Friday, April 15, 2011

cognitive pragmatics

Cognitive Pragmatics


Cognitive pragmatics is concerned with the mental processes involved in intentional communication. Typically, studies within this area focus on cognitive processes underlying the comprehension of a linguistic speech act and overlook linguistic production or extralinguistic communication. As far as cognitive processes are concerned authorsin this field are interested in both the inferential chains necessary to understand a communicator’s intention starting from the utterance he proffered and the different mental representations underlying the comprehension of various communicative phenomena as cognitive processes. Thus, a theory in cognitive pragmatics aims to explain what mental processes a person actually engages in during a communicative interaction (see Shared Knowledge). Relevance theory (Sperber and Wilson, 1986/1995) is usually identified as the principal theoretical framework in the area of cognitive pragmatics (see Relevance Theory). Nonetheless, in the last decade, other theories have been developed. These include a far-reaching theory of the cognitive processes underlying human communication, known as the Cognitive Pragmatics theory (Airenti et al., 1993a, 1993b; Bara, 2005), and the Graded Salience Hypothesis (Giora, 2003), a theory which focuses Cognitive Pragmatics 71 on mental inferences underlying the comprehension of literal vs. figurative language (see Metaphor: Psychological Aspects; Accessibility Theory). Describing the cognitive processes involved in communicative interaction is interesting not only for the study of such processes as fixed states – an approach that takes into consideration exclusively the final stage in healthy adult subjects – but also for the consideration of how a given function develops from infancy, through childhood, and to adulthood, and how it eventually decays in subjects with braininjuries (Bara, 1995). Such an approach makes it possible to better comprehend, from a cognitive perspective, how pragmatic competence develops and what neurocognitive structures might cause deficits in people’s performance if damaged. A closely related topic is the identification of the cognitive components that contribute to the realization of a complete pragmatic competence. From this perspective, it is important to consider the role played by a person’s Theory of Mind and by the Executive Function (see below) during a communicative interaction. Cognitive Pragmatics Theory Airenti et al. (1993a, 1993b) presented a theory of the cognitive processes underlying human com munication aiming to provide a unified theoretical framework for the explanationof different communicative phenomena (Bara, 2005). The authors proposed that their theoretical analysis holds for both linguistic and extralinguistic communication, and thus introduced, with reference to the interlocutors, the terms ‘actor’ and ‘partner’ instead of the classical ‘speaker’ and ‘hearer.’ The theory assumes that the literal meaning of an utterance is necessary but not sufficient to the partner in order for him or her to reconstruct the meaning conveyed by the actor, and that in order to understand the actor’s communicative intention, the partner has to recognize a ‘behavior game’ the actor is proposing for him (the partner) to play. The behaviour game is a social structure mutually shared by the participants of the communicative interaction. Suppose, for example, that while you are working in your office, a colleague walks in and says: [1] It’s snowing outside. Although the literal meaning of the utterance is completely clear, you probably are utterlybewildered about how to respond. Only if [1] is understood as an invitation not to go outside, a request to close the window, a proposal to go skiing next week-end (that is, only if, in some way, the reason or reasons for uttering the expression were evident), will you be able to make the necessary inferences and answer appropriately. The utterance, pure and simple, without a game to refer to, has in itself no communicative significance whatsoever. Thus, an utterance extrapolated from its context of reference has no communicative meaning and cannot have any communicative effect on the partner. Starting from the assumption that the communicative meaning of an utterance is intrinsically linked to the context within which it is proffered, Bosco et al. (2004a) defined a taxonomy of six categories of context: Access, Space, Time, Discourse, Behavioral Move, and Status. Using contextual information, the partner can identify the behavior game bid by the speaker, which allows him to fully comprehend the actor communicative intention. Following the tenets of the Cognitive Pragmatics theory, Bucciarelli et al. (2003) proposed that two cognitive factors affect comprehension of various kind of pragmatic phenomena: the ‘inferential load’ and the ‘complexity of mental representations’ underlying the comprehension of a communicative act. Inferential Load: Simple and Complex Speech Acts Searle (1975) claimed that in speech act comprehension, the literal interpretation of an utterance always has priority with respect to any other interpretations derived from it. According to Searle, understanding an indirect speech act, e.g., [2] Would you mind passing me the salt?, is harder than understanding a direct speech act, e.g., [3] Please pass me the salt, because it requires a longer inferential process. Bara and Bucciarelli (1998) provided empirical evidence that, beginning at two-and-a-half years of age, children find direct speech acts such as [4] Please sit down, and conventional indirects such as [5] Would you mind closing the door? equally easy to comprehend. In a further study, Bucciarelli et al. (2003) found that starting at age two-and-a-half years, children find both direct and conventional indirect speech acts easier to understand than nonconventional indirect speech acts, such as the utterance [6] Excuse me, I’m studying when it is a request to a partner who is hammering in a nail to stop making noise.Using the tenets of Cognitive Pragmatics theory, it is possible to abandon the distinction between direct and indirect speech acts and adopt a new one based on the difference between inferential processes involved in comprehending simple as against complex communicative acts (Bara and Bucciarelli, 1998). According to the theory, the partner’s understanding of any kind of speech act depends on the comprehension of the behavioral game bid by the actor; an agent will interpret an interlocutor’s utterance based on the grounds that are assumed to be shared. In this perspective, the partner’s difficulty in understanding a 72 Cognitive Pragmatics communicative act depends on the inferential chain necessary to refer the utterance to the game intended by the actor. Direct and conventional indirect speech acts make immediate reference to the game, and thus are defined as ‘simple speech acts.’ On the other hand, nonconventional indirect speech acts can be referred to as ‘complex speech acts,’ because they require a chain of inferential steps due to the fact that the specific behavior game of which they are a move is not immediately identifiable. For example, to understand [4] and [5], it is sufficient for the partner to refer to the ‘Ask for Something’ game. In order to understand [6], a more complex inferential process is necessary: the partner needs to share with the actor the belief that when a person is studying, he needs silence and that since hammering is noisy [6] is a request to stop it is noisy. Only then, the partner can attribute to the utterance the value of a move in the ‘Ask for Something’ game. Thus, if the problem is how to access the game, the distinction between direct and indirect speech acts is not relevant. It is the complexity of the inferential steps necessary to refer the utterance to the game bid by the actor that accounts for the difficulties in speech act comprehension. This distinction applies not only to standard communicative acts such as direct, conventional indirect, and nonconventional indirect speech acts, but also to nonstandard ones (such as ironic and deceitful) ones (Bara et al., 1999a). The same distinction between simple and complex standard, ironic, and deceitful communicative acts holds for extralinguistic communication acts as well (see Irony). That is, the distinction holds also when the actor communicates with the partner only through gestures (Bosco et al., 2004b) (see Gestures, Pragmatic Aspects). The inferential load underlying a communicative act may explain the difference in difficulty that exists in the comprehension of different communicative acts pertaining to the same pragmatic category, such as between simple and complex standard communicative  acts. To explain the difference in difficulty that might occur among communicative acts pertaining to a different pragmatic category, such as between a direct communicative act and a deceitful communicative act, is necessary to consider the complexity of the mental representations involved in their comprehension. Complexity of Mental Representations Still within the framework of Cognitive Pragmatics theory and along with the same complexity of the inferential load involved, Bucciarelli et al. (2003) described an increasing difficulty in comprehending simple communicative acts of different sorts: simple standard, simple deceitful, and simple ironic communicative acts. According to the theory, in standard communication, default rules of inference are used to understand another person’s mental states; default rules are always valid unless their consequences are explicitly denied. Indeed, in standard communication, what the actor says is in line with his private beliefs. Direct, conventional indirect, and nonconventional indirect speech acts are all examples of standard communication.
In terms of mental representations, to comprehend a standard communicative act, the partner has to simply refer the utterance proffered by the actor to the behavior game he bids. On the other hand, nonstandard communication such as irony and deceit involves the comprehension of communicative acts via the blocking of default rules and the occurrence of more complex inferential processes that involve conflicts between the beliefs the actor has shared with the partner and the latter’s private beliefs. In the comprehension of irony and deceit, the mental representations involved produce a difference between what the actor communicates and what he privately entertains. It follows that, along with the same complexity of the inferential load involved, standard communicative acts are easier to deal with than nonstandard pragmatic phenomena. According to Bucciarelli et al. (2003), in the case of the  comprehension of deceit, the partner has to recognize the difference between the mental states that are expressed and those the actor privately entertains. Consider for instance the following example: Mark and Ann share that the lecture they just attended was incredibly boring. Later Ann meets John and tells him that Mark and she attended a tedious lecture. In the afternoon alsoMark meets John, who asks him about
the lecture. Actually, Mark is annoyed with John because John did not go to the lecture and he does not want John to know that he feels he wasted the whole morning. Mark does not know that John has already met Ann, thus he answers: [7] It was really
interesting! John can understand that Mark is trying to deceive him because he recognizes the difference between the mental state that Mark is expressing and the one that he truly and privately entertains. A statement, instead, becomes ironic when, in addition to the awareness of this difference, the partner also recognizes that the mental states expressed contrast with the scenario that he shares with the actor. For example, some months later, during a chat with Mark, Ann asks: Do you remember the lecture that we attended some months ago? Mark answers: [8] It was really interesting! What makes this utterance ironic is the fact that both interlocutors share that Cognitive Pragmatics 73 the lecture had actually been boring. Thus, the difference between irony and deceit lies not in the partner’s awareness of the difference between the mental states that the actor expressed and those that he actually entertains, but in his awareness that he does or does not share this difference with the actor. In the case of irony, the partner has to represent not only the discrepancy between the mental states that the actor expressed and those that he privately entertains, but also that such awareness is shared with the actor. This makes an ironic communicative act more difficult to comprehend than a deceitful one. Bucciarelli et al. (2003) showed the existence of an increase in difficulty in the comprehension of simple standard communicative acts, simple deceits, and simple ironies with an experiment carried out on children from two-and-a-half to seven years of age. The authors also pointed out that the same children show a similar predicted gradation of difficulty in understanding the same pragmatic phenomena, both when these are expressed by linguistic speech acts and when these are expressed by communicative gestures. Regardless of the communicative channel used by the actor, linguistic or extralinguistic, children find simple standard speech acts easier to comprehend than simple deceits, which are, in turn, easier to comprehend than simple ironic communicative acts. Finally, an overall consideration of the mentioned results makes it possible to conclude that all of the theoretical predictions (both derived from the Cognitive Pragmatics theory and grounded on a person’s cognitive processes underlying the communicative comprehension) hold true for the same pragmatic phenomena whether expressed by linguistic speech acts or by gestures. These results seem to indicate that linguistic and extralinguistic communicative acts share the most relevant mental processes in each of the specific pragmatic phenomena investigated and suggest that pragmatic competence shares the same cognitive faculty – regardless of the input processed – be it linguistic or extralinguistic. It is possible to interpret such empirical evidence as being in favor of a unified theoretical framework of human communication in which linguistic and extralinguistic communication develop in parallel being different aspects of a unique communicative competence (see Bara and Tirassa, 1999; Bara, 2005) (see Communicative Principle and Communication).

