Politeness Theory and Its Application in Arabic

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  • Topic: Politeness theory, Japan, Japanese language
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  • Published : April 8, 2012
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People have different ways to express politeness and they usually use a range of different linguistic expressions to do so, depending on the relationship with the addressee. This research will explain Browns and Levinson’s politeness theory and will recognize how universal this theory is and weather it can be applied on Japanese language taking into account the difference in cultures. Brown and Levinson’s theory of Politeness and how it applies in Arabic: Brown and Levinson`s theory is mainly based on three principle notions: face, face threatening act (FTA), and politeness strategies (Bowe & Martin 2009, p. 27). Brown and Levinson’s concept of face was derived from Goffman (1972 p.5): “The term face may be defined as the positive social value a person effectively claims for himself by the line others assume he has taken during a particular contact. Face is an image of self delineated in terms of approved social attributes”. So their definition for face was similar “ ‘face’, the public self-image that every member wants to claim for himself”. Brown and Levinson (1987, p.61) Brown and Levinson have conducted a research with three languages (English, Tamil and Tzeltal). According to Brown and Levinson, people’s faces are human properties that are broadly comparable to self-esteem (Grundy 2008, p. 195). Brown and Levinson (1987) classified two notions of face negative and positive face, the negative face refers to “the basic claim to territories, personal preserves, rights to non-distraction – i.e. to freedom of action and freedom from imposition”. While the positive face refers to “the positive consistent self-image or ‘personality’ (crucially including the desire that this self-image be appreciated and approved of) claimed by interactants”. (1987, p.61) So if a person acts is opposing to the other person’s face needs, it is then considered a Face Threatening Act (FTA) that was committed, and since all people have positive and negative faces, and these can be threatened by someone at anytime and lead to (FTA). So according to Brown and Levinson (1987) these threatening acts can be minimised or avoided by following some strategies to soften and avoid the threat. Brown and Levinson (1987) strategies are shown as in (Figure 1) below

Figure 1. Possible strategies for doing face-threatening acts (From Brown and Levinson 1987, p 60)

As we can see in this figure we can do the (FTA) on record as in 1, 2 and 3strategies and off record as in strategy number 4, for example if someone wants to borrow someone else’s car it is on record when the speaker asks for it with no ambiguity.

* E.g.: Can I borrow your car tomorrow? 1
On record act this can be done with or without redressive action, as in strategy 1 we can do the act without redressive action (baldly) by using the most straightforward, unambiguous and straight to the point, way. * E.g.: Lend me your car tomorrow1.

However if we do the act with redressive action as in strategy 2and 3, it can be done using the positive face as in strategy 1: * E.g.: Hey that’s a nice suit you have on! Is it new? By the way can I borrow your car tomorrow2? By this the person asking for the car is trying to complement the other person’s face to convince him to lend him the car. An act with redressive action can also be done by using the negative face as in strategy 3: * E.g.: You wouldn’t by any chance lend me your car tomorrow, Would you?3 While if there is ambiguity in the request and the request is not clear then it will be off record. -------------------------------------------------

E.g.: I need to pickup my friend from the airport tomorrow, but I don’t have a car1. (Brown & Levinson, 1987) 1: These examples adapted from (Brown & Levinson, 1987 P. 73- 74) 2: These examples adapted from (Brown & Levinson, 1987 P. 108) 3: These examples adapted from (Brown & Levinson, 1987 P. 141) Choosing which strategies to use in different...
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