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Title:Politeness in Cypriot Greek: A frame-based approach
Author(s):Terkourafi, Marina
Abstract:This research combines elements in pragmatics, sociolinguistics, and cognitive linguistics, using empirical data to contribute to our understanding of the processing of polite discourse. One hundred and five hours of spontaneous conversational data produced by native Cypriot Greek speakers of both sexes and of various ages and socio-economic backgrounds were recorded in various settings. The semi-phonological transcription of realisations of offers and requests yielded a corpus of 2,189 observations. Extra-linguistic variables considered during the analysis of these data included the interlocutors’ sex, age, and social class, the relationship between them, the setting of the exchange, and the order of occurrence of the speech act in the flow of the conversation. Linguistic variables included the presence/absence of a main-clause verb, its type (lexico-semantically defined), the subjective modality, and number+ person for which this was marked, as well as additional markers of politeness (address terms, diminutives, etc.). To test the validity of Brown and Levinson’s (1987) prediction that the degree of indirectness of an utterance realising an FTAx is commensurate with the sum of the Distance between interlocutors, the Power of the hearer over the speaker, and the Ranking of the imposition which FTAx entails in the culture in question, frequencies of co-occurrence between these variables were investigated. This investigation revealed an arbitrary association of particular combinations of linguistic features with particular combinations of extra-linguistic features. It is proposed that, to the extent that particular expressions are conventionalised for some use, and to the extent that such expressions constitute our main resource for achieving politeness, politeness is presumed given a minimal context. Such context is modelled as a frame combining information about extra-linguistic features of the situation and the (socio-culturally defined) appropriate use of language therein. The presumptive nature of the implicatures arising when a frame of this kind is instantiated guarantees that politeness, defined as a perlocutionary effect consisting of the addressee holding the belief that the speaker is polite, is achieved all else being equal. A natural explanation is thus provided for the oft-repeated observation that politeness commonly passes unnoticed. This account departs from previous approaches, which view politeness as tied to speakers’ intentions and communicated by means of particularised implicatures. In the proposed schema, speakers’ intentions come into play only when the expression used is not conventionalised for some use relative to the (minimal) context of utterance. They then give rise to particularised implicatures which necessitate a reference to the nonce context of utterance.
Issue Date:2001
Citation Info:Terkourafi, M. (2001) Politeness in Cypriot Greek: A Frame-based approach. Unpublished PhD diss., University of Cambridge, Department of Linguistics.
Genre:Dissertation / Thesis
Publication Status:unpublished
Rights Information:Anyone who views and subsequently uses material from this dissertation must attribute the work to Marina Terkourafi, cannot use the work for any commercial purpose, and cannot modify the work in any way without obtaining the copyright holder’s explicit permission (Creative Commons License 3.0).
Date Available in IDEALS:2009-02-01

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