Introduction Who is this course for?

This course is intended for those whose professional or private life is likely to include encounters with people from cultures different from their own. Its importance grows out of at least two main reasons. First, we live in an age when changes in technology, travel, economic and political systems, immigration patterns and population density have created a world in which we increasingly interact with people from different cultures. And besides, these interactions will continue to grow in both frequency and intensity. Second, people now realize that culture affects communication in subtle and profound ways. Cultural backgrounds and experiences determine how the world looks to us and how we interact in this world. Starting from the belief that communication is an activity which affects people, we can understand why any study of communication must include information about the choices we make in selecting our messages, as well as a discussion of the consequences of those choices. Most of the obstacles to intercultural communication can be overcome with motivation, knowledge and appreciation of cultural diversity. We hope this course will provide you with all three. Motivation and aim of the course A tricky part of intercultural communication is determined by our predisposition to ethnocentrism, i.e. our tendency to use our own cultural norms to make generalizations about other peoples’ cultures and norms and not infrequently, even false assumptions about cultural differences. Ethnocentrism distorts communication between human beings and is difficult to avoid and identify because it is it is connected with our inability to be objective and it is unconscious. So one of the goals of this course is to keep ethnocentrism in check by increasing awareness of this impeding factor to intercultural communication. As we enter the twenty first century, numerous forces are converging to drive people as never before across national boundaries, thus making intercultural contact a major concern in the century that lies ahead. Therefore our final aim is to help you meet the challenge of the twenty first century, i.e. to learn to overcome the difficulties that can arise when you meet people from diverse cultural backgrounds and you need to communicate successfully and effectively. Definition of intercultural communication Intercultural communication is communication between people whose cultural perceptions and symbol systems are distinct enough to alter the communication event. The diversity of backgrounds, experiences and assumptions resident in communicators due to their culture has the potential to make communication very difficult-and sometimes essentially impossible. Frequently, the term cross-cultural communication is used when referring to communication between people from different cultures. The impact of culture on communicative behaviour. It is commonly agreed that culture shapes our beliefs, values, world view and our verbal and non-verbal behaviour, in other words, culture is multidimensional and all pervasive. Aspects 1

What determines cross-cultural misunderstandings? The potential factors that can cause many of our intercultural contacts to be frustrating or even unsuccessful have to do with differences in language. attitudes toward time. the values and behaviours of a particular culture may not be the values and behaviours of all the individuals within that culture. the Holocaust as well as numberless ongoing religious. work habits. international education. dress. tourism and cultural blending. Cultural values and cultural patterns Cultural values are values that permeate a culture and are derived from the larger philosophical issues that are part of a culture’s milieu. As a reaction to these events the last thirty years or so of the twentieth century spawned the systematic study of intercultural communication.e. we believe that at our basic core we are not captives of our cultures but instead thinking individuals with the rationality and potential to engage in free choice. and tribal clashes. for example. 2001: 17). each of us is a member of the human species sharing universal needs. From a historical perspective. witnessed two world wars. The history of mankind discloses an ongoing antipathy and hostility toward those who are different. Are we captives of the cultures we come from? As it is accepted. Although culture offers us a (common) reference system. The importance of intercultural communication. a member of a specific culture sharing common cultural patterns and also a distinct person with an individual psychology following a unique script. Where is cross-cultural communication most likely to manifest itself? Intercultural communication affects relationships in such diverse arenas as international business. From these perspectives we can learn to modify appropriately our perceptions. Although this course focuses on the cultural influences that moderate/shape human interaction. (Samovar and Porter. our uniqueness allows us to learn continuously and to develop the philosophic perspectives necessary for intercultural communication. social behaviour. what members of a particular culture value and how they perceive the universe. Intercultural contact goes back to the dim beginnings of civilization when people from one tribe encountered others and found them to be different from themselves. ethnic.of culture are acted out each time members of different cultures come together to share ideas and information. thinking and communicative behaviour when engaged in the process of interacting with culturally diverse peoples. food. But the real causes of cross-cultural misunderstandings are determined by the deep structure of a culture. The twentieth century. Consequently. successful intercultural communication has been the exception rather than the rule. In the absence of accompanying cultural knowledge these encounters most often elicited the human propensity to respond malevolently to those ‘cultural’ differences. i. They are transmitted by a variety of 2 . culture being but one. Each human being is unique and shaped by countless factors.

