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Journal of Politeness Research

Language, Behaviour, Culture

Ed. by Grainger, Karen

IMPACT FACTOR 2018: 0.652
5-year IMPACT FACTOR: 1.667

CiteScore 2018: 1.24

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2018: 0.785
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2018: 1.150

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What's in an FTA? Reflections on a chance meeting with Claudine

Jim O'Driscoll
Published Online: 2007-07-31 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/PR.2007.011


This paper is about face-threatening acts (FTAs). It upholds the usefulness of the general concept as first introduced by Brown and Levinson but presents a different view of (1) what an FTA is and how it arises and (2) how to gauge the relative severity of one. Regarding (1), it argues that no act is intrinsically face-threatening and that FTAs cannot be equated with speech acts. They can only be identified in the context of the ongoing interaction. An FTA, it is suggested, is simply any move which predicates a change in face. However, its ultimate identification rests with interactants. With regard to (2), the paper demonstrates that Brown and Levinson's ‘weightiness’ formula does not work. It is suggested that the severity of an FTA is the product of two factors: the amount of face-change it predicates and the amount of salience accorded to face at the time. But the values of these factors are also ultimately determined by participant reactions. Both matters are addressed largely through the close examination of one particular moment in one particular encounter.

Keywords: face; facework; face-threatening act; FTA; face-enhancing act; interaction

About the article

Jim O'Driscoll

Jim O'Driscoll was born and brought up in Britain but has spent most of his working life outside it, having held posts in six different countries. His interests range across language ideology, sociolinguistics, interaction and intercultural pragmatics. He is currently affiliated to the University of Huddersfield, where he is involved in a project to bring insights from linguistics into conflict studies.

Published Online: 2007-07-31

Published in Print: 2007-07-20

Citation Information: Journal of Politeness Research. Language, Behaviour, Culture, Volume 3, Issue 2, Pages 243–268, ISSN (Online) 1613-4877, ISSN (Print) 1612-5681, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/PR.2007.011.

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