Silence: Is Face Saved or Lost
——An Cultural Study of Politeness
The present paper focuses on silence; it is mainly dedicated to theory exploration. It firstly reviews major views of the notion of silence, namely its various norms and functions. Then it illustrates silence with examples as a polite means during conversations. Finally it summarizes that silence, as a nonverbal language, bears as many functions as speech, and sometimes it may bring about special results.
When communication comes into question, in its broadest sense, two aspects catch most researchers’ eyes---speech and silence. Speech is a quite familiar subject, as when referred, communication is often specified on speech, while silence is more often than not a phenomenon which is out of awareness. As regards its strategies, communication can roughly fall into two parts---directness and indirectness, that is, the speaker can express something directly or indirectly. And to communicate successfully, we depend on both of the strategies and both of the tools, i.e. speech and silence.
2. Silence and Politeness
1. The Notion of Silence
Silence has traditionally been regarded as delimiting the beginning and end of utterances, or taken simply for inaction in communicative settings, or as most researchers have defined, treated as merely background. As a matter of fact, silence plays a central importance in communicative settings. The appropriate understanding of the notion of silence can be achieved by the understanding of its various forms and functions. 2.1.1 Its Various Forms
Silence takes various forms. The smallest unit of silence is the normally unnoticed cessation of sound in the production of consonants, which creates the pattern of consonants and vowels that makes “speech” of a vocal stream. Pausing follows and sometimes is perceived as hesitation and sometimes not perceived at all, within the stream of speech making up a speaker’s turn, and between speaker turns. The next level of silence includes pauses that are perceived in interaction such as lulls in conversation. Longer than this is the complete silence of one party to a conversation. The broadest level of silence is that which provides the structure and background against which talk is marked and meaningful merely by virtue of its occurrence. (Tannen and Saville-Troike, 1985).
2.1.2 Its Functions
Owing to varying levels, silence bears a range of functions. At one pole are the functions of pausing in cognitive processes, impression formation, and as part of communicative style partly responsible for cultural stereotyping. At the other pole are the functions of silence as the background against which talk has meaning, or as the nonverbal activity which structures interaction. This article mainly focus on silence itself as a communicative device in interaction; either obstructer or facilitator of divine inspiration, and a means of emotion management and display. Many researchers have discussed certain functions of silence: Bruneau (1973) has dealt with “interactive silences”, which include a broad array of functions, from defining the role of auditor in a communicative exchange, to providing social control, to demonstrating difference, to indicating emotional closeness, to managing personal interaction; Jensen (1973) has also categorizing its various functions as linkage, affection, revelation, judgment, and activation.
2. Silence and Politeness
Silence, to some extent, is the extreme manifestation of indirectness. If indirectness is a matter of saying one thing and meaning another, silence can be a matter of saying nothing and meaning something.
1. Face-Saving View and Politeness
In communication, people often mind their face, or to say, maintain their personal image. In their face-saving view, Brown and Levinson (1978) categorize face into “positive face” and “negative face”, define negative face (NF) as...
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