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Some Universals in Language Usage

$65.99 (X)


Part of Studies in Interactional Sociolinguistics

  • Date Published: February 1987
  • availability: Temporarily unavailable - available from TBC
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521313551

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About the Authors
  • This study is about the principles for constructing polite speeches. The core of it first appeared in Questions and Politeness, edited by Esther N. Goody (now out of print). It is here reissued with a fresh introduction that surveys the considerable literature in linguistics, psychology and the social sciences that the original extended essay stimulated, and suggests distinct directions for research. The authors describe and account for some remarkable parallelisms in the linguistic construction of utterances with which people express themselves in different languages and cultures. A motive for these parallels is isolated - politeness, broadly defined to include both polite friendliness and polite formality - and a universal model is constructed outlining the abstract principles underlying polite usages. This is based on the detailed study of three unrelated languages and cultures: the Tamil of South India, the Tzeltal spoken by Mayan Indians in Chiapas, Mexico, and the English of the USA and England, supplemented by examples from other cultures. Underneath the apparent diversity of polite behaviour in different societies lie some general pan-human principles of social interaction, and the model of politeness provides a tool for analysing the quality of social relations in any society. This volume will be of special interest to students in linguistic pragmatics, sociolinguistics, applied linguistics, anthropology, and the sociology and social psychology of interaction.

    Reviews & endorsements

    It has continued to inspire empirical work as 'the' source on politeness and, more generally, as an important exemplar in the study of the relationship between language and society. In addition, the broad scope of their treatment of these concerns has created a work in which many, if not most, of the assumptions guiding the contemporary study of language use are to found." Douglas G. Glick, Semiotica (1996)

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    Product details

    • Date Published: February 1987
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521313551
    • length: 358 pages
    • dimensions: 216 x 138 x 21 mm
    • weight: 0.426kg
    • contains: 8 b/w illus. 3 tables
    • availability: Temporarily unavailable - available from TBC
  • Table of Contents

    Symbols and abbreviations
    Foreword John J. Gumperz
    Introduction to the reissue
    1. Introduction
    2. Summarized argument
    3. The argument: intuitive bases and derivative definitions
    4. On the nature of the model
    5. Realizations of politeness strategies in language
    6. Derivative hypotheses
    7. Sociological implications
    8. Implications for language studies
    9. Conclusions
    Author index
    Subject index.

  • Authors

    Penelope Brown, Max-Planck-Institut für Psycholinguistik, The Netherlands

    Stephen C. Levinson, Max-Planck-Institut für Psycholinguistik, The Netherlands


    John J. Gumperz, University of California, Berkeley

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