introduction, in 1987. In their model, politeness is defined as redressive action taken to counter-balance the disruptive effect of face-threatening acts (FTAs).FTAs usually speaker says something that represents a threat to another individual’s.
Brown and Levinson developed a theory of politeness that drew on Goffman’s idea of face and expanded upon Lakoff’s rules of politeness. According to Brown and Levinson there are two kinds of face, which reflect two different desires present in every interaction (Johnstone, 2008).
a. Negative Face (desire to express one’s ideas without resistance)
Negative face the need to be independent, to have freedom of action, and not to be imposed on by others. Negative face need to be independentand free.negative face refers to the want of every competent adult member that his actions be unimpeded by others For the example:
I’m sorry to bother you.
I know you’re busy.
b. Positive Face (desire to have one’s contributions approved of)
Positive face is the need to be accepted, even liked, by others, to be treated as a member of the same group, and to know that his or her wants are shared by others. Positive face need to be connected and a member of the group. For theb examples:
· Let’s do it together.
· You and I have the same problems.
· Your friend asks for a ride to the airport.
· Positive face needs: You think, I better take him because I want him to like me, and I want the reputation of being a reliable person (Goffman: 1967).In conclusion, we can say that negative face is the need to be independent and positive face is the need to be connected.
Brown and Levinson theorize that face must be continually monitored during a conversation because it is vulnerable. During a conversation face can be lost, maintained or enhanced. It is important to not only maintain one’s own face but also the face of others (Fraser, 1990). Interlocutors must be able to “save face” when they are confronted with a “face-threatening act” (FTA), which threatens the faces of the addressees (Johnstone, 2008). Fraser (1990) outlines the four potential face-threatening acts, proposed by Brown and Levinson, as follows.
1. Acts which threaten the audience’s negative face: ordering, advising, threatening, warning
2. Acts which threaten the audience’s positive face: complaining, criticizing, disagreeing, raising taboo topics
3. Acts which threaten speaker’s negative face: accepting an offer, accepting thanks, promising unwillingly
4. Acts which threaten speaker’s positive face: apologizing, accepting compliments and confessing
Brown and Levinson then propose possible strategies that interlocutors can use to deal with face threatening acts. “Politeness Theory” (2011) outlines them as follows.
1. Bald On-record politeness: This strategy is used in situations where people know each other well or in a situation of urgency. In these instances maintaining face is not the first priority or main goal of a conversation. A person may shout, “watch out” if they see someone is in danger or a mother may tell her son to “eat your peas” at supper. This strategy does not try to preserve face, but can be used to threaten it if taken out of context. E.g:
Task oriented: Give me those!
Request: Put your jacket away.
Alerting: Turn your lights on! (while driving)
Brown and Levinson outline various cases in which one might use the bald on-record strategy, including:
· Instances in which threat minimizing does not occur
· Great urgency or desperation
· Speaking as if great efficiency is necessary
Hear me out:…
Pass me the hammer.
· Little or no desire to maintain someone’s face
Don’t forget to clean the blinds!
· Doing the face-threatening act is in the interest of the hearer
Your headlights are on!
· Instances in which the threat is minimized implicitly
Leave it, I’ll clean up later.
2. Off-record: This strategy is more indirect. The speaker does not impose on the hearer. As a result, face is not directly threatened. This strategy often requires the hearer to interpret what the speaker is saying. Off-record indirect strategies take some of the pressure off. You are trying to avoid the direct FTA of asking for a beer. You would rather it be offered to you once your hearer sees that you want one. e.g (I’t so hot, it makes you really thirsty)
Example of the off-record (indirect)
Give hints: It’s a bit cold in here.
Be vague: Perhaps someone should open the window. Be sarcastic, or joking: Yeah, it’s really hot here.
For example, a speaker using the indirect strategy might merely say “wow, it’s getting cold in here” insinuating that it would be nice if the listener would get up and turn up the thermostat without directly asking the listener to do so
3. Positive Politeness: This strategy tries to minimize the threat to the audience’s positive face. This can be done by attending to the audience’s needs, invoking equality and feelings of belonging to the group, hedging or indirectness, avoiding disagreement, using humor and optimism and making offers and promises. The positive politeness strategy shows you recognize that your hearer has a face to be respected. It also confirms that the relationship is friendly and expresses group reciprocity. E.g (Is it ok for me to have a beer?)
