Analysis of Euphemism from the Perspective of Cooperative Principle and Politeness Principle

Topics: Implicature, Pragmatics, Paul Grice Pages: 5 (1672 words) Published: April 29, 2012
Analysis of Euphemism from the Perspective of Cooperative Principle and Politeness Principle [Abstract]: Euphemism plays an important role in our daily interaction with others. Appropriate use of euphemism guarantees smooth communication between speakers. Likewise, the Cooperative Principle and the Politeness Principle also ensure efficient and successful communication among people. However, it is notable that the actual use of euphemisms violates the Cooperative Principle while observing the Politeness Principle to some extent. This essay provides a general view of the two pragmatic principles as well as euphemisms, and tries to work out the relations among them by specific analysis of conversational examples. [Key Words]: Euphemism; Cooperative Principle; Politeness Principle 1. Introduction: Paul Grice proposed the Cooperative Principle to demonstrate a series of maxims one has to observe to achieve efficient communication. Generally speaking, the principle requires speaking sincerely, relevantly and clearly, while at the same time providing sufficient information when conversing with others. In real life, however, a person at some time or other tends to violate the above principle. For instance, an official will possibly talk about some other unrelated issue when he is challenged a question in an interview to avoid his embarrassment. In order to maintain desirable social relationships, human beings prefer more indirect expressions or rather choose more euphemistic expressions. A euphemism is a word or phrase that is harmless or sounds pleasing which replaces a direct, rude utterance. In the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, “euphemism” is defined as “an example of the use of pleasant, mild, or indirect phrases in place of more accurate or direct ones”. In English, for example, “pass away”, “breathe one’s last”, “decease” are euphemistic alternatives for “death”. Why, then, do people bother to use these indirect expressions during communication? Leech suggests that it is out of consideration of politeness that people choose different pragmatic strategies to obey or violate CP. Leech’s Politeness Principle therefore deals with a series of maxims one has to follow to achieve politeness. These two principles, in a sense, are mutually complementary for each other. This essay aims to illustrate the functions of euphemisms by means of analyzing the relations between the two principles, thus demonstrating how to appropriately use euphemisms given different situations. 2. Demonstration

2.1 Overviews of relevant concepts
2.1.1 Euphemisms
The word Euphemism is derived from Greek words. The morpheme “eu-” means “good” while that of “-pheme” means “word” or “speech”, therefore the whole word “euphemism” means “to speak favorably” or “good speech”. A euphemism, as its origin suggests, is a mild or vague periphrastic expression as a substitute for blunt precision of disagreeable truth. The functions of euphemisms are various and complex as they touches almost every aspect of our social life. Generally speaking, evasive function, politeness function, and cosmetic function are among the most important. This essay, however, will focus on politeness function, that is, the function to avoid irreverence and discourtesy in communication. 2.1.2 Cooperative Principle

To accomplish efficient and successful communication, people are often cooperative in their cooperation. Based on this general view, H. P. Grice, an American linguistic philosopher, said, “Our talk exchanges do not normally consist of a succession of disconnected remarks, and would not be rational if they did. They are characteristically, to some degree at least, cooperative efforts; and each participant recognizes in them, to some extent, a common purpose or a set of purposes, or at least a mutually accepted direction.” A successful conversation, as Grice suggested, comes from the common efforts made by the participants involved in communication. Grice identifies as...

Bibliography: [1]Geoffrey Leech, Principle of Pragmatics [M]. Longman, London and New York, 1983
[2] Grice, H. Paul: Logic and conversation. In Syntax and Semantics 3: Speech Acts. Peter Cole and Jerry L. Morgan (eds.), New York: Academic Press, 1975: 41- 58.
[3] Hugh Rawson, 1981, A Dictionary of Euphemisms and other Doubletalk, Grown Publishers, Inc.
[4]戴炜栋;何兆熊,2010,A New Concise Course in Linguistics for Students of English,上海外语教育出版社
[5] A. S. Hornby, 2000, Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary of Current English (Sixth edition), Oxford University Press
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