This study explores how impoliteness affects Japanese bulletin board system (BBS) communities. It finds that impoliteness, defined as intentional face-attack, has different effects on interactions, depending on the community's implicit norms and the forms in which impoliteness is communicated. The function of honorifics is identified as placing psychological distance between people, while that of non-use is to place interactants in psychological proximity. If non-honorifics are used to express impoliteness in a community where honorifics are the unmarked norm of linguistic practices among people in distanced relationships, it has a marked effect on the community and could lead to community dissolution. This is because the psychological distance indicated by honorifics is ignored by the non-honorifics and the face-attack is perceived more directly and strongly. On the other hand, if impoliteness is communicated in non-honorifics, a style conforming to implicit norms of language practices among people who share “joking relationships” (Takiura, The Japanese Journal of Language in Society 11: 23–38, 2008), it does not have a marked effect on the community. Technological and organizational factors originating from website establishment and management are considered as contributing to the differences in participants' behaviors and relationships they share in the two communities. This study is expected to contribute to discussion on norms of appropriate behavior in Japanese contexts.
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