The examples of Positive Politeness
Attend to the hearer: You must be hungry, it’s a long time since breakfast. How about some lunch?
Avoid disagreement: A: What is she, small? B: Yes, yes, she’s small, smallish, um, not really small but certainly not very big.
Assume agreement: So when are you coming to see us?
Hedge opinion: You really should sort of try harder.
Examples from Brown and Levinson:
- Attend to H’s interests, needs, wants
You look sad. Can I do anything?
- Use solidarity in-group identity markers
Heh, mate, can you lend me a dollar?
- Be optimistic
I’ll just come along, if you don’t mind.
- Include both speaker (S) and hearer (H) in activity
If we help each other, I guess, we’ll both sink or swim in this course.
- Offer or promise
If you wash the dishes, I’ll vacuum the floor.
- Exaggerate interest in H and his interests
That’s a nice haircut you got; where did you get it?
- Avoid Disagreement
Yes, it’s rather long; not short certainly.
Wow, that’s a whopper!
4. Negative Politeness: This strategy tries to minimize threats to the audience’s negative face. An example of when negative politeness would be used is when the speaker requires something from the audience, but wants to maintain the audience’s right to refuse. This can be done by being indirect, using hedges or questions, minimizing imposition and apologizing. The negative politeness strategy recognizes the hearer’s face. but it also admits that you are in some way imposing on him/her. E.g (I don’t want to bother you but, would it be possible for me to have a beer?). Examples from Brown and Levinson include:
- Be indirect
Would you know where Oxford Street is?
- Use hedges or questions
Perhaps, he might have taken it, maybe.
Could you please pass the rice?
- Be pessimistic
You couldn’t find your way to lending me a thousand dollars, could you?
So I suppose some help is out of the question, then?
- Minimize the imposition
It’s not too much out of your way, just a couple of blocks.
- Use obviating structures, like nominalizations, passives, or statements of general rules
I hope offense will not be taken.
Visitors sign the ledger.
Spitting will not be tolerated.
I’m sorry; it’s a lot to ask, but can you lend me a thousand dollars?
- Use plural pronouns
We regret to inform you.
Clarrie : So I said to him, forget your books for one night, throw a party next weekend.
Helen : A party at number 30! What will Dorothy say about that?
Clarrie : Well, what she doesn’t know won’t hurt her. Of course, I’ll be keeping my eye on things, and (SIGNAL OF OPENING) that brings me to my next problem. (EXPLAIN PROBLEM) You see, these young people, they don’t want an old codger like me poking my nose in, so I’ll make myself scarce, but I still need to be closer to hand, you see. So, (ASK FAVOR) I was wondering, would it be all right if I came over here on the night? What d’you reckon?
Helen : Oh, Clarrie, I…
Clarrie : Oh (MINIMIZATION) I’d be no bother. (REINFORCE EXPLANATION) It’d mean a heck of a lot to those kids.
Helen : All right.
Clarrie: (THANK WITH BOOST) I knew you’d say yes. You’re an angel, Helen.
Helen : Ha! (laughs)
Negative politeness can take the form of:
· Hedging: Er, could you, er, perhaps, close the, um , window?
· Pessimism: I don’t suppose you could close the window, could you?
· Apologizing: I’m terribly sorry to disturb you, but could you close the window?
· Indicating deference: Excuse me, sir, would you mind if I asked you to close the window?
· Impersonalizing: The management requires all windows to be closed.
The example of Negative Politeness
Be indirect: I’m looking for a pen.
Request forgiveness: You must forgive me but…. Could I borrow your pen?
Minimize imposition: I just wanted to ask you if I could use your pe.
Pluralize the person responsible: We forgot to tell you that you needed to buy your plane ticket by yesterday.
Although Brown and Levinson acknowledge that what constitutes positive and negative face differs across cultures, they would agree with Lakoff that the concept of face is universal (Johnstone, 2008).
The use of positive politeness forms solidarity strategy
(used more by groups than individuals)
includes personal information, nicknames, even abusive terms (esp. among males), shared dialect/slang expressions, inclusive terms (‘we’, ‘let’s’ etc.)