3 . etc. i. cultural patterns are said not to hold for the whole country but to be limited to the dominant culture in each country. An awareness of cultural values also helps us understand our own behaviour. might make us examine carefully a Japanese business card. For example. state. We can see cultural patterns being acted out in something as simple as how cultures perceive the elderly. individualism is known to be one of the American core values. Michael Bond. Cultural patterns are useful in the study of intercultural communication because they are systematic and repetitive instead of random and regular. uncertainty avoidance. They are learned within a cultural context Cultural values generally are normative and evaluative in that they inform a member of a culture what is good and bad. attitudes and values. In multi-ethnic group societies. based on a survey of over a hundred thousand workers in multinational organizations in forty countries. while in the United States the dominant culture values the youth. it is common that most people give respect and merit to the elderly. school. Hofstede´s value dimensions. in Mexico. rather than immediately relegate it to a coat pocket or purse. These dimensions are individualism-collectivism. I. One of the earliest attempts to examine cultural values by using extensive statistical data was Hofstede s work. church. Why shall we understand cultural values? An understanding of cultural values helps us appreciate the behaviour of other people. tend to be broad-based. The most interesting fact about cultural patterns is that in many instances we can find contradictory values in a particular culture. they have a significant impact on behaviour on all cultures. self-disclosure can be associated with the values of friendship and sociability. yet there is evidence that the United States is one of the most humanitarian countries in the world.sources (family. power distance and masculinity and feminity. as the Japanese do. For example. we can say that cultures are (like) families and the members of a culture are like members of a family which shapes their beliefs.). They are widely shared by most members of the culture and influence how people within the culture behave. The Dutch scholar has identified four value dimensions that manifest during interaction. For example. Kluckhons and Strodbeck have proposed various taxonomies that attempt to classify those cultural patterns that can be found in nearly every culture. For instance. cultural values should be understood like points on a continuum in the sense that the importance of a common value and how it gets acted out is a matter of degree.e. knowing that the Japanese value detail and politeness. media. Cultural patterns Cultural patterns is an umbrella term used to denote both the conditions that contribute to the way in which a people perceive and think about the world and the manner in which they live in that world. Classifications of cultural patterns Scholars such as Geert Hofstede. Finally. and right and wrong. enduring and relatively stable. To conclude metaphorically.

At the other end of the scale there are low uncertainty avoidance countries where the cultural pattern is to accept uncertainty in life and tolerate the unusual.e. duties to self and others as members of a social group'. Japan. The individualism-collectivism dimension of cultural variation can be better understood through a theory of rights and duties. no-Western societies show a concern for duty. where personal goals take precedence over group goals. One of the communication variables connected with collectivism is indirectness. the USA. Venezuela. Although all people and cultures have both individual and collective dispositions. While the Western societies reflect the paramount concern for individual rights. Cultures that promote individualism include USA. Members of these cultures are more willing to take risk. Collectivism is associated with (a) greater emphasis on the views. for what is owed to the group. i. some scholars (e. needs and goals of the in group rather than oneself.Individualism-collectivism. Begium and Japan . situations which therefore try to avoid by maintaining strict codes of behaviour and a belief in absolute truths. Columbia.g. Korea. thoughts and opinions. Hoftstede. Uncertainty avoidance This concept is used by Hostede in the sense of the extent to which people within a culture are made nervous by situations which they perceive as unstructured. it refers to 4 . In business and political negotiations low uncertainty avoidance members would not become frustrated if the meeting was not highly structured and planned. the Netherlands and New Zealand. Greece. Power distance This cultural value dimension denotes the extent to which a society prefers that power in relationships. Egypt and Mexico. Australia. Pakistan.s findings show that there are cultures that tend toward individualism and competition. Considering this. Cases in point are Sweden. Finland and the Netherlands. Following Bhatia (2000: 306) we can state that the concepts of right and duty are powerful interpretative tools for an understanding of self-other relationship. (b) social norms and duty defined by the in group rather than behaviour to get pleasure (c) beliefs shared with the in group rather than beliefs that distinguish self from in group and (d) greater readinesss to cooperate with in group members. Broadly speaking. Group oriented or collective cultures are characterized by a rigid social framework that distinquishes between in groups and out groups. institutions and organizations is distributed unequally. This view reminds of Durkheim' s model of society where solidarity generates rights and duties based on values that are not inherent in things but are ascribed to things by collective thinking. unclear or unpredictable. Starting from the finding that 70 per cent of the population of the world lives in collective cultures. Norway. Triandis) believe that this fact alone should be sufficient motivation for members of other cultures to understand the perceptions and communication behaviours of these collective cultures. UK. the difference between strategic and normative politeness should be viewed in terms of the opposition 'duties to self and others as individuals vs. Peru. Countries that are classified as collective are China. are less tense and more relaxed. Canada. where people tend not to be emotionally dependent on organizations and institurtions and every individual has the right to his or her private property. Ireland. what is owed to the individual. Taiwan.Cultures that avoid uncertainty are labelled as high uncertainty avoidance and include Portugal.. are more flexible. Denmark.