Cognitive Pragmatics and Development In this section, we shall examine the empirical evidence in favor of the existence of cognitive processes of increasing complexity that underlie different pragmatic phenomena. The developmental domain is particularly interesting for this aim because it makes it possible to observe errors in the comprehension of different kinds of pragmatics tasks that allow us to falsify our hypotheses regarding the complexity of the mental processes involved in specific phenomena. However, adult subjects possess a fully developed cognitive system and communicative competence, and thus they do not show any interesting errors in comprehending or producing different kinds of communicative acts; it is only possible to analyze their time of reaction in solving such tasks. On the other hand, if inferential processes and mental representations of increasing complexity underlie the comprehension of various kind of pragmatic phenomena, then it is possible to explain why, during the development of children’s communicative competence, some communicative acts are understood and produced before others are. For example,
children initially only understand sincere communicative acts and only later on in their development do they start comprehending, for example, deceit and irony. Children’s ability to deal with mental representations and inferential chains of increasing complexity develops with age, and this fact helps explain the development
of their pragmatic competence. From this perspective, the increasing capacity to construct and manipulate complex mental representations is involved in the emergence of preschoolers’ and kindergarten student’s capacity to deceive.Adeceptive task could be made easier to comprehend by reducing the number of characters, episodes, and scenes involved in the task, and by including a deceptive
context (Sullivan et al., 1994). Likewise the ability to comprehend and produce different forms of ironies involves an increasing and sophisticated inferential ability. Lucariello and Mindolovich (1995) carried out a study on the ability of 6- and 8-year-old children to provide ironic endings to unfinished stories. The authors claimed that the recognition and the construction of (situational) ironic events involve the ability to manipulate the representations of events. These representations have to be critically viewed, and disassembled in order to create new, different, and ironic event structures.
Also, different forms of irony behave in different ways, as the authors’ experiments show. Their results show that older children construct more complex ironic derivations from the representational base than younger children do. Just as it is possible to better understand the development of pragmatic competence by considering the cognitive processes involved in a specific communicative act, it also is possible to explain deficits in performance in cases of brain damage. The ability of children with closed head injury to solve pragmatic tasks is specifically impaired (for a review, see Bara et al., 1999b). These subjects performed worse than 74 Cognitive Pragmatics did their normal peers in specific pragmatic tasks such as bridging the inferential gap between events in stereotypical social situations and tasks such as comprehending utterances that require inferential processes because of their use of idiomatic and figurative language (Dennis and Barnes, 1990). Cognitive Pragmatics and Brain Damage Neuropsychological diseases affect communicative performance in various ways, depending on which relevant cognitive subsystem is damaged. The information obtained by studying these abnormal processes provides us with an opportunity to better understand the architecture of the brain/mind and its relationship to pragmatic competence (Tirassa, 1999; Bara and Tirassa, 2000). Acquired brain damage impairs certain cognitive processes while leaving others unaffected. For example, it is well-documented in the literature that aphasic patients with left-brain damage have residual pragmatic competence despite their language impairment. On the other hand, what different cerebral injuries have in common is a damaged capacity to deal with phenomena that require complex mental processes in order to be understood. In particular, if the tasks require more complex inferences, then this capacity seems to be more damaged than in other cases, as we will show later in this section. Results like these seem to confirm the assumption that different pragmatic phenomena require the activation of increasingly complex cognitive processes. McDonald and Pearce (1996) found that traumatic brain injured patients (TBI) do not have difficulty in the comprehension of written sincere exchanges such as [9] Mark: What a great football game!; Wayne: So you are glad I asked you?, but they have several problems, compared to the normal control subjects, in comprehending ironic exchanges such as [10] Mark: What a great football game!; Wayne: Sorry I made you come. The authors gave the subjects the same experimental material in auditory form and found that the patients’ performance did not improve. The authors concluded that TBI patients have difficulty in comprehending irony and that, even if the tone of voice usually facilitates the comprehension of ironic remarks, it is not sufficient on its own.
Furthermore, McDonald (1999) found that, surprisingly, TBI patients have no problem understanding written ironic utterances such as [11] Tom: That’s a big dog; Monica: Yes, it’s a miniature poodle. The author suggested that [11] might require a shorter inferential chain compared to [10] in order to be understood. Indeed, in comprehending [11], it is sufficient to understand what Monica answers as meaning that Tom’s statement meant the opposite of what it said. In [10], however, Wayne’s response is not only a rejection of the original comment, but an allusion to Mark’s actual reaction to the game. Thus, there were at least two necessary inferential steps in the comprehension process. Such findings are in line with the proposal that different kinds of irony may vary in their difficulty of being understood, according to the complexity of the required inferential load (Bara et al., 1999a). Particularly interesting from our perspective are studies that showed that the decay of pragmatic competence in closed head injured subjects (CHI) reflects the same type of development that is observed in normal children, i.e., the capacities acquired later in the development of the pragmatic ability are the most damaged. Using a linguistic experimental protocol, Bara et al. (1997) tested a group of CHI subjects and found that specific pragmatic tasks such as the comprehension of nonstandard communication, e.g., deceit and irony, are more difficult than tasks requiring only simple mental representations, such as the
