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‘Politeness Markers’ Revisited - A Contrastive Pragmatic Perspective

Dániel Z. Kádár and Juliane House


This paper revisits the concept of ‘politeness marker’, by proposing the bottom-up and corpus-based model of ‘ritual frame indicating expressions’ (RFIEs). Our central argument is that, in certain linguacultures, the relationship between ‘politeness markers’ and politeness itself is significantly stronger than in others. Therefore, any theory which argues that there is a definite relationship between form and politeness - or totally rejects this relationship - is potentially problematic if it does not take a contrastive pragmatic perspective, simply because this relationship is subject to significant linguacultural variation. The contrastive pragmatic study of RFIEs also helps us to determine the relationship between forms and speech acts and, indirectly, politeness. As a case study, we examine in this paper one-word and more complex expressions which are commonly associated with the speech acts of request and apology, drawn from the typologically distant Chinese and English linguacultures.


We would like to express our gratitude to the two anonymous Reviewers for their constructive and insightful comments. On the institutional level, we would like to acknowledge the research funding of the MTA Momentum (Lendulet) Research Grant (LP2017/5) of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, which allowed us to work on the present project.


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Received: 2020-06-12
Accepted: 2020-06-12
Published Online: 2020-10-27
Published in Print: 2021-02-26

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