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Sebastian Thielke

Matrikel-Nr.: 33 49 00
Fleischerstr. 16
17489 Greifswald
sebastian.thielke@googlemail.com
B.A. Anglistik/ Amerikanistik 10. Semester

Social Media and Politeness


positive-politeness in virtual interaction

B.A. Specialization Pragmatics SS 2011

Frau Prof. Dr. Koll-Stobbe


Table of content

1. Preface ...................................................................................................................... 4
2. Web 2.0, Social Media and Social Networks ............................................................ 6
2.1 Web 2.0 ...............................................................................................................7
2.2 Social Media ........................................................................................................7
2.2.1 Blogs............................................................................................................ 8
2.2.2 Microblogs .................................................................................................. 8
2.2.3 Wikis ........................................................................................................... 9
2.2.4 Instant Messaging....................................................................................... 9
2.2.4.1 Facebook ............................................................................................... 10
2.2.4.2 Google Plus ........................................................................................... 11
2.3 Participants within the networks ......................................................................12
2.3.1 Purpose of conversations ......................................................................... 12
2.3.2 Classification of conversation according to Searls illocutionary speech
acts ............................................................................................................ 12
3. Politeness................................................................................................................ 14
3.1 Geoffrey Leech and politeness .........................................................................15
3.2 Goffman, Brown and Levinson and politeness .................................................16
3.3 Combination of the two approaches ................................................................17
4. Politeness patterns within conversations in Social Media networks ..................... 17
4.1 Type of conversation ........................................................................................18
4.2 Positive Politeness pattern of conversation starter .........................................18
4.3 Positive politeness pattern of other participants .............................................19
4.3.1 Indicators of friendliness .......................................................................... 19
4.3.2 Indicators of approval............................................................................... 20
5. Research work ........................................................................................................ 21
5.1 Text samples .....................................................................................................21
5.2 Frequency measurement ..................................................................................21
5.3 Results of text sample examination..................................................................22
6. Conclusion .............................................................................................................. 25

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List of illustrations
Graph 1- text sample categories ............................................................................. 22
Graph 2- relation of posts vs. participants .............................................................. 23
Graph 3- relation of friendliness vs. approval ......................................................... 24

List of abbreviations
CP Cooperative Principle

CMC Computer mediated communication

PP Politeness Principle

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1. Preface
“Never in the course of human events have we lived in a time where tools to
communicate … have been handed to us in such volumes, and for free.” (Klososky
dedication) By this Klososky made a statement about the current situation of our
instruments of communication. But not only have the numbers of instruments impact
on our communicative behavior. Also the style, the background and the way of use of
such instruments changes and influences our communication.

With the rise of the term Web 2.0 Tim O`Reilly and John Batelle coined the new way
how the Internet is used and how it appears to its users. At the beginning the Internet
was a collaborative tool for scientists to work together. It should be a simpler medium
to exchange ideas and knowledge. So it appears to the broader audience as the so
called Web 1.0. With this first step of the Internet humanity was confronted with such
exciting new communication features as the e-mail, the chat or even the forum. This
new ways of communication breached borders. They were able to ignore time and
location of the communicators and connect people of different cultures from different
countries. It stimulated the matter of communication in a way humanity never had
seen before. Communication was seen as borderless.

Even with such a mighty tool as the Internet we cannot neglect the fact that
conversation is a special phenomenon. (cf. Burkart 46ff.) According to the principle of
symbolic interaction the chance for successful act of communication is very small.
Communication is a process with so many presuppositions it seems not possible to
happen. To name a few of the conditions:

 You have to share a similar cultural background


 You have the intention to act with your communication
 Your communication partner should be able to share your symbolic pool of
words and meanings
 Your communication partner wants to interact with you
 Your conversation has a specific goal

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But humans developed some strategies to deal with these problems. They developed
behaviors and strategies that would make the act of communication more likely to
happen.

One of these principles is the principle of politeness. “Leech (1980: 19) defines it as
“strategic conflict avoidance” and the establishment and maintenance of comity, …”.
(Watts, Ide, Ehrlich xv) Politeness is used to reduce friction between the
communication participants.

With the appearance of the new form of the Internet, the Web 2.0, the variety of
communication tools has grown even larger than during the stage of Web 1.0. So the
users of the communication tools have to adopt their conversation patterns and
principles to the new ways of communication. Within their conversations they also use
the familiar concepts. So if someone communicates through a Social Media network or
a Microblog he also uses typical strategies to avoid friction and conflict and to make
the conversation more successful.

