The discursive challenge to politeness research: An interactional alternative

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Haugh, Michael
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Professor Chris Christie
Date
2007
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Abstract

The discursive approach to politeness represents one of the most coherent challenges to the dominance of Brown and Levinson's politeness theory to date, and indeed to the continuing viability of the field of politeness research itself. However, while the discursive approach advocates the displacement of politeness as the focus of research, upon closer examination of the epistemological and ontological assumptions underlying this approach, a number of inconsistencies arise. In particular, the issue of how researchers can identify instances of (im)politeness without imposing the analysts' understandings comes to the fore. In this paper it is suggested that a theory of (im)politeness needs to examine more carefully how (im)politeness is interactionally achieved through the evaluations of self and other (or their respective groups) that emerge in the sequential unfolding of interaction. This entails the analyst looking for evidence in the interaction that such (im)politeness evaluations have been made by the participants, either through explicit comments made by participants in the course of the interaction (less commonly), or through the reciprocation of concern evident in the adjacent placement of expressions of concern relevant to the norms invoked in that particular interaction (more commonly). In this way, the development of a theory of (im)politeness within a broader theory of facework or interpersonal communication can remain a focal point for the field of politeness research.

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Journal of Politeness Research: language, behavior, culture
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3
Issue
2
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© 2007 Walter de Gruyter & Co. KG Publishers. This is the author-manuscript version of this paper. Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher. Please refer to the publisher's website for access to the definitive, published version.
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Linguistics
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