Therefore. People in these cultures people believe they are close to power and should have access to that power. Mexico. Hall’s classification. family background. North 5 . is also conveyed through status (age. information is encoded in gestures. Denmark and the Netherland. the Western communication style tends to be direct and explicit . Countries that are associated with male oriented traits such as ambition. II. men are taught to be domineering. Denmark. the Philippines. the use of space and even silence. Greece. Although all cultures have tendencies for both high and low power relationships. 41% in Sweeden. acquisition of money. Latin Americans. and superiors perceive their subordinates the same way. in their interactions with others. According to the degree to which meaning comes from the settings or from the words being exchanged. South Africa. Italy. Singapore. Masculinity-Feminity Hofstede uses these words to refer to the degree to which masculine or feminine traits are valued and revealed. indirect and implicit. III. a hierarchy is an inequality of roles established for convenience. i. one orientation seems to dominate. from the way people dress to their posture and to the language they use. high context culture members such as Native Americans. affiliations) and through an individual’s informal friends and associates.e high context cultures. Mexico and the Philippines. education. Brazil. Finland. Other value dimensions Informality and formality Manifestations of formality and informality take many forms. Hall maintains that meaning. Finland. In organizations and institutions in these countries there is a greater centralization of power. Swiss and American) most of the information is contained in the verbal message and very little is embedded in the context or in the participants. In a masculine society.that is everything needs to be stated and if possible. in high context cultures. New Zealand and Israel. the anthropologist Edward Hall proposes the classification of cultures into high context and low context. Norway. the large power distance cultures. Cultures that value feminity and tend toward a femine world view by stressing caring and nurturing behaviours are Sweden. i. meaning does not need to be conveyed by words. According to this criterion.e. Thus. Japanese. In low context cultures (German. achievement. Members in the former group. ambitious and assertive.e. small power distance countries include Austria. stated well. Countries that prefer a large power distance are India. Subordinates consider superiors to be the same kind of people as they are. Their propensity to placing a greater value on feminine traits can even be seen in the percentage of women occupying legislative positions: e. Greece.the distance between power and the members of a particular culture. Japan. Instead. At the oppsite end.Unlike the Asian manner of communication that is often vague. include Ireland. sex. great importance placed on status and rank.g. Norway. Chinese and Koreans are more reliant on and tuned in to non verbal communication. i. Venezuela. title. To them. Austria. For cultures in the former group. cultures are grouped on a continuum of large to small power distance. believe that people are not equal in this world and that social hierarchy is prevalent.