This paper gives a look at the conversation within the virtual media in regard to the use
of the principle of politeness. The principles of politeness referred in this paper are the
concept of face by Goffman, Brown and Levinson and the Politeness Principle (PP) of
Leech. The focus of this work is mainly on the positive face concept and how this
concept is used within the conversation in social networks. In this association the
following hypothesis will be examined by this paper:

The participants in conversations in Social Media networks are mainly using positive
politeness strategies. These strategies are positive strategies according to the
Politeness Principle of Leech and the positive face threatening act of Brown, Levinson
and Goffman.

The first part of this works gives a short overview of the terms Web 2.0 and Social
Media. It will introduce the reader to both terms and gives a sufficient definition of
these. Within the Social Media as a part of the Web 2.0 there are different tools for
communication. The first part gives a brief overview of the different tools and
illustrates the background of each tool. It also takes a look on the theme and style of

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conversation realized by a specific tool. This part shows what kind of conversation is
looked at by taking Social Network conversations as samples.

The second part of this paper makes an approach to the principle of Politeness in
regard to the concept of face by Goffman, Brown and Levinson and the Politeness
Principle by Leech. First of all the term politeness is described with common literature
definitions. This is followed by the description of the Politeness Principle by Leech.
Then the concept of face by Goffman will be introduced to the reader. The focus of this
work is the use of the concept of the positive face and linked acts within the
conversation. In connection with the different approaches of politeness this paper
defines a pattern of positive face threatening act and shows the appearance of such
acts within the conversation of a certain social network. The special pattern will be
used at text samples of one Social Media network and will show the usage of positive
face threatening acts by measuring the frequency of this special pattern.

The last part of this work summarizes the results of the research and gives a conclusion
in connection with the hypothesis.

2. Web 2.0, Social Media and Social Networks


Everyone has personal connotations with the terms Web 2.0, Social Media and Social
Networks. Everyone knows that the Internet at current is at the stage of the so called
Web 2.0. Everyone participates in the Social Media and using it for their purpose of
communication. In general communication via the Internet and every used tool within
it is called computer mediated communication. Therefore the computer and the
Internet have to fulfill the conditions of a medium. A medium is a location of
intermediation of content based on technological agents. (cf. Beck 28) Consequently
computers (location and technology) and the Internet (as mediator and content) are
media. Both technologies incorporate the four aspects of the media term. (cf. Beck 28)
According to Beck all four aspects of a medium are fulfilled by the computer and the
internet and therefore both are media and able to mediate content and information.

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2.1 Web 2.0

The term Web 2.0 was coined by Tim O`Reilly and John Batelle. By creating this term
both wanted to find a definition for the ongoing revolution and change of the Internet.
“Web 2.0 is the business revolution in the computer industry caused by the move to
the Internet as platform, and an attempt to understand the rules for success on that
new platform. Chief among those rules is this: Build applications that harness network
effects to get better the more people use them.” (O´Reilly,
http://radar.oreilly.com/2006/12/web-20-compact-definition-tryi.html)

Their definition shows that the Internet has changed in some way of its use. To be
precise the concept of the Web 1.0 was to receive information and building up first
attempts of new communication tools like the e-mail. The Web 2.0 was built on the
foundation of the Web 1.0 but emphasizes collaboration, communication and
knowledge collection. (cf. McAfee) The key term in this case is network. Tim O’Reilly
accentuates the network effect as an effect that is produced by a certain media to
attract more and more users by their numbers of users. If a realization within the
Internet has many users these applications attract even more users. (cf. McAfee)

So the term of the Web 2.0 can be seen as the revolutionary shift of Web 1.0 to a new
and more effective usage of the Internet as a whole. The meaning of the Web 2.0 can
be defined by more effective usage of conversation and collaboration and by using the
network effect.

With the change of the Internet towards Web 2.0 there also appear new terms
reffering to tools and realizations of communication media.

2.2 Social Media

The term Social Media collects all realizations of communication, collaboration and
networking within the Web 2.0. “This includes the use of Internet and mobile media
(videos, documents, photos, slide presentations, etc.) for sharing ideas, concepts,
messages, or entertainment. For each type of medium, there are services that
facilitate one-to-one or one-to-many communication; …” (Klososky 7)

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So every realization within the Web 2.0 is called Social Media. The following list shows
some examples of different kinds of Social Media. Each of its own has some special
features and some typical usage.
 Blogs
 Mikroblogs
 Wikis
 Instant Messaging
 Social Networks

In regard to the aim to show the usage of positive face threatening acts within social
networks the above mentioned forms of the Social Media are described in a very brief
way.