comprehension of standard communication involving only direct, conventional, and nonconventional indirect speech acts. In addition, the authors found no differences in patients’ comprehension of direct and conventional indirect speech acts. The same results were observed in the performance of children aged 2 to 6 years old who were tested by the same experimental protocol (Bara and Bucciarelli, 1998). It should also be noted that Bara et al. (1997) presented two classical tests on false belief to CHI patients in order to measure their theory of mind, but did not find any significant difference with the control group of children who were not brain damaged. Thus, the patients’ poor performance on pragmatic tasks cannot be ascribed to a deficit of the Theory of Mind; that is, their poor performance cannot be ascribed to an inability to understand another person’s mental states. Moreover, Bara et al. (2000) used a similar extralinguistic nversion of the same pragmatic experimental protocol and evaluated the comprehension of standardn communication, i.e., simple and complex communicative acts, and nonstandard communication, i.e., deceit and irony. Such a protocol contains videotaped scenes wherein the pragmatic phenomena are presented using extralinguistic means, such as pointing or clapping. The subjects were firstly a group of children 2–6 years of age and secondly a group of Alzheimer’s disease patients, and found that children show the same tendency in the development of extralinguistc competence that was observed by Bara and Bucciarelli (1998) in the linguistic domain. In addition, the authors observed a similar tendency toward decay in the Alzheimer’s patients’ extralinguistic competence: the nonstandard extralinguistic tasks Cognitive Pragmatics 75 are understood less well than are the standard communicative tasks. Finally, the trend of decaying pragmatic competence in the Alzheimer patient group matched the results obtained by CHI patients, when tested according to the same extralinguistic protocol (Bara et al., 2001). The CHI subjects were also given several neuropsychological tests, but no statistical correlation between the subjects’ performance on the pragmatic protocol and their performance on these collateral neuropsychological tests was found. Thus, the patient’s poor performance cannot be ascribed to a deficit in their executive functioning. As already observed for the development of pragmatic linguistic and extralinguistic competence, the empirical data concerning brain damaged subjects seem to be in favor of the existence of a unified pragmatic competence which is independent of the input – whether it is linguistic or extralinguistic. That is, the comprehension of speech acts and extralinguistic communicative acts shares the most relevant mental processes when tested on different pragmatic phenomena, and the pragmatic competence seems to be independent of the expressive means used to realize it. Cognitive Pragmatics and the Executive Function While the literature provides empirical evidence that mental processes involved in various pragmatic tasks can be ordered according to increasing difficulty, as we have seen above, in order fully comprehend pragmatic competence from a cognitive perspective, we need to consider also a further factor affecting the human ability to communicate: the executive functions. The Executive Function is a cognitive construct used to describe the goal-directed behaviors that are mediated by the frontal lobes. The Executive Function guides a person’s actions and enables him to behave adaptively and flexibly; it includes cognitive capacities such as planning, inhibition of dominant responses, flexibility, and working memory. Barnes and Dennis (2001) have shown that, in addition to a deficient inferential ability, also a reduction of working memory and metacognitive skills may be invoked to explain closed-head injured children’s problems in comprehending stories. Working memory provides the necessary resources for computing inference in ongoing text comprehension; metacognitive skills are used when checking if, and when, an inference needs to be made. The authors tested children with severe to mild head injury on their ability to comprehend brief written stories, and found inferencing deficits in children with severe (but not with mild) head injury; these children had problems linking their general knowledge to the particular wording of the text. In general, when the metacognitive demands and the pressure on working memory were reduced, children with severe head injuries did not show any deficiencies in inferencing compared to the development in normal children or their mildly head-injured peers. Working memory also plays a role in explaining the poor ability to comprehend written stories that is observed in children with hydrocephalus, a neurodevelopmental disorder accompanied by increased pressure of the cerebrospinal fluid on the brain tissue.
Children with hydrocephalus, when compared to the control group, show increasing difficulty drawing on information from an earlier read sentence when trying to understand a new sentence, the greater the distance between the two texts. Thus, while these children do not seem to have a fundamental problem in making inferences, their poor performance is mainly due to a deficit in their working memory (Barnes et al., 2004). As to the role of other executive functions, Channon and Watts (2003) examined the ability of CHI patients to comprehend brief vignettes involving pragmatic judgement and the relationship between this activity and some executive functions: working memory, inhibition, and the ability to organize and plan appropriate responses in a certain context. The authors found that only the ability to solve the inhibition task, which required the subjects to inhibit dominant words and generate words that completed sentences with nonsensical endings, correlates with the pragmatic comprehension task. No association was found with the other executive skills. From a neuropsychological perspective, intact frontal lobes are critical to executive functioning, and because traumatic brain injury often results in damage to these areas, pragmatic deficits shown by these patients can be explained by a principal Executive Function impairment. From this perspective, the deficits in planning and monitoring of behaviour that are usually observed in such patients seem to explain the difficulty these subjects have in adhering to the structure of conventional discourse (McDonald and Pearce, 1998). To conclude, theoretical and empirical studies in the literature seem to suggest that in order to explain people’s pragmatic competence, it is necessary to take into account the role played by at least three elements: mental processes, namely, the inferential load and the complexity of the mental representations; the Theory of Mind; and the Executive Function. Whereas the empirical studies mainly focus on the linguistic competence that is needed to realize various pragmatic tasks, the perspective should be widened to include 76 Cognitive Pragmatics a methodical comparison with extralinguistic competence. In order to establish whether, or not, the cognitive components that make these two different means of communication are the same in both cases. Finally, a complete theory in the cognitive pragmatic domain should be able to explain not only adult normal subjects’ ability to communicate, but also the development and the decay of this capacity in brain-damaged patients. See also: Communicative Principle and Communication; Gestures, Pragmatic Aspects; Irony; Metaphor: Psychological Aspects; Pragmatics: Overview; Relevance Theory; Shared Knowledge; Speech Acts; Speech Acts, Literal and Nonliteral.