apologising and thanking. Turkey and Iran. American English were found to respond to compliments by using these strategies: 6 . show respect and mark formality. In most Latin American and European societies there are levels of formality attached to status differences. to use a term coined by Levinson (1982: 109) Speech acts across cultures Many researches have worked on the problem of speech acts across cultures asking themseves how speech acting is carried out in differnt cultures by people using different languages. When meeting strangers for the first time Americans use first names. represent a form of social deixis. These address forms that indicate social standing in addition to identifying the person addressed. etc) we have to admit that in real life there are circumtances where cultural differences are so strog that what is polite in one culture maz not be polite in another. Responding to compliments In his contrastive study of politeness strategies between American English and Chinese speakers. except for public events and fairly formal situations when they use use formal speech. Blum Kulka and Kasper. the forms of respectful address are based on a third person plural form. Assertiveness and Interpersonal Harmony Two value dimensions that influence our intercultural communication in a host of ways are assertiveness and interpersonal harmony. (Your Eminence. the speech acts of requesting and apologizing have been examined by Blum Kulka and her colloborators (Blum Kulka et al. colloquaial speech is heavily used on most occasions . Communication styles across cultures Forms of address In today’s European languages. Languages that use respectul forms of address. German Sie and Danish/Norwegian De or on frozen paraphrases of an original honorific such as Spanish Usted. In Asian cultures. even the simple greeting Hi is a badge of informality. most languages possess a distinct deferential form used in addressing people of higher social status or in order to mark distance. popes. identical with the second person plural are: French (vous). The so called ‘majestic’ plural is commonly used by cardinals. 1989. Finnish (te).g. with the exception of English where the you form has come to dominate the entire spectrum of addressing. governors of states. plural Ustedes. Rong Chen focuses on compliment responding and observes that miscommunication may result from differing beliefs concerning compliments and their responses. Thus. 1993). Although generally there is a certain rule-governed linguistic behaviour that allows us to deal with similar situations in similar ways across cultures (such as requesting. formality is demanded by greater age as well as by higher status. ambassadors (Your Excelency). Romanian (dumneavoastra) Czech and other Slavic languages (vy). the royalty (Your Grace). In other languages. Idiomatic. For example.g. the bus driver for making a stop. e. some cultures require thanking in contexts where others do not (e. the person who opens the door for you). Your Holiness). High formality is a characteristic of the teacher-student relationship in countires such as Egypt.American people generally use informal attire and postures and avoid the use of titles and honorifics. The use of personal titles is a way the Germans and the Mexicans show their position in the social structure.

It’s an old sweater from my mother. I’m older and uglier. we believe that politeness is a sociocultural phenomenon based on the social values of a particular community. (5) thanking (only) Following scholars that advocate the relativistic view in linguistic politeness studies. possibly (I was wondering if you could possibly postpone it.(1) expressing their thanks to the complimenter: Thank you/Thanks/I appreciate it (2) agreeing (with the complimenter): Thank you. Tell me the time!) are rare because indirectness tends to become a core cultural value usually associated with politeness. direct requests (e. there is a preference for questions like Can you tell me the time? or assertions like I’m trying to find out what time it is. The differences between the AESs and the CSs compliment responding strategies reflect differences of social values between the two cultures. (2) expressing embarrassment: No. (3) explaining: No.g. She further remarks that the most frequent internal modifier provided by Spanish is diminutives. The impact of requests is often softened in English by the use of downtowners. Vanessa! Please! Sit! Sit!. In American society the norm seems to be to receive the compliment gracefully. (7) encouraging: (8) explaining: thank you. (9) doubting (the praiseworthiness of the object of compliment): Thank you. Cross-cultural pragmatic linguists such as Trosborg (1995: 43) rightly state that politeness is associated with indirectness especially when observations are based on English alone. (4) thanking and denigrating: Thank you. which are indirect requests. I’m embarrassed. too. A Polish host greets his visitor (a distinguished Australian guest) cordially and offers her a seat of honour with a straightforward imperative: Mrs. You look nice. observes that “the use of downtoners is very low in Spanish whereas in English it constitutes the most frequent internal modifier”(Marquez Reiter. Do I really look that great? (10) rejecting the compliment and denigrating the object of the complement: I don’t think I look that much different. to accept it. Marquez Reiter (2000).e. Requesting In Western cultures. i. I feel better than I used to (3) expressing gladness (that the object of the compliment is liked): I’m glad you like it. in her study of linguistic politeness in Britain and Uruguay. But what exactly did I look before? (5) (thanking) and returning compliment: Thank you. give the tickets back). Flat imperatives are claimed to be awkward (Searle: 1975: 64) and people generally avoid direct requests like Tell me the time. Examples of downtoners are any possibility (I wonder if there is any possibility I could borrow your car to go and pick him from the airport). which affect the force of the 7 . is used as a substitute for the Polish word pani which (unlike Mrs) can very well be combined with first names. My mom gave it to me. The word Mrs. (4) joking: Thank you. prepositional modifiers used by the speaker with the purpose of modulating the impact his her request is likely to have on the addressee. perhaps (I was wandering if you could perhaps help me). 2000: 136). Instead. (6) offering object of compliment (or help): You can wear it sometimes if you like. The notion of indirectness has been the source of much cross cultural miscommunication as in the following instance of sociopragmatic failure discussed in Wierzbicka (1991: 27). to think positively about oneself. But I know I’m old and don’t look nice. The Chinese subjects participating in the experiment used the following strategies: (1) disagreeing and denigrating: No. while in Chinese society modesty is one of the most important constituents of self-image.

