The absolutist approach to politeness as pursued by Leech (1983) in his identification of politeness maxims, and Levinson and Brown (1987) in their discussions have been rejected by contextualists such as Gu (1990), Spencer-Oatey and Jiang (2003), Holmes (1995), Watts (2003), and Locher (2004). Fraser and Nolan (1981: 96), for instance, argue pertinently that ‘no sentence is inherently polite or impolite’. From the contextual and social models of politeness, this paper looks at the English expression ‘please’ and its place in politeness discourse. It looks at the use of this expression in actual speech situations in Ghana, supported by discourse interactions from other communities. It looks at the expression in relation to the totality of the interaction in which it occurs, specifically, at the reactions which this expression invokes, and establishes that ‘please’ is used for politeness and impoliteness, or for face-enhancement as well as face-threat. Finally, whilst agreeing with Gu (1990), Spencer-Oatey and Jiang (2003), Holmes (1995), Watts (2003), Locher (2004) and Fraser and Nolan (1981) on the need for contextual approach to politeness, we argue on the basis of the findings that there is the need to categorize expressions into the cognitively and the functionally polite or impolite, to the extent that the employment of an expression in a domain of politeness other than its natural or cognitive has implications for its nature and depth of politeness or impoliteness. On the basis of ‘please’, the paper proposes the recognition of three levels of uses of naturally or cognitively polite expressions–the politic (neutral or the formal), the polite, and the non-politic (impolite).
|Keywords:||(Im)politeness, Face, Sense, Context, Pramalingual|
Associate Professor, Department of English Education, Faculty of Languages Education, University of Education, Winneba, Ghana
Lecturer, Department of English Education, Faculty of Languages Education, University of Education, Winneba, Winneba, Ghana
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