2.2.1 Blogs

„A “blog“(an abbreviated concatenation of “Web log“) is a Web site used regularly by


one or more authors to post articles on any subject deemed to be of interest to its
readers. A blog might be described as a diary, journal, or log book that has been made
accessible to a selected readership or the general public. It is often the case that blogs
allow comments on their posts from other users, and such users may also decide to
cross-link such blog posts with their own. The entirety of all blogs on the Internet is
often referred to as “the blogosphere.”” (Buhse/ Stamer 206) According to this
definition the blog has a certain aim to provide information to others. It would be very
interesting to look at the discussions within a blog. But as a matter of fact a blog is a
very specialized information media. Ongoing conversations are done most times by
specialists and the author himself. The blog as a Social Media has a very talkative
conversation but this conversation is too specialized for the matter of the research of
this work.

2.2.2 Microblogs
“Microblogging, a form of connection we have not encountered in the past, consists of
short bursts of user-generated content that allow people to stay current with known
contacts and to follow the thoughts of strangers who have interesting or relevant

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things to say.” (Klososky 10) The specialty of the Microblog is the limited usage of
words. Most Microblogs force their users to compose messages of only 140 letters.
Within such a communication tool there is merely little till no space for strategic use of
the principles of politeness.

2.2.3 Wikis
“The word “wiki” is taken from the Hawaiian language, where it means “fast.” Hosted
on an intranet or on the Internet, wikis are Web sites that can not only be read by their
users but also modified, expanded, and commented on – all in a manner of seconds.”
(Buhse, Stammer 209) This special case of Social Media deals with cooperative work
and knowledge exchange. The most popular but also controverse case of such a Social
Media is Wikipedia. People can work together and put together a kind of encyclopedia
for everyone to look up certain facts. Everyone who participates in creating an article
on Wikipedia could do this even with the lack of evidence or source. But it also has to
be mentioned that due to current occasions of popular plagiarisms the quality of
articles on the Wikipedia platform has risen. The crowd who is involved in the
development of such wikis tries to be serious and controls its results through
crowdsourcing. (cf. Howe) For analyzing politeness strategies like positive face
threatening Wikis are not likely to have typical conversations. The ongoing
communication is more about connotation, suggestion, and helping within the content
of a certain article.

2.2.4 Instant Messaging


This is a service provided within the Social Media with the focus on the one-to-one
communication. Within this system the participant can contact another person she or
he already knows through a chat window. Both conversation partners communicate
nearly to real time. There is no loss of time if both conversationalists participate at the
same time. The main initial condition for this conversation is the presence of both
participants and that both know each other and their specific pseudonym. To analyze
such conversations in regard to face threatening and use of politeness principles would
be very interesting. But due to the fact that such conversations are not really
accessible to public this instrument cannot be use within this work.

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“Human beings like connection. We especially like connecting with people who share
our interests. Give us a new form of cheap, instant, and robust communication and we
will use it to connect with people all over the world. We have done so for many years.”
(Klososky 3) Social Networks are platforms were people connect and communicate
with each other in a social background. Social means that they not only share interests.
They also are visiting such networks on a regular base to keep the network and the
communication effects alive.

For the Social Networks discussed in this works it is vital to introduce another term.
This term is Social Software. What the general public names Social Networks is in fact
the Social Software. “Social software is a general term referring to applications that
support communication, interaction, and collaboration. Social software is the power
behind social networks such as the online communities Facebook, MySpace or XING.”
(Buhse, Stamer 208) Another important term is mentioned within this definition –
online communities.

