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Journal of Politeness Research

Language, Behaviour, Culture

Ed. by Grainger, Karen

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Analyzing online postings as social behavior for L2 instruction of (im)politeness: Sensitizing advanced learners of German or English

Caroline L. Rieger
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  • University of British Columbia, Department of Central, Eastern and Northern European Studies, Vancouver, Canada
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Published Online: 2017-04-18 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/pr-2015-0029


This study takes a discursive approach (cf. Watts 1989, 2008; Locher 2004, 2006, 2011, 2012; Locher and Watts 2005, 2008; Mills 2011; van der Bom and Mills 2015), to analyze online postings as social behavior for use in other/second language (im)politeness instruction. The criteria for inclusion are authenticity, complexity, diversity and feasibility. This means the postings need to (1) be created for a social purpose, not an instructional one; (2) be pragmatically rich and exemplify evaluations of (in)appropriate behavior; (3) illustrate variety in their underlying social norms and values; as well as (4) lend themselves to examination by learners and provoke reflection in conjunction with participatory learning activities. The analysis found that postings from online fora can meet these criteria and identifies (a manageable number of) posts for which participatory learning activities were developed. In combination the posts and the activities are used to enhance awareness of the complexity of (im)politeness in social encounters, especially in intercultural interactions, and the omnipresent and emergent nature of (im)politeness. They have been used in a university setting to sensitize the L2 learner to differences in the views, judgments and negotiations of what constitutes polite or impolite behavior between as well as within speech communities.

Keywords: intercultural interaction; interpersonal pragmatics; pragmatic instruction in L2 university classes; learning politeness and impoliteness; English and German

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Published Online: 2017-04-18

Published in Print: 2017-08-28

Citation Information: Journal of Politeness Research, Volume 13, Issue 2, Pages 345–377, ISSN (Online) 1613-4877, ISSN (Print) 1612-5681, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/pr-2015-0029.

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