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Journal of Politeness Research

Language, Behaviour, Culture

Ed. by Grainger, Karen

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Politeness and in-directness across cultures: A comparison of English, German, Polish and Russian requests

Eva Ogiermann
Published Online: 2009-07-15 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/JPLR.2009.011


This paper provides some (more) insights into cross-cultural variation in speech act realization by analyzing English, German, Polish and Russian requests. It aims to shows that the relationship between indirectness and politeness is interpreted differently across cultures. Hence, the analysis focuses on the difference between direct requests, which have been said to play a central role in Polish and Russian, and conventionally indirect requests, which are the most frequent request type in English and German. It further shows that the examined languages exhibit culture-specific preferences for syntactic and lexical downgraders modifying the illocutionary force of the request and, thus, reducing the threat to the hearer's face.

The requests analyzed in this study have been elicited by means of a discourse completion task and constitute responses to a scenario frequently used in previous request studies, so that the results can be compared with those established for other languages. The strong agreement among languages on the use of conventional indirectness in this scenario allows for testing the restricted applicability of interrogative constructions claimed for the two Slavic languages.

Keywords:: requests; indirectness; politeness; English; German; Polish; Russian

About the article

Published Online: 2009-07-15

Published in Print: 2009-07-01

Citation Information: Journal of Politeness Research. Language, Behaviour, Culture, ISSN (Online) 1613-4877, ISSN (Print) 1612-5681, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/JPLR.2009.011.

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