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Pragmática Sociocultural / Sociocultural Pragmatics

Revista Internacional sobre Lingüística del Español / An International Journal of Spanish Linguistics

Ed. by Bernal, Maria / Bravo, Diana

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Disentangling face, facework and im/ politeness

Desentrañando la imagen social, la actividad de imagen y la (des)cortesía

Michael Haugh
Published Online: 2013-03-07 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/soprag-2012-0005


It is generally assumed in pragmatics that face is essentially a “socially attributed aspect of self”, and that politeness is one kind of facework, alongside other forms of facework such as impoliteness, mock impoliteness, mock politeness, self politeness and so on. In this paper, the assumed necessary link between face and im/politeness is questioned. Drawing from emic studies of face and im/politeness, it is argued that face and im/politeness should be studied, in the first instance, as distinct objects of study in their own right. It is also suggested that drawing from a wider range of emic conceptualisations of face and im/politeness opens up aspects of interpersonal phenomena that have been relatively neglected in pragmatics to date, namely, the importance of relationships as well as the sets of expectancies that underpin evaluations of im/politeness, as distinct areas for theorisation and analysis. It is concluded that while the Goffmanian face(work) paradigm has proven very productive in pragmatics, drawing from various other emic understandings affords further hitherto relatively under-explored analytical opportunities in the study of interpersonal phenomena.


En general, se supone en pragmática que la imagen social es en esencia “un aspecto del yo atribuido socialmente”, y que la cortesía es un tipo de actividad de imagen, junto con otros tipos como la descortesía, la (des)cortesía simulada, la autocortesía y demás. En este trabajo, se cuestiona la asunción de un vínculo necesario entre imagen social y cortesía. A partir de los estudios émicos sobre imagen social y (des)cortesía, se argumenta que la imagen social y la (des)cortesía deben ser estudiadas, en primer lugar, como objetos de estudio distintos por sí mismos. También se sugiere que una base más amplia de nociones émicas sobre la imagen social y la (des)cortesía presenta aspectos sobre fenómenos interpersonales que, hasta la fecha, han sido relativamente desconsiderados en la pragmática, tales como la importancia de las relaciones y los conjuntos de expectativas que sustentan las evaluaciones de (des)cortesía, como áreas diferenciadas para la teorización y el análisis. Se con cluye que, si bien el paradigma goffmaniano de (actividad de)imagen social ha demostrado ser muy productivo en la pragmática, otras consideraciones émicas, hasta ahora relativamente poco exploradas, ofrecen también oportunidades de análisis en el estudio de los fenómenos interpersonales.

Keywords: face; facework; im/politeness; emic; relationships

Palabras clave: imagen social; actividad de imagen; (des)cortesía; émico; relaciones

About the article

Michael Haugh

Michael Haugh is a senior lecturer in Linguistics and International English in the School of Languages and Linguistics at Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia. His research focuses on the analysis of interpersonal phenomena in naturallyoccurring interactional data drawing from approaches in pragmatics, intercultural communication and conversation analysis. He is the co-author of a number of forthcoming volumes including Understanding Politeness (with Dániel Kádár, in press, Cambridge University Press), Politeness in Chinese and Japanese (with Dániel Kádár, forthcoming, John Benjamins), and Pragmatics and the English Language (with Jonathan Culpeper, forthcoming, Palgrave Macmillan). He is also the co-editor of Face, Communication and Social Interaction (2009, Equinox) and Situated Politeness (2011, Continuum), and has edited a number os special issues, including “Face in interaction” (2010) and “(Im)politeness across Englishes” (2012) for Journal of Pragmatics.

Published Online: 2013-03-07

Published in Print: 2013-03-01

Citation Information: Sociocultural Pragmatics, Volume 1, Issue 1, Pages 46–73, ISSN (Online) 2104-8313, ISSN (Print) 2104-8305, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/soprag-2012-0005.

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© 2013 by Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co.. This content is open access.

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