interrogatives and declaratives.It is also associated with women: three kanji characters for "woman" actually means "noise". With Respect to the Japanese. 117). using apologies. no me das un vasito con aqua? Hey. In other words. Thanking The Japanese communication style Takeo Kuwahara revealed that the Japanese were not faced with the necessity of developing a Western type logic or rhetoric. like in the English speaking cultures or non verbal. p. 2000 8 . They are produced from a variety of parts of speech. diminutives are seen as a sign of solidarity. cant you give me a small glasss of water? Dame un pochito de leche para el café. This last example could be labeled as an instace of formulaic/routinized silence which Adam Jaworski defines as “a customary act of not saying anything in reaction to specific stimuli”.Silences. a marker of positive politeness. 40-1). p. Speaking too much is associated in Japan with immaturity or a kind of emptyheadedness. . A picture is not richer. where the situation is evaluated differently (such as Japan) silence could be required . a means of unifying. "Silence in conversations is often compared to the with space in brush paintings or calligraphy scrolls. they help to mitigate the impact of the request: Atendeme el telephono por un minutito y deci que vuelve ensequida. have many meanings in a Japanese setting. In an extremely endogamous society. Give me a little bit of milk for the coffeee. In Uruguyan Spanish diminutives are commonly heard when requesting small things such as water: Che. In Spanish. in contrast to words which separate. understanding did not depend on talking. By contrast. Japanese Culture. on the other hand. instead communication was possible through the shared Japanese understanding. especially the word class of nouns. To do so would be to confuse and detract from what is presented. more accurate. Apologizing Apologies are common in certain situations in culture A (as when you step on somebody ´s toes in England or the US) while in culture B. formulaic communicative behaviour may be verbal. Wierzbicka (1985 a) points out that “Rich systems of diminutives seem to play a crucial role in cultures in which emotions in general and affection in particular is expected to be shown overtly. (Answer the telephone for a bit and say I’ll back soon). like in the Japanese culture. Monika Deppen Wood." (John Condon. or more complete if such spaces are filled in. without words.whole utterance and can be used with imperatives. In the case of imperatives. (Ellchiro Ishida. the Anglo-Saxon culture does not encourage unrestrained display of emotions and this could explain why expressive derivation has not developed to that extent in English”. It can be a medium that the parties share.

as he sees the PP as a necessary complement to the CP. (5) the Agreement Maxim. The author attempts to explain why people often convey meaning indirectly and regards politeness as the key pragmatic phenomenon for indirectness and one of the reasons why people deviate from the Cooperation Principle. as in these examples: Just pop upstairs and … Hang on a second! I’ve got bit of a problem… A second aspect of the Tact Maxim is that of offering optionality as in 9 . (2) the conversational maxim view. The conversational maxim view relies principally on the work of Grice(1975). (3) the face saving view. Some politeness phenomena have been explained starting from Grice’s Cooperative Principle and his Maxims of Conversation which were formulated on the assumption that the main purpose of conversation is “the effective exchange of information”. If the speaker sacrifices the PP in favour of the CP(s). Leech adopts Grice’s construct of conversational principles and elaborates a thorough analysis of politeness in terms of principles and maxims within a pragmatic framework in which politeness is seen as a regulating factor in interaction. different from ‘second-order politeness’ which is a theoretical construct. It assumes that each society has its own prescriptive social rules for different cultural contexts. The Tact Maxim The first aspect of the Tact Maxim relates to the size of imposition to the hearer that can be reduced by using minimizers such as just. The CP is not directly related to politeness but its formulation has constituted a basis of reference on which other principles.Main perspectives on politeness According to Fraser (1990) one can effectively distinguish four clearly different views of politeness: (1) the social norm view. 1989: 28). The social norm view reflects the historical understanding of politeness. 221). such as politeness principles have been built. whereby a higher degree of formality implies greater politeness” (Fraser. He believes that the PP and the CP can conflict. 