F M Bosco, University of Torino, Torino, Italy
                        2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved

Negative and positive face

When we attempt to save another’s face, we can pay attention to their negative face wants or their pesitive face wants. A person’s negative face is the need to be independent, to have freedom of action, and not to be imposed on by others. The world “negative” here doesn’t mean “bad”, it’s just the opposite pole from “positive”. A person’s positive face is the need to be accepted, even liked, by others, to be treated as a member of the same group, and to know that his or her wants are shared by others. In simple terms, negative face is the need to be independent and positive face is the need to be connected.

            So, a face saving act which is oriented to the person’s negative face will the tend to show deference, emphasize the importance of the other’s time or concerns, and even include an apology for the imposition or interruption. This is also called negative politeness. A face saving act will is concerned with the person’s positive face will tend to show solidarity, emphasize that both speakers want the same thing, and that they have a common goal. This is also called positive politeness.

From : book Pragmatics, George yule
Oxford university press.

Self and other ; say nothing

One way to see the relevance of the relationship between these politeness concepts and language use is to take a single speech event and map out the different interpretations associated with different possible expressions used within that event. For example, you arrive at an important lecture, pull out your notebook to takes note, but discover that you don’t have anything to write with. You think that the person sitting next to you may provide the solution. In the scenario, you are going to be “self” , and the person next to you is going to be “other”.

Your first choice is whether to say something or not. You can, of course, rummage in your bag, search rather obviously through your pockets, go back in to your bag, without uttering a word, but with the vague intention that your problem will be recognized. This “say nothing” approach may or may not work, but if it does, it’s because the other offers and not because the self asks, as in (3).
            (3) self: (looks in bag)
                 Other: ( offers pen ) here, use this.
Many people seem to prefer to have their needs recognized by others without having to express those needs in language. When those needs are recognized, as in (3), then clearly more has been communicated than was said.

From ; book Pragmatics, George Yule
Oxford university press.

Monday, March 21, 2011


From book concise encyclopedia of pragmatics
Jacob L mey
Despite several decades of sustained scholarly interest in the field of politeness studies, a consensual definition of the meaning of the term ‘politeness,’ as well as a consensus on the very nature of the phenomenon, are still top issues in the current research agenda. In ordinary, daily contexts of use, members of speech communities possess clear metalinguistic beliefs about, and are capable of, immediate and intuitive assessments of what constitutes polite versus rude, tactful versus offensive behavior. Politeness in this sense is equivalent to a normative notion of appropriateness. Such commonsense notions of politeness are traceable as products of historical developments and hence are socioculturally specific. Scholarly definitions of the term, by contrast, have been predicated for several decades on a more or less tacit attempt to extrapolate a theoretical, abstract notion of politeness, capable of transcending lay conceptualizations and being cross-culturally valid. The theoretical constructs proposed, however, have proven unsatisfactory as heuristic instruments for the analysis of empirical data. Much of the current scholarly debate is focused on taking stock of recent critiques of past dominating paradigms and epistemological premises, and on formulating new philosophical and methodological practices based on a radical reconceptualization of the notion of politeness. The point of contention is the very possibility of survival of any useful notion of politeness, when the construct is removed from a historically determined, socioculturally specific, and interactionally negotiated conceptualization of the term.

