Strength for Today and Bright Hope for Tomorrow

Volume 10 : 6 June 2010
ISSN 1930-2940

Managing Editor: M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
Editors: B. Mallikarjun, Ph.D.
         Sam Mohanlal, Ph.D.
         B. A. Sharada, Ph.D.
         A. R. Fatihi, Ph.D.
         Lakhan Gusain, Ph.D.
         K. Karunakaran, Ph.D.
         Jennifer Marie Bayer, Ph.D.
         S. M. Ravichandran, Ph.D.



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Pragmatic Approaches and Models of Linguistic Politeness

Mohammed Hasan Ahmed ALFattah, M.A, Ph.D. Candidate

1. Review of Politeness Theory: Ideas of Leech

Leech approaches linguistic politeness phenomena to set up a model of what they call general pragmatics. Leech does not aim to account for pragmatic competence. Leech conceptualizes 'general pragmatics' as 'the general conditions of the communicative use of language. In addition to 'general pragmatics' Leech assumes two further pragmatic systems, pragmalinguistics, which we consider resources which a given language provides for conveying particular illocutions and socio-pragmatics', to study more specific "local conditions on language use" (1983:11).

To study general pragmatics, Leech takes rhetorical approach, by which he means the effective use of language in its most general sense, applying it basically to everyday conversation.

Leech's approach is centered on the hearer rather than on the speaker. According to Leech (1983) the major purpose of politeness principle (PP) is to establish and maintain feelings of comity within the social group. "The PP regulates the social equilibrium and the friendly relations which enable us to assume that our interlocutors are being cooperative in the first place which, again, is clear evidence of an evaluative, normative stance despite claims to the contrary" (Leech, 1983:3). According to Leech, politeness involves minimizing the cost and maximizing the benefit to speaker/hearer.

"Like Brown and Levinson, Leech also suggests that the degree of indirectness in the production of speech acts will increase relative to the increase in the cost to speaker and the decrease in the benefit to hearer" (Watts, 2003: 69).

Leech also uses the two terms 'negative' and positive politeness, although they are defined somewhat different from Brown and Levinson. "Negative politeness with Leech consists of the minimization of the impoliteness of impolite illocutions, and positive politeness consists of the maximization of the politeness of polite illocutions" (Fraser, 1990:226) This involves that some kinds of speech acts are inherently polite such as congratulating, praising, etc, and that others are inherently impolite such as criticizing, blaming, accusing etc, and will be in need of minimization in the form of certain kinds of prefacing formula as:

"I'm sorry to say that, but…"

Important to Leech's theory is his distinction between a speaker's illocutionary goals (what speech acts) the speaker intends to be conveying by the utterance) and the speaker's social goals (what position the speaker is taking on being truthful, polite, ironic, and the like). In this regard, he posits two sets of conversational (rhetorical) principles. Inter-personal rhetoric and textual rhetoric, each constituted by set of maxims, which socially constrain communicative behavior in specific ways.

Politeness never explicitly defined, is treated within the domain of inter-personal rhetoric, which contains at least three sets of maxims those falling under the terms of Grice's cooperative principle (CP), those associated with an Irony Principle (IP). Each of these inter-personal principles have the same status in his pragmatic theory, with the CP and its associated maxims used to explain how an utterance may be interpreted to convey indirect message and the PP and its maxims used to explain why such indirectness might be used.

Leech distinguishes between what calls 'relative politeness' which refers to politeness vis-à-vis a specific situation, and 'absolute politeness' which refers to the degree of politeness inherently associated with specific speaker actions. Thus, he takes some illocutions (e.g. orders) and presumably the linguistic forms used to affect them to be inherently polite.

Within his account, negative politeness consists in minimizing the impoliteness of impolite illocutions. While positive politeness consists in maximizing the politeness of polite illocutions. For example, using 'if it would not trouble you too much….' as preface to an order constitutes negative politeness, while using 'I'm delighted to inform you …' as a preface to announcing the hearer to be the winner constitutes positive politeness for Leech. (Fraser, 1990: 225-26)

According to Watts (2003), the principal criticism of Leech's model, then is that it considers linguistic politeness from the point of view of speech act types, some of which appear to be inherently polite or impolite, but gives the researcher no clear idea of how an individual participating in an interaction can possibly know the degree and type of politeness required for the performance of a speech act.

Leech classifies the politeness principle into six maxims:

1.The tact maxims: maximize hearer costs; maximize hearer benefit such as ordering, requesting, commanding, advising, recommending, etc. e.g. You know, I really do think you ought to sell that old car, it's costing more and more money in repairs and it uses up far too much fuel.

Solidarity ….. You know.
Hedge………… really.

2. The Generosity maxims: maximize your own benefit; maximize your hearer's benefit such as impositive, commissive. e.g. It's none of any business really, but you look so much nicer in the green hat than in the pink one.

If I were you, I'd buy that one.

3. The approbation maxim: maximize hearer dispraise; maximize hearer praise such as expressive. e.g. thanking, congratulating, pardoning, blaming, praising, condoling, assertive, stating, boasting, complaining, e.g. Dear aunt Mabel, I want to thank you so much for the superb Christmas present this year. It was so very thoughtful of you.

I wonder if you could keep the noise from your Saturday parties down a bit. I'm finding it very hard to get enough sleep over the weekends.

4. The modesty Maxim: expressive, assertive

a. Minimizing praise of self. e.g. well done! What a wonderful performance.
b. Maximizing praise of others: e.g. I wish I could sing as well as that.

This is only the beginning part of the article. PLEASE CLICK HERE TO READ THE ARTICLE IN PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION.

Patterns of Indian Multilingualism | The Use of Catchy Words: A Case Study from Pakistan | Conquering Psychological Alienation - How Amy Tan Looks at It | I`gbo` Verbs of Communication | Honorifics and Speech Levels in Meiteiron | Social Functions of Metaphor - A Case Study Applying Tamil and Telugu Examples | Pragmatic Approaches and Models of Linguistic Politeness | Emerging Paradigms in Language Communication in India and Their Impact on the Corporate Competencies | Role of Encoding Temporal Fine Structure Cues in Time Compressed Word Recognition | Negotiating Boundaries: Arab-American Poetry and the Dilemmas of Dual Identity | The Role of Self-Directed Learning Strategy in Higher Education | Attitudes toward Women Expressed in the Speech of Male College Students | Teachers' Professional Development in ELT at Tertiary Level: ELTR Project of the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan - A Case Study | The Changing Image of Women in Indian Writing in English - A Study of Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things | The Administration of the East India Company: A History of Indian Progress: Native Education | Teaching English Language and Literature in Non-Native Context | Improving Chemmozhi Learning and Teaching - Descriptive Studies in Classical-Modern Tamil Grammar | Global Perspective of Teaching English Literature in Higher Education in Pakistan | Two Trends That Would Deface Classical-Modern Tamil - How to Reverse These Trends? | A PRINT VERSION OF ALL THE PAPERS OF JUNE 2010 ISSUE IN BOOK FORMAT | HOME PAGE of June 2010 Issue | HOME PAGE | CONTACT EDITOR

Mohammed Hasan Ahmed ALFattah, M.A., Ph.D. Candidate
Department of Linguistics
University of Mysore
Mysore, 570 006
Karnataka, India

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