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Journal of Politeness Research

Language, Behaviour, Culture

Ed. by Grainger, Karen

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Politeness shifts in English-Greek political science discourse: translation as a language change situation

Maria Sidiropoulou
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  • National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, School of Philosophy, Faculty of English Language and Literature, Athens, Greece
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Published Online: 2017-04-19 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/pr-2015-0030


Translation practice is a code interaction situation (Schäffner and Adab 1997; Cronin 2003; Heine and Kuteva 2005; House 2006), which can bring about change in target linguistic systems through the cumulative effect of hegemonic donor languages on reception ones.

The study traces development of politeness-related features in English-Greek samples of translated political science discourse. A pilot study first identifies a set of shift types between the English and Greek versions of John Stuart Mill’s essay On Liberty (1869,1983) tracing a prevailing set of positive politeness shifts in the Greek target version, often balanced with some negative politeness ones. An experiment follows, examining a rendition of three politeness devices which are claimed to realize quality, social identity and relational aspects of facework (Spencer-Oatey 2007), in samples from two Greek versions (1990, 2005) of John Locke’s The Second Treatise. Results show that there is variation between retranslations in the treatment of these devices over the years. The study further examines a set of six parallel samples from different political science works and their translations into Greek, with a view to quantitatively verifying the hypothesis that Greek academic discourse is changing under the influence of English academic discourse. Results show that features are ‘degenerating’ as manifested through the translated versions of these works. Finally an experiment was conducted with translator-trainees, hoping to show the relative importance of these features (and aspects of facework) from an emic perspective. The study concludes that the relational aspect of facework, which is prioritized by native Greek informants, undergoes some ‘degeneration’ over the years, which seems to suppress the local balance of positive/negative politeness patterns in political science discourse. The finding is assumed to be an effect of globalization suppressing locally prioritized aspects of facework.

Keywords: politeness; face aspects; translation; English-Greek; political science discourse

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Published Online: 2017-04-19

Published in Print: 2017-08-28

Citation Information: Journal of Politeness Research, Volume 13, Issue 2, Pages 313–343, ISSN (Online) 1613-4877, ISSN (Print) 1612-5681, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/pr-2015-0030.

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