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Review of Culpeper, Haugh & Kádár (2017): The Palgrave Handbook of Linguistic (Im)politeness

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Jonathan Culpeper, Michael Haugh & Dániel Z. Kádár (eds.), The
Palgrave Handbook of Linguistic (Im)politeness. London: Palgrave
Macmillan, 2017, xxi + 824 pp. ISBN 978-1-137-37507-0 /
978-1-137-37508-7 eBook
Reviewed by Huiyu Zhang & Danqi Zhang (Zhejiang University)
Aer being introduced by Lako (1973), Leech (1977), and Brown and Levinson
(1978) in the 1970s, (im)politeness research has become increasingly popular and
multidisciplinary (Kádár and Haugh 2013). Against this background, The Palgrave
Handbook of Linguistic (Im)politeness endeavors to oer a comprehensive picture
of the development and diversity of (im)politeness studies. It begins with an intro-
duction (Chapter 1) authored by the three editors, Jonathan Culpeper, Michael
Haugh, and Dániel Z. Kádár. This chapter provides an overview of the extant lit-
erature on (im)politeness, and points out directions for further exploration and
The following 29 chapters, structured in four Parts, cover both classic and re-
cent contributions to (im)politeness research while presenting a detailed discus-
sion of contextual variation. Part I, “Foundations” (Chapters 2 to 8), covers some
essentialand foundationalstrands of(im)politeness research from the pastdecades.
Chapter 2 (by Jonathan Culpeper and Marina Terkoura) is concerned with how
pragmatic concepts and theories inuenced the formation of early (im)politeness
theories. Classic works in linguistics, including Austins speech act theory, Grice’s
theory on conversational implicature, Brown and Levinson’s concept of face-
threatening acts, and Leech’s politeness principle, are reviewed and extended. Con-
sidering that pragmatics is itself highly interdisciplinary (p. 12), Chapter 3 (by Sara
Mills) shis the focus to sociocultural approaches to (im)politeness, criticizing
Brown and Levinson’s individual-focused work which largely neglects the role that
social context plays in shaping individuals’ perceptions and production of (im)po-
liteness. In addition, it can also be problematic to overgeneralize the politeness pat-
tern of a language group (Kádár & Mills, 2011).
Chapter 4 (by Manfred Kienpointner and Maria Stopfner) and Chapter 5 (by
Jim O’Driscoll) introduce two key concepts related to (im)politeness: ideology
and face. In terms of the ideological aspect of (im)politeness, the authors argue
that recent approaches within the “discursive turn” mark a great advance in over-
coming reductionist ideologies of (im)politeness (p.83). As for the relationship
Pragmatics and Society 12:1 (2021), pp. 151–156. issn 1878-9714 |eissn 1878-9722
© John Benjamins Publishing Company
between face and (im)politeness, the author makes clear that face is not a method-
ology or framework, but rather a concept which can help us to understand inter-
active behavior (p. 107). The concept of face is explored from dierent angles, and
previous research on face is reviewed. In Chapter 6 (by Helen Spencer-Oatey and
Vladimir Žegarac) and Chapter 7 (by Barbara Pizziconi and Chris Christie), the
relationship between (im)politeness and context-dependent concepts of power,
distance, and indexicality are explored. Power and distance between interactants
can “guide and constrain cooperation in communication” (p.119), while indexical
analysis enables researchers to understand meaning in “the interaction of lin-
guistic forms with co-textual and contextual signs” (p.165). Chapter 8 (by Marina
Terkoura and Dániel Z. Kádár) distinguishes conventional and ritual perspec-
tives of (im)politeness phenomena, which “represents the ‘normative’ aspect of in-
terpersonal politeness” (Kasper, 2008).
Part II, “Developments” (Chapters 9 to 16), is concerned with more recent ap-
proaches to (im)politeness research. Chapter 9 (by Jonathan Culpeper and Claire
Hardaker) specically focuses on impoliteness and its related concepts, such as im-
politeness meta-language, intention, emotions, co-texts, and contexts. Chapter 10
(by Pilar Garcés-Conejos Blitvich and Maria Sianou), Chapter 11(by Jun Ohashi
and Wei-Lin Melody Chang), and Chapter 12 (by Andreas Langlotz and Miriam
A. Locher) respectively focus on three issues concerned with (im)politeness: iden-
tity, relationality, and emotion. In Chapter 10 the authors not only discuss the dif-
ferences between face and identity, but also contend that the discussion of identity
in (im)politeness research should “be more grounded in identity theory” (p.228).