Come on, let’s go to the party. Everyone will be there. We’ll have fun.
The use of negative politeness forms deference strategy
formal politeness, more impersonal, can include expressions that refer to neither the
speaker nor the hearer, emphasizing hearer’s and speaker’s independence, no personal claims
There’s going to be a party, if you can make it. It will be fun.
To avoid risk for the another person (i.e. face threatening) can be achieved by providing an
opportunity for the other person to halt the potentially risky act rather than simply making a request, speakers will produce a pre-request
A: Are you busy? (= pre-request)
B: Not really (= go ahead)
A: Check over this memo (= request)
B: Okay (= accept)
advantage that hearer can decide to stop the pre-request or go ahead
A: Are you busy? (= pre-request)
B: Oh, sorry. (= stop)
This response allows the speaker to avoid making a request that cannot be granted
However, it is also possible to treat pre-requests as as requests and respond to them.
A: Do you have a spare pen?
B: Here (hands over the pen)
A: Do you mind if I use you phone?
B: Yeah, sure.
Not to be interpreted literally as an answer to the pre-request, but to the unstated request.
Other uses of pre-sequences
A: What are you doing this Friday? (= pre-invitation)
B: Hmm, nothing so far. (= go ahead)
A: Come over for dinner. (= invitation)
B: Ahm I’d like that. (= accept)
A: Are you doing anything later? (= pre-invitation)
B: Oh yeah. Busy, busy, busy. (= stop)
A: Oh, okay (= stop)
pre-announcements(often by children):
A: Mom, guess what happened? (= pre-announcement)
A: Mom, you know what? (= pre-annoucement)
B: Not right now, sweetie. I’m busy. (= stop)
(No ‘go ahead’, silence should be interpreted as ‘stop‘)
Identify the given pre-sequences
1. A: Hey, I was just ringing up to ask if you were going to Jim’s party
B: Yes I thought you might
A: Heh heh pre-request
B: Yey, do you need a ride?
A: Yeah thanks
2. A: Do you have hot chocolate?
B: mmhmm pre-request
A: Can I have hot chocolate with whipped cream?
3. A: What’cha doin’?
B: Nothin’ pre-invitation
A: Wanna drink?
4. A: I forgot to tell you the two best things that happened to me today.
B: Oh cool – what were thy? pre-announcement
A: I got a B+ on my math test … and Jenny invited me to her party
3. Robin Lakoff Theory
Lakoff was one of the first linguists to study politeness and gave birth to the notion that politeness is an important aspect of interaction that needs to be studied. Many theorists following Lakoff have focused on either expanding on his maxims or contesting them. Lakoff’s theory of politeness suggests that people follow a certain set of rules when they interact with each other, which prevent interaction from breaking down (Johnstone, 2008). Lakoff proposes that there are two rules of politeness, which aim at minimizing conflict in an interaction. As outlined in “Politeness Theory” (2011), Lakoff’s rules are as follows.
1. Be clear (based on Grice’s Cooperative Principle Maxims)
1. Maxim of Quantity
i. Sub maxim: state as much information as is needed in the conversation but not more.
2. Maxim of Quality
i. Only say what you believe to be true based on your own knowledge and evidence.
3. Maxim of Relations (be relevant)
4. Maxims of Manner
i. Be concise, avoid confusing, ambiguous statements
2. Be polite
1. Don’t impose
2. Give options
3. Make others feel good
These subsets of “Be Polite” have also been referred to as the maxim of formality or distance, the maxim of hesitancy or deference and the maxim of equality or camaraderie (Johnstone, 2008). Lakoff suggests that interlocutors must try to find a balance between these three maxims because they cannot all be maximized at the same time. When the balance of these three maxims is thrown off people perceive behavior or speech to be inappropriate or impolite (2008). Lakoff’s theory of politeness considers politeness to be universal (Terkourafi, n.d.). This is an idea that will be contested and debated by later theorists.
 In his Principles of Pragmatics (London: Longman, 1983): see especially chapters 5 and 6
 Again, following the practice above, the speaker is treated as female, and the listener as male.
 Carter, Ronald and McCarthy, Michael. 1994. Language as Discourse- Perspectives for Language Teaching. Longman Publishing, New York. ISBN 10 0-582-084245