1990. and (4) the conversational contract view. 1983: 82). a second. The conversational-contract view was presented by Fraser (1990) and converges in many ways with the face-saving view. (2) the Generosity Maxim. he will be putting at risk the maintenance of the “social equilibrium and the friendly relations which enable us to assume that our interlocutors are being cooperative in the first place. Leech’s maxims are related to the notions of cost and benefit and each of them is stated as a pair of submaxims. His PP is constructed in a very similar format to the CP and is analysed in terms of maxims: (1) the Tact Maxim. Leech’s politeness principle and politeness maxims. (4) the Modesty Maxim). (9) the Sympathy Maxim.” (Leech. This social norm approach has few adherents among current researchers possibly because it implies common sense notions of politeness and it corresponds to what Watts has called ‘first-order politeness’. Those explicit rules generally refer to speech styles and degrees of formality that have been enshrined in language: “This normative view considers politeness to be associated with speech styles. Leech sees his PP as the reason for the non-observance of the Gricean maxims and manages to clarify what is obscured in Grice. his foundation of the Cooperative Principle (CP) and Leech’s formulation of the Principle of Politeness (PP). The face-saving view was proposed by Brown and Levinson (1987) and has been up to now the most influential view politeness model. (Grice. (3) the Approbation Maxim. a bit of.

(a) Minimize dispraise of other and (b) Maximize praise of other are illustrated in the following examples: (2) Dear aunt Mabel. The Approbation Maxim The Approbation Maxim (AM) is applicable in expressives such as thanking. really. etc. The Generosity Maxim explains why it is fine to say You must come and have dinner with us while the proposition that we will come and have dinner with you requires (generally speaking) to be expressed indirectly. It was so very thoughtful of you. I really do think you ought to sell that old car. he suggests that the linguistic expression of generosity is particularly important in Mediterranean cultures).. condoling. This maxim is exemplified by the illocutionary function of recommending: (1) It’s none of my business. pardoning. praising. commanding. boasting. X can be expressed politely without employing indirectness: Have a chocolate! However. greater indirectness may be required: Could I have one of your sandwiches? The Tact Maxim (TM) consists of (a) Minimize cost to other (b) Maximize benefit to other. In the first part of the utterance. The Generosity Maxim The same application characterizes the Generosity Maxim (GM) which consists of submaxim (a) Minimize benefit self and submaxim (b) Maximize cost to self. requesting. one to appeal to solidarity (you know) and the other as a modifying hedge (really). blaming. and in assertives like stating. Please could you look at this draft.This is a draft of my essay. I’m finding it very hard to get enough sleep over the weekends. one attitudinal predicate (I do think) and one modal verb (ought). the speaker maximizes the benefit to the addressee in the second part of the turn by indicating that (s)he could save a lot of time and money by selling the car. the speaker reduces reduces benefit and concern of hers to a minimum but indicates in the second part that she would far prefer to see her friend in the green hat rather than the pink one. The TM is adhered to by the speaker (minimizing the cost to the addressee) by using two discourse markers. (the speaker minimizes dispraise of the addressee) 10 . advising. Allowing options (or giving the appearance of allowing options is absolutely central to Western notions of politeness. It’s costing more and more money in repairs and it uses up far too much fuel. complaining. The third aspect of the Tact Maxim is the cost/benefit scale: if something is perceived as being to the hearer’s benefit. reporting. whereas in the Chinese culture the linguistic expression of optionality is not seen as polite. I want to thank you so much for the superb Christmas present this year. claiming. vowing. The TM is applicable in impositives (e. (the speaker maximizes praise of the addressee) (3) I wonder if you could keep the noise from your Saturday parties down a bit.g. but you look so much nicer in the green hat than in the pink one. illustrated below: You know. Its submaxims. congratulating. offering). Leech points out that some cultures attach more importance to the Generosity Maxim than do others (i. Help yourself (a direct. On the other hand. unmodified imperative is generally speaking perfectly polite while the proposition that you will help yourself may require a degree of impoliteness. I’d buy that one. if X is seen as being costly to the hearer. ordering. If I were you. recommending) and commissives (promising.e.

