Language in Use - The pragmatically term politeness in reference to the serial Friends

Research Paper (undergraduate) 2005 27 Pages

American Studies - Miscellaneous


Page 3

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In 1987 Penelope Brown and Stephen Levinson’s book Politeness. Some Universals in Language Usage was published. They analyzed the pragmatically term politeness and the concept of face. But it was not only them who worked on that topic. Other persons who dealt with pragmatics too started to write books about politeness, mostly in reference to Brown’s and Levinson’s theory. Most of the books that were published are theoretical. Some of them include examples to underline the expositions and to make them more understandable. But the question is if pragmatical politeness is a phenomenon that is also noticeable in everyday language or if it really is a more theoretical term and therefore can hardly be practiced. To answer this question it is important to first give a definition of the pragmatical term politeness and to analyze it by using those theoretical books. Only then is it possible to prove if politeness is either used in everyday language or not. After that it is necessary to analyze a medium that is representative of daily situations. In this case one episode of the serial Friends will be worked on to see if it includes examples of the different parts of pragmatical politeness. When the analysis of both parts, the theoretical and the practical, is completed the question if pragmatical politeness is a more theoretical term or if it is noticeable in everyday language too will be answered.

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When talking about politeness, the pragmatical term is meant and not politeness referring to “social rules of behaviour such as letting people go first through a door” (Cutting 2002: 44). We talk about what is communicated within a linguistic interaction. A linguistic interaction is also called social interaction because our social relationships mostly determine what we say. There are some social factors that have an influence on how we address the other participants. Here we can make a distinction between external factors and internal factors.

2.1.1 External factors

The external factors deal with social distance and closeness. The participants of an interaction can either have a close relationship as friends do or a distant relationship as for example two strangers. To a friend we have a socially close


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Title: Language in Use - The pragmatically term politeness in reference to the serial Friends