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Sociolinguistics 4 Social classification, face and politeness.

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1 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: –Theres so much detail to learn. –Its very observable. –Its 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 …




14 Face As in: to lose face, to save face. Your face is your public self-image (Brown and Levinson). Its 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: –Whats good for us is good for them. –Whats 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 Xs 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 dont mind me saying so (I wont damage our relation) Address: mate (Were in this together.) Hidden disagreement: Ill think about it (Japanese) (I dont want to offend you.) Hidden telling: isnt it? (Youre the expert.)

23 The meaning of Hello!

24 Negative politeness expressions Apology: sorry (It was an accident.) –Apology-acceptance: thats ok (Not important) Request: please (Its up to you.) –Request-acceptance: yes (Im willing.) Offer: (there you go), bitte (German) (Im doing this for you.) Gratitude (offer-acceptance): thanks (You didnt have to do it.) –Gratitude-acceptance: not at all (Not important)

25 The meaning of Sorry!

26 Discrimination Politeness is for saving other peoples faces. But in fact we dont 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 Xs 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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