runs like that: (a) Minimize disagreement between self and other and (b) Maximize agreement between self and other. Weaknesses and strengths of Leech’s approach to politeness One of the major problem with Leech’s account of politeness which has been pointed out by several scholars (Brown and Levinson1987. to give some minimal sort of response (Well. The Agreement Maxim The Agreement Maxim (AM). if we cannot do so. to sidestep the issue. Here English speakers would be inclined to find some compromise between violating the Modesty Maxim and violating the Agreement Maxim. The Modesty Maxim The Modesty Maxim (MM) only applicable in expressives and assertives. but we believe the affair was essentially mismanaged from the outset. By relative politeness.The operation of this maxim is obvious if we think that we prefer to praise others and. Leech (1983:137) notes that in Japan the operation of the Modesty Maxim may. 1983: 102). Marquez Reiter (2000:11) shows that ordering. for example. as is illustrate by (5) where the speaker belittles her/his own abilities in order to highlight the achievements of the addressee: (4) Well done! What a wonderful performance! I wish I could sing as well as that. we have done our best to coordinate our efforts in reaching an agreement but we have so far not been able to find any common ground. This maxim varies enormously in its application from culture to culture. by thanking the speaker for it) rather than to go on denying it. which Leech considers to be 11 . lead someone to reject a compliment which had bee paid to them: “ In Japan the Modesty Maxim is more powerful than it is as a rule in English-speaking societies. Leech means politeness ‘relative to context or situation’ (Leech. …)or to remain silent. Leech offers a distinction between what he calls ‘absolute’ and ‘relative’ politeness. Fraser 1990 included) is that “it leaves open the question of how many principles and maxims may be required in order to account for politeness phenomena. This assertion that particular types of illocutions are intrinsically polite or impolite is considered to be another flaw in Leech’s approach to politeness. where it would be more customarily to be more polite to accept a compliment graciously (e. only applicable in assertives. consists in submaxim (a) Minimize praise of self and submaxim (b) Maximize praise of other. Absolute politeness has a positive and a negative pole since some speech acts are inherently polite (offers) or impolite (orders). The Sympathy Maxim The Sympathy Maxim (only applicable in assertives) points to the speaker making an effort to minimize the antipathy between himself and the addressee like in this example of responding: (6) Despite very serious disagreements with you on a technical level. hence theoretically the number of maxims could be infinite” (Marquez Reiter: 2000).g. In the following example the speaker wishes to make a claim about his political party but to minimize the disagreement with the interlocutor: (5) I know we haven’t always agreed in the past and I don’t want to claim that the government acted in any other way than we would have done in power.

1983: 13). These stereotypic comments are often based on partial evidence and one of the tasks of what I earlier called ‘socio pragmatics’ is to examine the extent to which language communities do differ in their application of the PP. positive face. which. 1996: 167): “…I am aware that people typically use politeness in a relative sense: that is. This is the bare bones of a notion of face which (we argue) is universal. The norm may be that of a particular culture or language community. Brown and Levinson (1987: 51) define face as “the public self image that every member wants to claim for himself” and state that “face is something that is emotionally invested. The notion of face constituted by the two basic desires is universal. it is ultimately of an idiosyncratic nature. derived from that of Goffman (1967) and from the English Folk terms ‘losing face’ and ‘saving face’. to explain cross-cultural differences in the perception of politeness and the use of politeness strategies”(Thomas. criticizing. The notions of positive and negative politeness with Brown and Levinson Central to Brown and Levinson’s model of politeness is the notion of face. For example. The former pertains to a person’s desire to have the freedom to act without being imposed upon (unimpeded by others). better than any other approach. They distinguish two basic aspects of face. although Brown and Levinson recognize that the content of face is culture-specific and subject to much cultural elaboration: “Central to our model is a highly abstract notion of ‘face’ which consists of two specific kinds of desires … the desire to be unimpeded in one’s actions (negative face) and the desire (in some respects) to be approved of (positive face). meaning ‘losing reputation or good name’ and ‘saving reputation or good name’. If certain kinds of speech act are inherently impolite (ordering. Brown and Levinson suggest that certain acts inherently threaten the face needs of one or both participants. and must be constantly attended to in interaction”. accusing) this means they will be in need of minimization in the form of certain kinds of prefacing formulas (I’m sorry to have to say that. are never polite and it is commonly said that the Chinese and