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Social classification, face and politeness

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1 Social classification, face and politeness
Sociolinguistics 4 Social classification, face and politeness

2 The story so far We classify everything, including people.
We generalise in terms of general ‘types’ (prototypes – ‘the typical X’). Characteristics are stored as links to other nodes. All the characteristics of a type are inherited (by default) by all its members.

3 Classifying people We classify people on the basis of many different characteristics, so each person belongs to many different types: Sex Occupation Etc … Language community

4 Language as a badge of membership
Distinguishing communities is an important function of language. Language is better than clothing etc. because: There’s so much detail to learn. It’s very observable. It’s very fast and flexible. It allows multiple membership through bilingualism and code-mixing.

5 Multiple group membership (1)

6 Multiple group membership (2)

7 Language choice is a juggling act

8 Two social functions of language
Self-classification. Much more on this later. Uses the whole of language. Interaction-management: e.g. Hello! Sorry! Look here! Uses dedicated vocabulary. Interaction-management is closely related to self-classification through ‘face’.

9 Faces show feelings …

10 … or …

11 …or…

12 …or…

13 …or…

14 Face As in: to lose face, to save face.
Your face is your ‘public self-image’ (Brown and Levinson). It’s the rights you claim from others: The positive right to be respected: respect. The negative right to be unimpeded: freedom. The kind of respect and freedom you claim depends on your self-classification.

15 Morality We want others to protect our face.
But we know that they want the same of us. We could easily damage their face. But we know that they could do the same to us. So: Treat others as you would like them to treat you! (The ‘Golden Rule’)

16 Logic We classify ourselves as an X. We know that Xs have rights.
So we inherit those rights as well. But so do other Xs! In other words: What’s good for us is good for them. What’s good for them is good for us.

17 Basic morality

18 Politeness Sometimes we do ‘face-threatening acts’.
But we can repair the damage by being ‘polite’. We can use non-verbal behaviour – smiles, etc.

19 One-sided politeness …

20 …and mutual politeness.

21 Polite language Language offers tools for repairing X’s face:
Polite language consists of: special polite expressions, e.g. please special uses of ordinary expressions, e.g. I was just wondering whether you would mind awfully if … It deals with threats to: Positive face (respect), e.g. darling Negative face (freedom), e.g. please

22 Positive politeness expressions
Greeting: hello (We have a relation.) Farewell: see you later (We still have one) Hedged criticism: if you don’t mind me saying so (I won’t damage our relation) Address: mate (We’re in this together.) Hidden disagreement: I’ll think about it (Japanese) (I don’t want to offend you.) Hidden telling: isn’t it? (You’re the expert.)

23 The meaning of Hello!

24 Negative politeness expressions
Apology: sorry (It was an accident.) Apology-acceptance: that’s ok (Not important) Request: please (It’s up to you.) Request-acceptance: yes (I’m willing.) Offer: (there you go), bitte (German) (I’m doing this for you.) Gratitude (offer-acceptance): thanks (You didn’t have to do it.) Gratitude-acceptance: not at all (Not important)

25 The meaning of Sorry!

26 Discrimination Politeness is for saving other people’s faces.
But in fact we don’t give everyone the same rights. At least small children have limited freedom. Slaves (if we have them!) have no rights at all. Nor does ‘the enemy’.

27 Discrimination (1)

28 Classification matters
How we treat others depends on how we classify them. We distinguish the rights of sub-groups of our own group. But our classification may exclude some people altogether from having rights. And what about animal rights?

29 Discrimination (2)

30 Politeness again We use politeness markers to compensate for a face-threatening act (FTA). FTAs threaten X’s face only if X has relevant rights. This depends on how we classify X. So our use or non-use of politeness markers shows X how we classify them.

31 A cautionary tale Then Gilead cut Ephraim off from the fords of the Jordan, and whenever an Ephraimite fugitive said ‘let me cross’, the men of Gilead asked him to say shibboleth [ear of corn]. If he said sibboleth, they seized and slaughtered him. (Judges 12, 4-6). Language as a badge of membership. Classification decides rights.

32 Coming shortly Week 5: Power and solidarity
Week 6: Accommodation and sociolinguistic variables


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