Chapter 11 concentrates on (im)politeness and relationality, a relatively under-
researchedarea, arguing that the conceptsof identity andrelationshipshould not be
conated when theorizing and analyzing (im)politeness (p. 265). The authors also
suggest that as an important factor in (im)politeness, emotion should be taken into
consideration in examining relational phenomena (p. 279).
Chapter 12 elaborates on the emotional aspect of (im)politeness, in which it
is claimed by the authors that emotions play a fundamental role in interpersonal
pragmatics, and the study of the interrelatedness between emotions, identity con-
struction, and sociality can benet (im)politeness (p. 316). Chapter 13 ( by Jonathan
Culpeper, Michael Haugh, and Valeria Sinkeviciute) investigates the role of mixed
messages such as irony, ritualized banter, and teasing in the context of (im)polite-
ness. It is suggested that there is still much room for research on mixed messages
and (im)politeness across language and cultural groups. Chapter 14 (by Lucien
Brown and Pilar Prieto) centers on multimodal expressions of (im)politeness in-
cluding prosody and gesture, and calls for more comparison studies across lan-
guages and cultures.
152 Huiyu Zhang & Danqi Zhang
© 2021. John Benjamins Publishing Company
All rights reserved
Chapter 15 (by Thomas Holtgraves and Jean-François Bonnefon) and Chap-
ter 16 (by Andreas H. Jucker and Larssyn Staley) take a close look at the approaches
adopted in (im)politeness research, especially empirical research. The experimen-
tal approaches to (im)politeness and how these approaches work with other re-
search methods are discussed. It is suggested that Brown and Levinson’s theoretical
framework still plays an important part in understanding the relationship between
language and some basic psychological processes (p.394). The development of
methodology in (im)politeness research is also elaborated; and the authors distin-
guish two types of approaches in empirical research, the laboratory approach and
the eld approach, while claiming that the choice of approach must be subject to
the research questions (p.424).
Part III, “(Im)politeness and Variation” (Chapters 17 to 23), deals with a num-
ber of aspects of variation in diachronic and synchronic forms. Chapter 17 (by
Andreas H. Jucker and Joanna Kopaczyk) examines politeness and impoliteness
from a historical perspective, discussing them in terms of aspects including terms
of address, speech acts, interjections, and expletives, and making suggestions for
the development of future historical research. Chapter 18 (by Haruko M. Cook
and Matthew Burdelski) and Chapter 19 (by J. César Félix-Brasdefer and Gerrard
Mugford) focus on language socialization, as well as the learning and teaching
of (im)politeness. As illustrated in these chapters, “language socialization entails
learning (im)politeness, and learning (im)politeness is embedded in the process
of language socialization” (p. 462). Three areas of language socialization that are
closely associated with (im)politeness are highlighted, namely interactional rou-
tines, requests and directives, and honorics. The learning and teaching of (im)po-
liteness in second and foreign language contexts is another focus in this section of
the book. Aer reviewing previous models for teaching speech acts, a model for
teaching (im)polite behavior in the FL classroom is proposed by the authors.
Chapter 20 (by Malgorzata Chalupnik, Christine Christie, and Louise Mul-
lany), Chapter 21 (by Klaus P. Schneider and María Elena Placencia), and Chap-
ter 22 (by Maria Sianou and Pilar Garcés-Conejos Blitvich) respectively revolve
around the topics of gender, region, and culture. Some pioneering works on gender
and politeness are revisited, and some directions for future research are proposed.
In addition, regional and cultural variations of (im)politeness are scrutinized. It is
noted that when studying (im)politeness at regional and cultural levels, researchers
should be cautious about both overgeneralizations (p.582) and extreme construc-
tivist views (p.590). Intercultural (im)politeness is discussed in Chapter 23 (by
Michael Haugh and Dániel Z. Kádár), with the authors arguing that the analytical
approach used in investigating intercultural (im)politeness should not only be
based on culture-related theories, but should also consider individuals themselves
(p. 625).