the Japanese are very polite in comparison with Europeans. I have seriously been told that Poles/Russians. Brown and Levinson (1987:65) regard face threatening acts (FTAs) as those acts which “run contrary to the face wants of the addressee and /or of the speaker”.” (Brown and Levinson. might not be so in a classroom situation in which the teacher orders one of his/her students to do something. which they claim are universal and refer to two basic desires of any person in any interaction.e. is determined by the theoretical framework used to account for politeness phenomena. they regard as typical. and that it can be lost. i. blaming. etc. and so on. Leech calls this way of minimizing the impoliteness of impolite illocutions negative politeness and he distinguishes it from positive politeness which is a way of maximizing the politeness of polite illocutions The main advantage with Leech’s view of politeness is that it allows.intrinsically impolite. maintained or enhanced. However. but which in any particular society we would expect to be subject of much cultural elaboration. it is fundamentally determined by culture and by the social group to which the participant belongs. negative face and positive face. In other words both authors agree that there is a threat to specific face wants. for a particular setting. 12 . what is intrinsically costly or beneficial in Leech’s words. or what is inherently threatening or non-threatening in Brown and Levinson’s words. The latter. 1983: 84). Whereas Leech proposes that certain types of communicative acts are intrinsically polite or impolite.” (Leech. relative to some norm of behaviour. but …). refers to an individual‘s wish to be accepted and valued by others. “to make specific cross-cultural comparisons and more importantly.

what are you studying then? French and Italian? Join the club! The positive politeness strategies used by the young man are the use of in-group identity markers (blondie). 1. there are occasions when external factors constrain an individual to speak very directly such as emergency cases or highly task-oriented situations (teaching someone to drive). as in the following example: I’m sorry I missed you today.(through the switch of tense from present to past the participant distances himself/herself from the act). Apologies and accepting compliments are seen as FTAs to the speaker’s positive face since in the first case. concise. the greater the risk the more polite the strategy employed. bald on record 2. suggestions and advice are examples of acts which represent a threat to negative face since the speaker will be putting some pressure on the addressee to do or to refrain from doing a specific act. The bold on record strategy can also be used when making a trivial request of someone you know well and has no power over you or when the act is perceived as being in the addressee’s interest (Have a chocolate!) In this case the act will be performed in the most direct. The second strategy implies orientation towards the positive face of the addressee and use of a type of politeness which appeals to the hearer’s desire to be liked and approved of. like in this example taken from Thomas (1996: 172): Male first-year student calling to female first-year student (whom he didn’t know) in their college bar during Freshers Week: Hey. orders. when there is a major time constraint (making an international phone call) or some sort of channel limitation (speaking on a field phone). the expression of interest in hearer (asking her what she is studying) and the seargh for/claim of common ground (Join the club). in the second case the speaker might feel that she /he has to reciprocate the compliment in one way or another (1987:68). For example. Expressing thanks and accepting offers could also be said to threaten the speaker’s negative face since in the first case. threats. I wanted to discuss with you. off record 5. 13 . the communicative act is ambiguous (giving hints. minimizing imposition. negative politeness 4. using metaphors or ellipsis) and its interpretation is left to the addressee. The risk of the loss of face increases as one moves up the scale from 1 to 5 . the participants have no doubts about the communicative intension of the speaker. they could be interpreted as a way of acknowledging a debt and thus the speaker will be humbling his or her own face. ordered below in terms of the degree of politeness involved. participants in interaction usually select from a set of five possible strategies. blondie. Negative politeness manifests itself in the use of conventional politeness markers deference makers. confirming to Grice’s maxims. clear and unambiguous way. The fourth strategy is employed when the risk of loss of face is great.Requests. the speaker will be indicating that she/he regrets doing a prior FTA and thus s(he) will be damaging his/her own face. The third strategy is oriented towards a hearer’s negative face. positive politeness 3. no FTA The first strategy is employed when there’s no risk of loss of face involved. In order to avoid or minimize face-threatening activities. to be left to act as they choose. in the second case the speaker will be constrained to accept a debt and to encroach upon the hearer’s negative face. which appeals to the hearer’s desire not to be impeded or put upon.

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