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Intercultural Pragmatics

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Volume 8, Issue 3 (Jan 2011)


Culture-specific concepts of politeness: indirectness and politeness in English, Hebrew and Korean requests

Kyong-Ae Yu
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Published Online: 2011-08-22 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/iprg.2011.018


Pragmatic clarity and politeness have been the two major factors in pragmatic competence rules since Grice (Syntax and Semantics 3, 41–58: 1975). Clarity and politeness have been claimed as complementary elements (Lakoff, The logic of politeness; or minding your p's and q's, University of Chicago, 1973) and politeness as the motivation for indirectness in requests (Searle, Syntax and Semantics 3: 59–82, 1975, Expression and meaning: Studies in the theory of speech acts, Cambridge University Press, 1979; Gordon and Lakoff, Syntax and Semantics 3: 83–106, 1975; Lakoff, The logic of politeness; or minding your p's and q's, University of Chicago, 1973, Language and woman's place, Harper and Row, 1975, What you can do with words: Politeness, pragmatics, and performatives: 79–105, Center of Applied Linguistics, 1977, Annals of the New York Academy of Science 327: 53–78, 1979, Multilingua 8: 101–129, 1989, Talking power: The politics of language in our lives, Basic Books, 1990; Leech, Principles of pragmatics, Longman, 1983; Brown and Levinson, Universals in language usage: Politeness phenomena, Cambridge University Press, 1978, Politeness: Some universals in language usage, Cambridge University Press, 1987). However, highly indirect strategies, e.g., hints, may also be perceived as lacking in politeness because of a lack of concern for pragmatic clarity (Blum-Kulka, Journal of Pragmatics 11: 131–146, 1987). In order to compare indirectness and politeness scales in Korean, Hebrew, and English and to re-examine the link between indirectness and politeness cross-culturally, this study uses the theoretical and methodological framework of Blum-Kulka (Journal of Pragmatics 11: 131–146, 1987) and Blum-Kulka, House, and Kasper (Cross-cultural pragmatics: Requests and apologies, Ablex, 1989). The study results show that neither non-conventional indirectness nor some strategies of conventional indirectness imply politeness in Korean and imply, in agreement with Yu (Korean Journal of Applied Linguistics 18: 41–60, 2002), that politeness is differently perceived cross-culturally. In particular, the results of the study show that the conventional indirect strategies such as Strong Hints, Mild Hints, and Suggestory Formulae in the nine request categories are not significantly correlated with politeness in Korean and that Performatives (Austin, How to do things with words, Harvard University Press, 1962) and Want Statements are perceived as direct but polite strategies in Korean. These results support that the degree and the concepts of politeness in Korean, Hebrew, and English are significantly different.

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Published Online: 2011-08-22

Published in Print: 2011-09-01

Citation Information: Intercultural Pragmatics, ISSN (Online) 1613-365X, ISSN (Print) 1612-295X, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/iprg.2011.018.

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