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Journal of Politeness Research

Language, Behaviour, Culture

Ed. by Grainger, Karen

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Evaluating evaluations: What different types of metapragmatic behaviour can tell us about participants’ understandings of the moral order

Bethan L. Davies
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  • University of Leeds, School of Languages, Cultures and Societies, Leeds, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
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Published Online: 2018-01-24 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/pr-2017-0037


Participant evaluations have been at the heart of recent discursive (im)politeness research, yet despite their importance, there has been little consideration of how we identify such behaviours and how we can substantiate their worth in an analysis. In this paper, it is proposed that we need to distinguish between different, ordered, categories of evaluation because these provide different levels of evidence for participants’ understandings of (im)politeness.

Using online comments from Daily Mail articles relating to the Penelope Soto court hearings, I show that apparent agreements in the classification of linguistic behaviour as (im)polite can mask disagreements in the underlying rationales for those judgements. It is these rationales that provide the strongest warrant for analysts because they represent the ideological basis behind an individual’s understanding of politeness – why people should behave in this way. This links to Haugh’s (2013) use of ‘moral order’ and also Eelen’s (2001) key, but underdeveloped, notion of argumentativity. The rationale behind an individual’s judgement provides the argumentative link between metapragmatic behaviour and the social order. Classifications and positive/negative assessments of person are only clues to this underlying rationale, and need to be treated as such. Understanding these differences will assist analysts in assessing the ideological weight of metapragmatic behaviour and provide better-informed warrants for their analyses.

Keywords: Evaluation; argumentativity; moral order; second order politeness; metadiscourse

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Published Online: 2018-01-24

Published in Print: 2018-02-23

Citation Information: Journal of Politeness Research, Volume 14, Issue 1, Pages 121–151, ISSN (Online) 1613-4877, ISSN (Print) 1612-5681, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/pr-2017-0037.

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