As an important part of communication and the success of communication every


conversation participant should share a nearly same interest horizon. Online
communities are accumulations of interests and interest groups. “For the first time,
people now have the ability to instantly find others who share their own interests.
Those interests can be related to entertainment, hobbies, business, or anything else.
[…] Geography and even language are not issues any longer because our new social
networking tools facilitate communication and sharing from any corner of the world.”
(Klososky 9)

2.2.4.1 Facebook
The most common Social Network nowadays is Facebook. “Founded in February 2004,
Facebook is a social utility that helps people communicate more efficiently with their
friends, family and coworkers. The company develops technologies that facilitate the
sharing of information through the social graph, the digital mapping of people's real-
world social connections. Anyone can sign up for Facebook and interact with the
people they know in a trusted environment.” (facebook facts,
https://www.facebook.com/press/info.php?factsheet) The growth of this network has

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just slowed down recently. But it is still the biggest network on the whole planet. For
the matter of this work Facebook is one of two different networks looked at in terms
of conversation and strategic use of positive face threatening acts. Due to the vast
majority of users it is a good source for conversations to look at.

The following and sampling of conversations on Facebook is a little bit difficult due to
the fact that not everyone has an open profile and conversation history. The privacy
settings of Facebook allow the users to hide or to show as much as the users want to.
Conversations are only accessible if they are public or if the sampler is part of the
network of the certain user.

2.2.4.2 Google Plus


Google Plus emerged during the summer of 2011. The Google cooperation now offers
another accessible network service. Google tries to offer and combine all its well
known services within this network. By holding and using a Google email account all
other services could be accessed by this account. Google gives the possibility to use
different forms of communication, working, sharing, and collaboration by
accumulating all within one address. It seems that Google Plus has fewer users than
Facebook. But it also seems to grow even faster than Facebook. “The one record that
was not published (due to the fact it didn’t publicly exist then) was Google+ as the
fastest social network to reach 10 million users at 16 days. (Facebook took 852 days to
reach that mark and Twitter did it in 780 days).” (Bullas
http://www.business2community.com/social-media/google-hits-25-million-users-in-
less-than-one-month-048474) Google Plus conversations are easily accessible even to
public due to the fact that one can follow every other of interest without having her or
his admission.

Google Plus organizes the network in so called circles. Circles are customable and could
be named and classified by every aspect the user wants. With no certain restrictions in
following and observing conversations within the network samples of conversations
are easily accessible.

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2.3 Participants within the networks
The aim of this work is to look at conversations and to show how specific politeness
strategies are used. To narrow down the huge varieties of conversations within social
networks it is significant to specialize on a certain conversation situation. It is
important to show what kinds of participants are engaged in social networks.

The smallest unit in Social Media network is the human as a user. She or he decides to
participate at a network because communities make communication more successful
due to the fact that communities consist of people who share the same interests,
hobbies and behaviors.

The other unit of social networks is the company, or better said the social network
appearance of the company. Companies are using the social networks as another part
of their marketing effort. They have identified certain users to have special interests.
Here companies can easily reach certain users by focusing on their interests and
behaviors.

2.3.1 Purpose of conversations


The focus of this works is on conversations between the smallest units of the network
– the human individuals. Everyone uses the conversational tool of the social network
for a certain purpose.

 Share information (events, news)


 Keeping the network up to date about the own personal condition
 Requesting, questioning, discussing

It is very important to scale down the possible text samples because the variety of
conversations is enormous. Each type of conversation got its own features regarding
the use of politeness strategies. “…, the social position of the speakers may indicate
different politeness values for individual cases.”(Mey 80)

2.3.2 Classification of conversation according to Searls illocutionary


speech acts
Giving a more plausible classification of the conversation types within Social Media
networks it is necessary to look at Searle’s theory of the speech act.

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It is essential to find out if communication within the Social Media networks and
consequently computer mediated communications (CMC) are spoken or written
conversations. The German author Angelika Storrer says: “Die kommunikative
Mündlichkeit orientiert sich an dem Setting des alltäglichen Gesprächs von Angesicht
zu Angesicht zwischen miteinander vertrauten Gesprächspartnern, die sich in der
Sprecher- und Hörerrolle abwechseln. Typisch für dieses Setting sind kurze
Planungszeiten bei der Produktion und kurze Verarbeitungszeiten für die Rezeption.
Die Äußerungen werden meist spontan gebildet; die Themenentwicklung ist offen
wobei für die Teilnehmer in der Hörerrolle stets die Option der Rückfrage oder des
Einspruchs besteht und die Teilnehmer in der Sprecherrolle mit sprachlichen und
mimisch-gestischen Mitteln Feedback erhalten.“ (Storrer 153f)

The act of communication within the Social Media networks lack of the features of
face-to-face. It does compensate this by ignoring location and time of the
communicants. So it could be seen as a face-to-face situation without the physical
presence of the participants at the same location.

