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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton November 4, 2010

Conceptualizations of politeness and impoliteness in Greek

Maria Sifianou and Angeliki Tzanne
From the journal


In recent years, researchers have explored politeness and impoliteness extensively and have attempted to construct theoretical frameworks that would account for both phenomena. Research on im-politeness focuses almost exclusively on linguistic performance and investigates the phenomena in relation to the behavior of individuals in verbal interaction (see Brown and Levinson, Politeness: Some universals in language usage, Cambridge University Press, 1987 [Universals in language usage: Politeness phenomena, Cambridge University Press, 1978]; Leech, Principles of pragmatics, Longman, 1983; Spencer-Oatey, Rapport management: A framework for analysis, Continuum, 2000; Mills, Gender and politeness, Cambridge University Press, 2003; Watts, Politeness, Cambridge University Press, 2003 among others). Departing from this line of investigation, in our paper, we consider im-politeness as broad phenomena that involve verbal and/or non-verbal means of expression and manifest themselves primarily at a societal level.

The main aim of the paper is to explore how young Greeks conceptualize im-politeness and to briefly consider whether these perceptions have changed in the last 25 years. Another aim of the paper is to investigate whether our informants believe that their society has become more or less polite than it used to be and to delve into the reasons to which they may attribute this change.

Our findings indicate that our informants view impoliteness as being different in nature from, but not the polar opposite of, politeness, while the conceptualization of both phenomena reveals the respondents' preoccupation with societal issues concerning social norms and rights and the ensuing notion of appropriateness in context. Another interesting finding that emerged from this study is that for the majority of our informants, impoliteness is expressed verbally, whereas the reverse is true of politeness, which is primarily seen in terms of non-verbal action. Finally, rather expectedly, our informants view their society as becoming less polite than it used to be and attribute this change primarily to the fast and hectic pace of life.

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Published Online: 2010-11-04
Published in Print: 2010-October

© 2010 Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co. KG, Berlin/New York