Constructs of Politeness
The ‘Social Norm View’ Politeness has been an object of intellectual inquiry quite early on in both Eastern (Lewin, 1967; Coulmas, 1992, for Japanese; Gu, 1990, for Chinese) and Western contexts (Held, 1992). In both traditions, which loosely can be defined as pre-pragmatic, observers tend to draw direct, deterministic links between linguistic realizations of politeness and the essential character of an individual, a nation, a people, or its language. Thus, the use of polite language is taken as the hallmark of the good mannered or civil courtier in the Italian conduct writers of the 16th century (Watts, 2003: 34), or as a symbol of the qualities of modesty and respect enshrined in the Japanese language in pre-World War II nationalistic Japan. Linguistic realizations of politeness are inextricably linked to the respective culture-bound ideologies of use; accounts, which often are codified in etiquette manuals providing exegeses of the relevant social norms, display a great deal of historical relativity.

Pragmatic Approaches
Pragmatic approaches to the study of politeness begin to appear in the mid-1970s. Robin Lakoff (1973) provided pioneering work by linking Politeness (with its three rules: ‘don’t impose’; ‘give options’; ‘make the other person feel good, be friendly’) to Grice’s Cooperative Principle to explain why speakers do not always conform to maxims such as Clarity (1973: 297) (see Grice, Herbert Paul; Cooperative Principle; Maxims and Flouting). In a similar vein, but wider scope, Leech’s (1983) model postulates that deviations from the Gricean conversational maxims are motivated by interactional goals, and posits a parallel Politeness Principle, articulated in a number 706 Politeness
of maxims such as Tact, Generosity, Approbation, Modesty, Agreement, and Sympathy. He also envisages a number of scales: cost-benefit, authority and social distance, optionality, and indirectness, along which degrees of politeness can be measured. Different situations demand different levels of politeness because certain immediate illocutionary goals can compete with (e.g., in ordering), coincide with (e.g., in offering), conflict with (e.g., in threatening), or be indifferent to (e.g., in asserting), the long-term social goals of maintaining comity and avoiding friction. This so-called conversational maxim view of politeness (Fraser, 1990) is concerned uniquely with scientific analyses of politeness as a general linguistic and pragmatic principle of communication, aimed at the maintenance of smooth social relations and the avoidance of conflict, but not as a locally determined system of social values (Eelen, 2001: 49, 53) (see Communicative Principle and Communication). Another model, proposed by Brown and Levinson in 1978, de facto set the research agenda for the following quarter of a century (the study was republished in its entirety as a monograph with the addition of a critical introduction in 1987). Like Lakoff and Leech, Brown and Levinson (1987) accept the Gricean framework, but they note a qualitative distinction between the Cooperative Principle and the politeness principles: while the former is presumed by speakers to be at work all the time, politeness needs to be ostensibly communicated (ibid.: 5). Brown and Levinson see politeness as a rational and rule-governed aspect of communication, a principled reason for deviation from efficiency (ibid.: 5) and aimed predominantly at maintaining social cohesion via the maintenance of individuals’ public face (a construct inspired by Erving Goffman’s notion of ‘face,’ but with crucial, and for some, fatal differences: see Bargiela-Chiappini, 2003, Watts, 2003) (see Face; Goffman, Erving). Brown and Levinson’s ‘face’ is construed as a double want: a want of freedom of action and freedom from impositions (this is called ‘negative’ face), and a want of approval and appreciation (a ‘positive’ face). Social interaction is seen as involving an inherent degree of threat to one’s
own and others’ face (for example, an order may impinge on the addressee’s freedom of action; an apology, by virtue of its subsuming an admission of guilt, may impinge on the speaker’s want to be appreciated). However, such face threatening acts (FTA) can be avoided, or redressed by means of polite (verbal) strategies, pitched at the level needed to match the seriousness of an FTA x, calculated according to a simple formula: Wx . PdH; ST t DdS;HT t Rx where the Weight of a threat x is a function of the Power of Hearers over Speakers, as well as of the social Distance between Speakers and Hearers, combined with an estimation of the Ranking (of the seriousness) of a specific act x in a specific culture (see Face). Brown and Levinson compared data from three unrelated languages (English, Tamil, and Tzeltal) to show that very similar principles, in fact universal principles, are at work in superficially dissimilar realizations. The means-end reasoning that governs the choice of polite strategies, and the need to redress face threats, are supposed to be universal. The abstract notion of positive and negative aspects of face (although the content of face is held to be subject to cultural variation) is also considered to be a universal want. The comprehensiveness of the model – in addition to being the only production model of politeness to date – captured the interest of researchers in very disparate fields and working on very different languages and cultures. One could even say that the Brown and Levinsonian discourse on politeness practically ‘colonized’ the field (domains covered include cross-cultural comparison of speech acts, social psychology, discourse and conversation analysis, gender studies, family, courtroom, business and classroom discourse, and so on: see Dufon et al., 1994, for an extensive bibliography; Eelen, 2001: 23 ff.; Watts, 2003). Interestingly, a paper by Janney and Arndt made the point, in 1993, that despite considerable criticism of the then still dominant paradigm, the very fundamental issue of whether the universality assumption could be of use in comparative cross-cultural research went by and large unquestioned (1993: 15). The most conspicuous criticism – paradoxically, for a model aspiring to pancultural validity – was perhaps the charge of ethnocentrism: the individualistic and agentivistic conception of Brown and Levinson’s ‘model person’ did not seem to fit ‘collectivistic’ patterns of social organization, whereas their notion of ‘face’ seemed to serve an atomistic rather than interrelated notion of self (Wierzbicka, 1985; Gu, 1990; Nyowe, 1992; Werkhofer, 1992; de Kadt, 1992; Sifianou, 1992; Mao, 1994). Going one step further, some criticized Brown and Levinson’s emphasis on the ‘calculable’ aspects of expressive choice (and the idea that individuals can manipulate these ‘volitionally’), to the expense of the socially constrained or conventionalized indexing of politeness in some linguacultures (especially, though not exclusively, those with rich honorific repertoires; Hill et al., 1986; Matsumoto, 1988, 1989; Ide, 1989; Janney and Arndt, 1993) (see Intercultural Pragmatics and Communication). The Gricean framework implicitly or explicitly adopted in many politeness studies has been criticized for arbitrarily presupposing the universal validity of the maxims, and for a relatively static account of inferential processes. In particular, Sperber and Wilson’s (1995) Relevance Theory recently has been adopted by politeness theorists as a way to compensate for this lack of interpretative dynamism (Jary, 1998a, 1998b; Escandell-Vidal, 1998; Watts, 2003: 201) (see Relevance Theory) and the conversational maxims have been reinterpreted as ‘sociopragmatic interactional principles’ (Spencer-Oatey, 2003) (see Maxims and Flouting). Others have lamented Brown and Levinson’s exclusive focus on the speaker, as well as their reliance on decontextualized utterances and speech acts (Hymes, 1986: 78), choices that similarly detract from a discursive and interactional understanding of communicative processes (see Speech Acts).