Another critical point to look at is the absence of social cues within the communication
in Social Media networks. Storrer mentioned that social cues are vital for the
communicative orality. In connection with CMC (computer mediated communication)
there is a special theory called “Reduced Social Cues Approach”. (Beck 171) This
critique is repulsed due to the fact that within online communication the absence of
social cues are compensated through symbolic written Social Cues like the so called
emoticons. (cf. Beck 171) Greiffenstern gives in her book a similar answer.
“Technically, computer-mediated communication is typing and, thus, written language.
[…] In written communication, these visual clues have to be replaced by something
else. One well-know example are emoticons in CMC;…” (Greiffenstern 42f.)

Both critical points of Storrers definition of the communicative orality have been
denied. CMC and therefore communication within Social Media networks according to
the definition are spoken communication. But it has to be mentioned what
Greiffenstern wrote: “…, there is no clear-cut distinction between writing and speech.
Moreover they influence each other in several ways.” (Greiffenstern 45)

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By stating that CMC is communicative orality it is possible to use Searle’s categories of
speech acts. Searle classified speech acts in the following five categories (Bublitz
119f.):

 Representatives
 Directives
 Commissives
 Expressives
 Declarations

The first four categories are typical for conversations within the Social Media
networks. Representatives are characteristic for certain presentations of news,
articles, statements and information sharing. Directives are often found in speech acts
according social acts within the networks. Good examples maybe invitations to parties
or to certain networks, requesting certain favors, or even applying for a job. Every
category has its own appearance within the communication in Social Media networks.
The category of the declarations does not appear in the conversation of Social Media
networks. Due to the fact that such speech acts need the presents of institutional
entities they do not appear within the Social Media communication.

With the classification of Searle it is possible to narrow down the text samples to
conversations with the representatives feature.

The above mentioned facts show the conversation types that will be looked at in this
paper. Another point of the focus in this work is to show the politeness strategies
within the conversations. Therefore it is needed to detect such strategies. It is
necessary to define and describe the term politeness and the connected politeness
theory. The following part will engage on this matter.

3. Politeness
“First one has to know what being ‘polite’ means. According to Leech, “[s]ome
illocutions (e.g. orders) are inherently impolite, and others (e.g. offers) are inherently
polite” (1983:83). This view assumes politeness to be an abstract quality, residing in

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individual expressions, lexical items or morphemes, without regard for the particular
circumstances that govern their use.” (Mey 80) This formulation is not sufficient for
the definition of politeness. “Although some expressions in English may encode the
speaker’s polite attitude, politeness is not an inherent feature of linguistic expressions.
Polite expressions are only interpretable as such in relation to a speech situation.”
(Andersen 17)

There are several approaches to the theory of politeness. Two main theories are used
and discussed within the pragmatics. On the one side there is the Politeness Principle
according to Geoffrey Leech and on the other side there is the theory of face according
to Brown and Levinson influenced by the notion of face from Goffman. (cf. Swann et al
189)

3.1 Geoffrey Leech and politeness


“Different kinds and degrees of politeness are called for in different situations. At the
most general level, illocutionary functions may be classified in to […] four types,
according to how they relate to the social goal of established and maintaining comity.”
(Leech 104) Leech categorizes the following four types of functions:

 Competitive: The illocutionary goal competes with the social goal


 Convivial: The illocutionary goal coincides with the social goal
 Collaborative: The illocutionary goal is indifferent to the social goal
 Conflictive: The illocutionary goal conflicts with the social goal
(cf. Leech, 104)

Leech says that politeness is mainly involved in the first two categories. (cf. Leech 104)
He states that the character of the politeness in the first category is of a negative one.
“… its purpose is to reduce the discord implicit in the competition between what is
wants to achieve, and what is ‘good manner’.” (Leech 105) The second category is
dedicated to the more positive politeness. “Positive politeness means observing the PP
in that, for example, if you have an opportunity to congratulate h on his 100th
birthday, you should do so.” (Leech 105) These examples show that there are two
types of politeness, the negative and the positive politeness. Both are representatives

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of certain expressions within the strategy of politeness. “The principle of politeness
tells us to minimize (or ‘mitigate’) the effects of impolite statements or expressions
(‘negative politeness’) and to maximize the politeness of polite illocutions (‘positive
politeness’)”. (Mey 80) Leech’s approach to the theory of politeness is related to the
cooperative principle of Grice. “Leech’s Politeness Principle is supposed to collaborate
with, and even ‘rescue’, the Cooperative Principle and its associated maxims.” (Mey
82) The Politeness Principle is used to make the communicative act more likely to
happen. It is used to avoid friction and misunderstanding.

