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Politeness Theory - Essay Example

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Politeness Theory

Primarily, the theory focuses on the sequential context of utterances, which is deemed critical for the comprehensive message interpretation; this is nevertheless examined alongside other conversational factors such as tone and volume. This theory can be applied to a diverse range of social and professional or academic situations including but not limited to classroom pedagogy and language teaching. This paper will critically examine the politeness theory by carrying out a critical analysis several journal articles dedicated to various aspects of the concept with particular attention to its application in a pedagogical context as well as an analysis of the various disputations that have been directed towards challenging it. Summary of the politeness Theory The fundamental notion behind Brown and Levinson politeness theory is the face, which they defined as the public self-image that each individual in a society desires to claim for him/herself. They created a binary framework in which the face was categorized as two divergent albeit related aspects namely the negative and positive face. The positive face is characterized with the self-image, which holds, and it encapsulates their inherent desire to gain approval and appreciation from other people. The negative face is characterized by one’s not wanting to have their actions inhibited or constrained by or for the sake of others; in the context of this theory politeness refers to the steps that individuals take in the interests of preservation of both their face and that of their audience. The term has been explicitly defined as the redressive action through which individual’s counterbalance the effects of face threatening facts (FTAs) redressive is contextually applied in reference to actions that give or reinforce face to the audience of the message (Johnson, Roloff & Riffee, 2004). It is suggested that in communication, whether written, face-to-face of through other media, human beings perpetually attempt to maintain each other’s face. This is manifested in the fact that they often try their outmost to avoid creating through discourse, embarrassing or humiliating situations for each other in order to preserve self-esteem. FTAs are defined as action that infringes on the need of the patient of the information to maintain their self-esteem; therefore, one can say that there are acts that intricacy poses a threat to face (Foley, 1997). According to the theory, orders, suggestions advises reminders, threats or warning and similar acts pose a threat to one’s negative face, on the other hand, positive face is threatened when they incorporate elements of disapproval, ridicule contempt or accusations and insults. Under the positive strategy, politeness is inclined toward the positive self-perception of the speaker has for himself and the listener as well. This confirms that the speaker takes cognizance of the listeners need to be respected and this often happen among close friends or otherwise intimate people (Wilson et al., 1998). The negative politeness on the other hand is based on respect but in a different format as the speaker seeks to respect the negative face wants of the addressee by not interfering with their inherent autonomy of freedom. For example, one may start a request by saying “ ...Show more


Introduction Throughout an individual’s life, they invariably communicate with other people in day-to-day situations with the interest of gaining knowledge about a given topic or fulfilling any one of the many communication goals that exist. However, for one to be successful in their interactions, they need must adhere to a set of rules; one of the most popular communication principles in contemporary communication practice is the politeness theory by Brown and Levinson (1987)…
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Politeness Theory essay example
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