pile of books
skip main nav
 Ling 131: Language & Style

 Topic 12 - Meaning between the lines (Session B) > Session Overview skip topic navigation

Session Overview
Politeness and impoliteness
Top Girls revisited - with politeness in mind
Politeness and characterisation
Topic 12 "tool" summary
Useful Links

What will we learn in Session B?

In this session we will continue to explore the 'meaning between the lines', or what the famous 20th century Russian director Stanislawski called the 'sub-text' of plays. This time we will explore Politeness Theory. Politeness (and also impoliteness) is something which is often not made explicit, but, like conversational implicature, can be inferred in conversational exchanges.

We will discover that politeness in conversation is an important part of the 'social glue' which binds us together, and that we have two main ways of being polite to one another:

  1. Demonstrating a positive attitude to someone or something associated with them (e.g. by praising them). This is usually called positive politeness. E.g. 'That's a wonderful new coat you've got!', 'I thought your performance was great.', 'Your cat's really cute.'

  2. Helping others to achieve their goals (including making a point of not getting in the way of what they want to achieve). This is usually called negative politeness. E.g. holding a door open to let someone through before you, showing someone how to use a computer programme they are not familiar with, helping someone to pick up the things they have just dropped.

Looking at patterns of politeness and impoliteness in dramatic (and novelistic) conversations can help us to understand the relations between the characters who are interacting with one another.


goto top of page
Next: Linguistic politeness next

Home ¦ Outline ¦ Contents ¦ Glossary