30 June - 2 July 2009, Lancaster University, LA1 4YT, United Kingdom



Panel convenor: Miriam Locher (University of Basel)

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The new linguistic possibilities of interacting in a synchronic or asynchronic manner in an online environment have fascinated linguistics for over two decades. While there is already a large body on interpersonal issues discussed in the linguistic literature, the topic of politeness and impoliteness has not yet received the attention it deserves. In many instances, researchers have employed Brown and Levinson's (1978/1987) model to discuss the character of face-threatening instances, as for example in the keynote lecture by Susan Herring, one of the prominent researchers on online language, at the Meeting of the International Pragmatics Association at Gothenburg in summer 2007. More recent developments in politeness research, as discussed in the Journal of Politeness Research, however, have only rarely been transferred to an analysis of online interaction. It seems timely to move our attention to online interaction for the following three reasons.

(1) The newer research trends highlight the discussion of norms in the light of politeness/impoliteness research and the question of what constitutes appropriateness (cf., e.g., Spencer-Oatey 2007; Locher and Watts 2005; Bousfield and Locher 2008). As a consequence, online interaction is such an exciting research field because we have access to written records on the negotiation of norms in discussions about Netiquette, such as for example the rules of forum contributions, and we see interactants publicly discuss violations of such rules. By studying such negotiations, we can further our understanding of what constitutes politeness in a particular context and what factors might play a role in assessing politeness and impoliteness.

(2) Since the conceptualizations of politeness and impoliteness issues are no longer only restricted to the study of mitigation strategies, the entire spectrum of interpersonal negotiation is open for linguistic scrutiny. It will be of special interest to investigate how interpersonal issues of politeness and impoliteness are commented on in online interaction, and how these comments tie in with identity construction and the negotiation of face. Both aspects have been argued to be closely connected to politeness considerations (cf., e.g., Spencer-Oatey 2007) and are in need of further research.

(3) The nature of synchronic or asynchronic platforms, and the fact that many forms of online communication are publicly available are likely to influence the way in which relational work is realized. It is thus of interest to establish in what way exactly computer-mediated communication might differ from face-to-face interaction with respect to the restrictions that the medium imposes on relational work / facework and the consequences of these restrictions on linguistic choices. For example, it may well be that we find more comments on violations of norms of appropriateness in online communication than in the data on face-to-face communication available to date (e.g., the British National Corpus), because the public nature forces interactants to defend themselves, while the non-proximity of the addressee provides a safety zone to make face-threatening moves. This field clearly warrants further research.



Panel convenors: Anna Duszak (University of Warsaw), Cornelia Ilie (Univeristy of Örebro) and Margareth Sandvik (Oslo University College)

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The aim of this panel is to discuss the relevance of politeness theories to political communication. The following issues will be raised:

How are conflicts, confrontations and challenges in interaction done, and what constitutes a slight in different political contexts?

How do politicians orient to politeness norms, and how do they strategically avoid them? For example, are face threatening acts straightforwardly displayed or are they avoided? What is the compensation for face threatening acts in political discourse?

The sequential organization of phenomena, such as threats, accounts, disapprovals, fallacies and in particular emotional fallacies, will be closely examined and discussed.