3.2 Goffman, Brown and Levinson and politeness


All three authors used the face as an entity of a communicating human being within
the social situation of the conversation. The face has two different aspects.

 ‘Positive face’, the desire for appreciation and approval by others


 ‘negative face’, the desire not to be imposed on by others (cf. Swann 189)

Every participant of a conversation is in the need to balance the use of the face and
face threatening acts. There are situations where one has to choose to use positive
politeness strategies and there are situations where one wants to use negative
politeness strategies. Each strategy needs special pondering for the use of a certain
face threatening act. There are many factors that influence the choice of the strategy.
Swann gives within her work a reasonable classification of such factors. These factors
are varying from social situation to relationship and culture. (cf. Swann 189)

 Concerns about face may be overridden: for instance, in cases of danger or


great urgency, speakers may be less inclined to bother about indirect requests
 Some impositions are regarded as greater than others. A request that is felt to
be considerable imposition may require greater attention to (negative)
politeness than minor favour.
 Relationships between people (or, more precisely, how these are perceived in
context) are highly important. In certain contexts, for instance, a speaker in a
powerful position may feel able to impose upon others in a less powerful
position.

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 The kinds of politeness strategies that are felt to be appropriate will also vary in
different cultures. (Swann 189)

“On Face-work, focused on the concept of face, which is the positive image of self that
individuals have when interacting with others. Goffman believed that face “as a
sociological construct of interaction, is neither inherent in nor permanent aspect of the
person””. (Trevinio 37) The face according to Goffman is more like a mask that is used
in certain situations of conversation. Goffman at all was influenced by the symbolic
interaction of Mead and Blumer. He puts every communicative act within a
dramaturgical perspective. According to Goffman communicants decide which role
they play on the situation they are confronted with. The main idea of the whole theory
of Goffman is that every individual has typical masks and therefore a face for any
situation. The notion of face derives from this theory of Goffman.

In general it has to be mentioned that the notion of face originally comes from Asian
cultures and especially from China. Here is the face and the balance of face
threatening acts part of the whole society.

3.3 Combination of the two approaches


The mentioned aim of this work is to show that certain conversations within Social
Media networks involve the use of the positive politeness with a positive face
threatening act. Both approaches to the politeness have special features that will be
used to build a pattern that represents the matter of a positive face threatening act.
The PP by Leech is useful in the term of the aim of the conversation. It will be used to
show what positive act the starter of the conversation intends with his or her
conversation. The notion of the face will be used to identify the kind of response of
other conversation participants.

4. Politeness patterns within conversations in Social


Media networks
The varieties of conversations in Social Media networks are enormous. Consequently
the uses of politeness strategies are varying with the type of conversation. Due to the
fact that the possible number of conversations are nearly infinite it is vital to define a

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certain conversation type and a certain pattern for politeness strategy. The type of
conversation that will be looked at within this work will also define the text samples.

4.1 Type of conversation


To define a certain pattern it is necessary to narrow down what types of conversation
is looked at. As mentioned before in this paper a good way to classify the type of
conversation is to use the speech act categories by Searle. It has to be mentioned that
the categories by Searle are always referring to speech acts. That means that the
speaker intents to do something with her or his utterance. “…, utterances can be used
to perform actions. Actions performed via utterances, such as requesting, threatening,
or thanking, are based on speech acts.” (Bieswanger/Becker 170) In this special case
the speech act category that will be looked at is the representatives.

Representatives are statements about the world and its condition. The speaker wants
to inform her or his audience about a certain situation or status. She or he believes
that the statement is true or false. “These speech acts are assertions about a state of
affairs in the world […] and thus carry the value ‘true’ or ‘false’. This is their ‘point’; as
to ‘fit’, they should, of course, match the world in order to be true. Assertions often,
maybe even always, represent a subjective state of mind: the speaker who asserts a
proposition as true does so in force of his or her belief. The belief may have different
degrees of ‘force’: it makes a difference whether I postulate something or merely
hypothesize; however, the point of the speech act remains the same.” (Mey 120)

The above mentioned definition of representatives has limited the possible


conversation types or better speech act types to those which are of providing
information about certain states of affair within the world and societies. The text
sample that will be looked at will focus on statements and information about events,
situation, or even certain actions.

