Culture-specific concepts of politeness: indirectness and politeness in English, Hebrew and Korean requests

Kyong-Ae Yu
2011 Intercultural Pragmatics  
Pragmatic clarity and politeness have been the two major factors in pragmatic competence rules since Grice (1975) . Clarity and politeness have been claimed as complementary elements (Lakoff 1973) and politeness as the motivation for indirectness in requests (may also be perceived as lacking in politeness because of a lack of concern for pragmatic clarity (Blum-Kulka 1987) . In order to compare indirectness and politeness scales in Korean, Hebrew, and English and to re-examine the link between
more » ... e the link between indirectness and politeness cross-culturally, this study uses the theoretical and methodological framework of Blum-Kulka (1987) and Blum-Kulka, House, and Kasper (1989) . The study results show that neither non-conventional indirectness nor some strategies of conventional indirectness imply politeness in Korean and imply, in agreement with Yu (2002), that politeness is differently perceived crossculturally. In particular, the results of the study show that the conventional indirect strategies such as Strong Hints, Mild Hints, and Suggestory Formulae in the nine request categories are not significantly correlated with politeness in Korean and that Performatives (Austin 1962) and Want Statements are perceived as direct but polite strategies in Korean. These results support that the degree and the concepts of politeness in Korean, Hebrew, and English are significantly different. Brought to you by | University of Warwick Authenticated Download Date | 5/5/15 8:49 PM Culture-specific concepts of politeness 387 The notions of politeness and indirectness are also important in the negotiation of face during the realization of requests (Félix-Brasdefer 2005) because requests are pre-event acts that impose on the hearer to do something, and thus might require mitigated or indirect expressions to be polite. According to Brown & Levinson's definition of face-threatening acts, imposition is an intrinsically face-threatening act and politeness is the main motivation for indirectness in requests (Searle 1975; Leech 1983) . However, clarity and politeness are not complementary, and formality does not necessarily correlate with politeness. In Greek, deference does not always mean giving options, and camaraderie does not always show sympathy either (Sifianou 1992). According to Sifianou (1992: 121), the conceptions of a "request" differ in Greek and English: The English use pragmatic indirectness 3 to give options to addressees, whereas the Greeks use pragmatic indirectness to express rapport with the addressee. Blum-Kulka (1987) suggests that politeness is linked with conventional indirectness, but not necessarily with non-conventional indirectness in Hebrew. As in Blum-Kulka (1987) , non-conventional indirectness is not linked with politeness in Turkish (Marti 2006) and Mexican Spanish (Félix-Brasdefer 2005) requests. Félix-Brasdefer (2005) also presents that directness is more preferred in a "solidarity" politeness system that displays closeness (-distance and -power) in Mexican Spanish. Thus, as Marti (2006) claims, there seems to be no linear relation between indirectness and politeness and these two concepts need to be viewed separately. In order to examine the link between indirectness and politeness in Korean and re-examine the relationship between the two concepts cross-culturally, the present study followed Blum-Kulka's (1987) approach in data collection and analysis, using the cross-cultural speech-act realization patterns (CCSARP) methodology (Blum-Kulka and Olshtain 1984; Blum-Kulka, House, and Kasper 1989) . The four major study aims are as follows: (1) to examine the link between indirectness and politeness in Korean by measuring the degrees of indirectness and politeness for the nine request categories, (9) to compare Korean (in)directness scales with the Hebrew and English ones, (3) to compare Korean politeness scales with the Hebrew and English ones, and (4) to reexamine whether the notions of indirectness and politeness are the same or different in the three languages by correlation analysis and by the rank ordering of the speech-act types. The present study shows that not only non-conventional indirect strategies, i.e., hints, but also some strategies of conventional indirectness, such as Suggestory Formulae, cannot be universally polite. Performatives and Want Statements are perceived as direct but polite in Korean, since some lexemes and formulaic expressions function as polite markers in requests.
doi:10.1515/iprg.2011.018 fatcat:nqzeygpnvfcwzlzj4dlykztiyy