Social Constructivist Approaches
Hymes (1986) pointed out quite early on that although Brown and Levinson’s model was impressive as an illustration of the universality of politeness devices, any useful and accurate account of politeness norms would need to ‘‘place more importance on historically derived social institutions and cultural orientations’’ (p. 78). The scientific extrapolation of an abstract, universal concept of politeness was similarly questioned by Watts et al. (1992), who drew attention to the serious epistemological consequences of a terminological problem. According to these authors, the field had been too casual in overlooking the difference between mutually incommensurable constructs of politeness: a first-order politeness (politeness1) derived from folk and commonsense notions, and a second-order politeness (politeness2), a technical notion for use in scientific discourse. Although the latter (echoing the Vygotskyan characterization of spontaneous versus scientific concepts; see Vygotskij, Lev Semenovich) can be thought to emerge from an initial verbal definition, the former emerges from action and social practice (Eelen, 2001: 33). As social practice, politeness1 is rooted in everyday interaction and socialization processes: it is expressed in instances of speech (expressive politeness), it is invoked in judgments of interactional behavior as polite or impolite behavior (classificatory politeness), and is talked about (metapragmatic politeness) (ibid.: 35) (see Metapragmatics). Eelen (2001)’s watershed critique of politeness theories articulates this point in great detail and thus opens up promising new avenues of thought for researchers. The lack of distinction between politeness1 and politeness2 represents a serious ontological and epistemological fallacy of all previous politeness research, as it has determined the more or less implicit ‘reification’ of participants’ viewpoint to a scientific viewpoint (the ‘emic’ account is seamlessly transformed into an ‘etic’ account). This conceptual leap fails to question the very evaluative nature of politeness1 (ibid.: 242) and thereby conceals this ‘evaluative moment’ from analysis. Empirical studies into commonsense ideas of politeness1 (Blum-Kulka, 1992; Ide et al., 1992) indicate that notions of politeness or impoliteness are used to characterize people’s behavior judgmentally. This evaluative practice has a psychosocial dimension: individuals position themselves in moral terms vis-a` -vis others and categorize the world into the ‘well-mannered,’ the ‘uncouth,’ etc., and a more concrete everyday dimension: it enables indexing of social identities and thus group-formation: in other words, it positively creates social realities (Eelen, 2001: 237). Politeness is said to be inherently argumentative:
evaluative acts are not neutral taxonomic enterprises; they exist because there is something at stake socially. Moreover, carrying out an evaluative act immediately generates social effects. (ibid.: 37–38). A particularly problematic aspect of much of the theorizing about politeness is that in spite of the fact that norms are held by users to be immutable and objective (recourse to a higher, socially sanctioned reality grants moral force), and by theorists to be unanimously shared by communities, one still has to admit that the very acts of evaluation may exhibit a huge variability, and that this is hardly the exception. Capturing the qualities of evaluativity, argumentativity, and variability of polite behavior requires a paradigmatic shift in our underlying philosophical assumptions. Eelen proposes to replace what he sees as a Parsonian apparatus (exemplified by ‘‘priority of the social over the individual, normative action, social consensus, functional integration and resistance to change,’’ p. 203) with Bourdieu’s (1990, 1991) theory of social practice (a proposal followed and developed by Watts, 2003). The following are some of the important consequences of this proposal. The first is a reconceptualization of politeness as situated social action – its historicity is duly restored. Politeness is no longer an abstract concept or set of norms from which all individuals draw uniformly, but is recognized as the very object of a social dispute. Variability, resulting from the properties of evaluativity and argumentativity of politeness1, ceases to be a problem for the researcher, and instead provides evidence of the nature of the phenomenon. As a consequence, even statistically marginal behaviour  (problematic for traditional approaches: Eelen, 2001: 141) can be accounted for within the same