4.2 Positive Politeness pattern of conversation starter


As mentioned in part 3.3 the pattern will use the PP as the politeness strategy marker.
As the type of speech act that is looked at is the representatives it is inevitable to use
the principle of collaborative as the pattern for the positive politeness strategy.

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“COLLABORATIVE: The illocutionary goal is indifferent to the social goal; eg asserting,
reporting, announcing, instructing”. (Leech 104) Informing others about a certain state
of affair within the world is a representative speech act. So the PP category of convivial
is the best match for the politeness strategy in this case. The first pattern concerning
the beginner of the conversation is therefore the collaborative category according to
Leech.

In the text sample a positive politeness pattern will appear if the conversation starter
tries to inform other about certain condition of the world. She or he believes that what
was stated is true or false. If this condition is fulfilled the conversation starter performs
a collaborative politeness strategy.

4.3 Positive politeness pattern of other participants


This pattern focuses on the politeness theory of the face. Every other participant of the
conversation is looked at in connection with the notion of face. Their conversations are
examined by the matter of the positive face. In this special case it will only be observed
if the other participants of the conversation express friendliness and approval to the
conversation starter (cf. Swann 189)

To show if friendliness and approval appear it is necessary to define certain


expressions or utterances that indicates positive face threatening.

4.3.1 Indicators of friendliness


“In the negotiating of what I have the right to do and expect from you in a
conversation, we are negotiating more than just what speech acts I can perform (for
example, whether I can order you or authorize you) and what the content of these acts
might be (for example, whether I can ask about your salary or criticize your behavior).
We negotiate, for example, whether I have the right to use your first name rather than
a more formal title, or whether we establish that you are of a higher social status and
therefore merit a deferential approach, or whether I have the right to be impatient
with you. Given this notion of the conversational contract, we can say that an
utterance is polite [supporting the positive face], to the extent to which the speaker, in

19
the hearer’s opinion, has not violated the rights or obligations which are in effect at
the moment.” (Fracer 343f.)

Every utterance that supports the view of the conversation starter, which does not
confront him or her with bad critiques and which is able to support the positive face of
the conversation beginner is an utterance of friendliness. This can be cases like:

 appreciating the effort of informing


 Compliment the way of presentation and research
 Absence of negative critique

These are only some possible aspects of friendly utterances.

4.3.2 Indicators of approval


These indicators are nearly similar to that of the friendliness. The difference is found in
the connection with the content of the start utterance. Approval means that other
participants sharing the same opinion and supporting the conversation starter in his or
her statement. They try to give other proves of the made statement and confirm the
statement as right or wrong but always in support to the conversation starter. This can
be utterances like:

 Yes, you are right, because…


 I share the same opinion
 What is said could also be found here

As a result of both indicators it can be stated that a positive face threatening act
towards the conversation starter can be identified by supporting and approving
utterances of other conversationalists.

With these patterns it is possible to identify if conversationalists use positive


politeness strategies within the conversation in Social Media networks. The next part
will briefly describe how the text samples are chosen and how the frequency of the
patterns is measured within the samples.

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5. Research work
For the reliability of this paper it is necessary to show how the text samples were
chosen and which method is used to describe and show the frequency of the
politeness patterns.

5.1 Text samples


The source of the text samples is due to the research object of this paper a Social
Media network. Because of its easy accessibility the source of the text samples is
Google Plus. This network is described in chapter 2.2.5.2.

The text samples were chosen randomly. The author of this paper had access to the
named network. Within his contacts he chose those of English speaking origin. The
contact was looked at towards the conversations listed in the profile of the certain
contact. It has to be admitted that a real random choice could not be made due to the
fact that a certain average sample could not be surveyed. The author’s choice was
made by the known fact that the samples need to be representative. The choice was
made without the focus on theme, person or social background. Combined, this paper
examines 30 text samples of the mentioned Social Media network.

5.2 Frequency measurement


The politeness strategy pattern build in chapter 4.3 and following are attached to the
text samples. They are counted according to their appearance. The incidents of the
patterns are summed up and representing the whole number of politeness strategies.
A high number of appearing positive politeness patterns will indicate the use of
positive politeness strategies within the conversations in Social Media networks.

