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Journal of Politeness Research

Language, Behaviour, Culture

Ed. by Grainger, Karen

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An Intergenerational Perspective on (Im)politeness

Spyridoula Bella
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  • National and Kapodistrian University of Athens Department of Linguistics 28is Oktovriou 12 Athens 15341 Athens Greece
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/ Eva Ogiermann
Published Online: 2019-06-26 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/pr-2017-0033


The present paper provides an intergenerational perspective on Greek conceptualizations of (im)politeness. Based on interviews eliciting narratives of impolite behaviour of our participants’ parents’ generation, the study illustrates the contested and changing nature of politeness in contemporary Greece.

Through critically evaluating the older generation’s behaviour, the participants not only provided insights into their own politeness norms but also showed a clear understanding of the previous generation’s politeness norms. The discrepancy between what is perceived as polite by the two generations points to a distinction between empirical (is) and moral (should) norms (Haugh 2010), with the former allowing the participants to classify their parents’ impoliteness as non-intentional and the latter reflecting the emergence of new conceptualizations of politeness in Greece.

While Greece has been unanimously characterized as a positive politeness culture in previous research, the present study illustrates an increasing emphasis on values and norms associated with negative politeness.

Keywords: (im)politeness; Greek; change; generations


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About the article

Spyridoula Bella

Spyridoula Bella is Professor of Linguistics at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. Her research interests include pragmatics, linguistic (im)politeness, second language acquisition and second language teaching. Her research output in these areas has appeared in international journals (Journal of Pragmatics, Journal of Politeness Research, Multilingua, Pragmatics) as well as a number of collected volumes both in English and Greek.

Eva Ogiermann

Eva Ogiermann is Senior Lecturer in English Language and Applied Linguistics at King’s College London. Her work investigates culture-specific conceptualizations of politeness in English, German, Polish, Russian and Greek and analyses interactions in English and Polish families. Her publications include a monograph on apologizing and articles in Intercultural Pragmatics, Journal of Politeness Research, Journal of Pragmatics, Multilingua and Research on Language and Social Interaction. She is also associate editor of the Journal of Pragmatics.

Published Online: 2019-06-26

Published in Print: 2019-07-26

Citation Information: Journal of Politeness Research, Volume 15, Issue 2, Pages 163–193, ISSN (Online) 1613-4877, ISSN (Print) 1612-5681, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/pr-2017-0033.

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