framework. Second, the relation between the cultural/social and the individual is seen as less deterministic. On the one hand, the cultural is part of an individual’s repertoire: it is internalized and accumulated through all past interactions experienced by an individual, thus determining the nature of that individual’s habitus (or set of learned dispositions; Bourdieu, 1991). On the other hand, the cultural can be acted on – be maintained or challenged – to various extents by individuals, depending on those individuals’ resources, or symbolic capital; the cultural is never an immutable entity. This discursive understanding of politeness enables us to capture the functional orientation of politeness to actions of social inclusion or exclusion, alignment or distancing (and incidentally uncovers the fundamentally ideological nature of scientific metapragmatic talk on politeness, as one type of goal oriented social practice; see Glick, 1996: 170) (see Discourse Markers). Politeness ceases to be deterministically associated with specific linguistic forms or functions (another problem for past approaches): it depends on the subjective perception of the meanings of such forms and functions.Moreover, inWatts’s (2003) view, behaviour that abides by an individual’s expectations based on ‘habitus’ (i.e., unmarked appropriate behavior) is not necessarily considered politeness: it is instead simply politic behavior. Politeness may thus be defined as behavior in excess of what can be expected (which can be received positively or negatively but is always argumentative), whereas impoliteness similarly is characterized as nonpolitic behavior (on the important issue of the theoretical status of impoliteness, see Eelen, 2001: 87 and Watts, 2003: 5). As sketched here, the path followed by the discourse on politeness illustrates how the struggle over the meaning and the social function of politeness is at the very centre of current theorizing. Watts adopts a rather radical position and rejects the possibility of a theory of politeness2 altogether: scientific notions of politeness (which should be nonnormative) cannot be part of a study of social interaction (normative by definition) (Watts, 2003: 11). Others, like House (2003, 2005), or O’Driscoll (1996) before her, maintain that a descriptive and explanatory framework must include universal (the first two below) and culture/language-specific levels (the last two below):
1. a fundamental biological, psychosocial level based on animal drives (coming together vs. nolime- tangere)
2. a philosophical level to capture biological drives in terms of a finite number of principles, maxims, or parameters
3. an empirical descriptive level concerned with the particular (open-ended) set of norms, tendencies, or preferences
4. a linguistic level at which sociocultural phenomena have become ‘crystallized’ in specific language forms (either honorifics or other systemic distinctions) (adapted from House, 2003, 2005).
Future Perspectives
Although the legacy of the ‘mainstream’ pragmatic approaches described above is clearly still very strong (see, for instance, Fukushima, 2000; BayraktarogĖ‡lu and Sifianou, 2001; Hickey and Stewart, 2005; Christie, 2004), the critical thoughts introduced in the current debate on linguistic politeness promise to deliver a body of work radically different from the previous one. The future program of politeness research begins from the task of elaborating a full-fledged theoretical framework from the seminal ideas recently proposed. It must acknowledge the disputed nature of notions of politeness and explore the interactional purposes of evaluations (see, for example, Mills’s 2003 study on gender, orWatts’s 2003 ‘emergent networks’; compare also Locher’s 2004 study on the uses of politeness in the exercise of power). It must articulate how norms come to be shared and how they come to be transformed; it must explore the scope and significance of variability. Relevance theory, Critical Discourse Analysis, and Bourdieuian sociology have all been proposed as promising frameworks for investigation. Empirical research that can provide methodologically reliable data for these questions must also be devised: the new paradigm would dictate that the situatedness of the very experimental context, the argumentativity of the specific practice observed are recognized as integral part of the relevant data. Politeness consistently features in international symposia, and has, since 1998, had a meeting point on the Internet; the year 2005 will see the birth of a dedicated publication, the Journal of Politeness Research.