The whole measurement is connected to the sum of all examined text samples. In
general a single conversation will be looked at according to the numbers of
participants, incidences of positive face threatening act, and the rate of this positive
politeness strategy in connection to the whole examined conversation. The numbers of
conversation participants will be put in proportion to the number of articles within the
conversation.

21
5.3 Results of text sample examination
The sum of all examined text samples is 30. Each text sample starts with the intended
speech act of the conversation starter. The examination shows that of 30 inspected
text samples 24 can be put in the category of representative speech act. The other six
text samples are fitting the category of others.

Text sample categories

representatives
others

24

Graph 1- text sample categories

The 24 text samples that are matching the category of representatives are therefore of
the Collaborative Principle according to Leech. The conversation starter informs others
about certain states in the world. “…reporting, announcing, instructing…” (Leech, 104)
are features of the Collaborative Politeness strategy.

The following graph will show the relation between participants of the conversations
and the number of posts within the conversations.

22
60

50

40

30 Conversation posts
Conversation participants

20

10

Text samples
0
1 3 5 7 9 11 13 15 17 19 21 23 25 27 29

Graph 2- relation of posts vs. participants

The x-axis represents the certain number of the examined text sample. The blue bar
stands for the number of participating conversationalists of the certain text sample. In
contrast we see the red bar as the whole number of posts found in a text sample. It is
obvious that there are special cases in this output. There are three cases, text sample
1, 20 and 27, where the number of conversationalists is smaller than the compared
number of posts. These text samples show a very long conversation about the
presented topic. It has to be stated that the topic influences the number of posts and
also the number of participants. In connection with this paper it is necessary to have
the numbers of conversationalists and conversations because with these numbers it is
possible to show the percentage of the politeness patterns. In average every text
sample has 9.5 participants per conversation and 15.3 posts per conversation. The
arithmetic average is too abstract so it is better to give the median for both variables.
In conclusion within 30 text samples there are eight participants with 12.5 posts.

The following graph illustrates the proportion between the positive face patterns
“approval” and “friendliness”.

23
25

20

15
friendliness

10 approvals

Text samples
0
1 3 5 7 9 11 13 15 17 19 21 23 25 27 29

Graph 3- relation of friendliness vs. approval

There are only few cases where no pattern can be found. These cases are the text
samples three and the text sample 19. The first one matches another category than
representatives to be exact directives. The conversation starter asked the participants
to answer a question/ request. The text sample 19 has a conversation where the
participants are of different opinions and showing these opinions directly. There is no
sign of politeness strategy within this sample. The arithmetic average for the approval
pattern is 5.133 per text sample and for the friendliness pattern it is 2.866 per text
sample. Again the arithmetic average is very abstract. In conclusion it can be stated
that within 30 text samples there are an average of 4.5 approvals and one pattern of
friendliness.

According to the statistical comparison each text sample has 8 conversation


participants that posts 12.5 responses. Within these responses there appear 4.5
patterns of approval to build up a positive face and 1 utterance of friendliness to
support the positive face of the conversation starter.

It can be asserted that within 12.5 posts there appear 5.5 patterns that support the
positive face of the conversation starter and that can be described as positive
politeness strategies. As a result it can be stated that 44 percent of positive face
threatening acts appear within conversations in Social Media networks. This
percentage emerges within the category of representative speech acts of conversation

24
starters. The representative speech act is according to Leech a positive politeness
strategy by his category Collaborative. (cf. Leech, 104)

6. Conclusion
The above presented results of the examination of text samples show that there is a
tendency towards the assumed hypothesis:

The participants in conversations in Social Media networks are mainly using positive
politeness strategies. These strategies are positive strategies according to the
Politeness Principle of Leech and the positive face threatening act of Brown, Levinson
and Goffman.

To give a more precise view to this hypothesis it is necessary to take a closer look at
the themes of the conversations. The results show that the themes of conversations,
even if they are of representative character, have a huge influence on the use of
politeness strategies. This influence of the themes was not part of the hypothesis and
need further examination.

As the result of this paper it can be stated that participants of conversations use
positive politeness strategies by a chance of 44 percent. According to the variety of
possible speech acts this is a very high chance. It can be stated that the hypothesis of
this paper is true.

In general it can be asserted that users of Social Media networks do use positive
politeness patterns and strategies to support their own positive face and to support
the positive face of others. There is an overall tendency of the use of positive
politeness strategies within Social Media networks.

25
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