Review of Culpeper, Haugh & Kádár (2017) 153
© 2021. John Benjamins Publishing Company
All rights reserved
In Part IV, “(Im)politeness in Specic Contexts” (Chapters 24 to 30), each
chapter discusses (im)politeness in a particular situational context, with relatively
less focus on theoretical explanation but more on the characteristics of each spe-
cic context. Chapter 24 (by Janet Holmes and Stephanie Schnurr), Chapter 25 ( by
Rosina Márquez Reiter and Patricia Bou-Franch), and Chapter 26 (by Miriam A.
Locher and Stephanie Schnurr) deal with (im)politeness in three daily contexts:
workplaces, service encounters, and health settings. Chapter 24 deals with (im)po-
liteness in workplace interaction. The authors analyze (im)politeness by drawing
on sociocultural norms at dierent levels, from the societal level through the or-
ganizational level to the level of community of practice. Chapter 25 focuses on
(im)politeness in service encounters, an area that has been deeply impacted by
technological advances. (Im)politeness research in three types of service encoun-
ters are reviewed, namely face-to-face service encounters, telephone-mediated ser-
vice encounters, and online service encounters. The following chapter examines
(im)politeness in health settings, in which heated topics such as culture and e-
health are addressed.
Chapter 27 (by Dawn Archer) and Chapter 28 (by Karen Tracy) discuss two
more serious contexts, that is, legal settings and political settings. Courtroom dis-
course in legal settings and facework in political discourse are major issues that are
explored here. Chapter 29 (by Dan McIntyre and Derek Bouseld) is concerned
with (im)politenessin ctional texts, aiming toenrich (im)politeness researchfrom
a stylistic perspective. Chapter 30 (by Sage L. Graham and Claire Hardaker) elab-
orates on (im)politeness in digital communication, namely computer-mediated
communication. Since the authors claim that dierent media platforms can have
distinctive eects on the way (im)politeness is enacted (p. 794), they discuss several
digital contexts in this chapter including email, discussion boards, chat, online
gaming, blogs, and social networks.
(Im)politeness is an incredibly common phenomenon in interpersonal com-
munication, and this volume represents a timely and informative work on (im)po-
liteness research in recent years. One of the biggest advantages of the volume,
as noted by the editors, is that it “puts together scholars with complementary
strengths” (p.6) in discussing each specic area of (im)politeness. Another ob-
vious advantage of the volume is that it oers multidisciplinary insights into
(im)politeness studies by incorporating theories and approaches from linguistics,
sociology, psychology, and other areas. It is worth noting that although the hand-
book encompasses multiple topics and areas, the contents are well organized with
clear labelling, which is vital for such a lengthy volume. Last but not least, at
the end of each chapter a research gap or future direction for research is given,
oering a number of research questions with signicant research value, such as
“are the non-verbal cues of politeness of equal importance to the more frequently
154 Huiyu Zhang & Danqi Zhang
© 2021. John Benjamins Publishing Company
All rights reserved
examined verbal cues” (p.375), and “whether the growing interconnectedness
brought about by social media and globalization processes is leading to homoge-
neous perceptions and expressions of (im)politeness online” (p.564), to name just
two. It is hoped that these under-explored questions and areas might serve as a
springboard for further (im)politeness research.
However, the current volume is not without limitations. A prominent one is
that most of the concepts and theories analyzed in this handbook are proposed
and developed by Western scholars, and most of the case studies were carried out
in Western contexts, and English-speaking contexts in particular. This is not sur-
prising, since most of the authors contributing to this volume come from West-
ern countries, and hence they devote their academic attention to their familiar
cultural contexts. In order to better address and explore the East-West divide in
politeness, however, it is imperative for researchers to gather more empirical evi-
dence from Eastern societies and delve deeper into the study of Eastern culture.
Therefore, more comparison research on (im)politeness between Eastern and
Western societies should be carried out. In general, this volume lacks sucient
discussion of (im)politeness in Eastern cultures and societies, which substantially
narrows the research scope of the work. Moreover, some important research con-
texts are found to be absent from the volume too, most notably the context of tele-
vision, in particular reality TV (p.7), which has become a new and ourishing
eld for (im)politeness research.
To summarize, this volume oers a critical and extensive overview of linguist
politeness and impoliteness, which signicantly adds to readers’ understanding
of (im)politeness from multidisciplinary perspectives. Despite some areas for
improvement, this handbook is, by and large, a signicant and valuable contribu-
tion to interpersonal communication research. It will be of particular interest to
students and researchers who are engaged in the elds of politeness, pragmatics,
and interpersonal communication.
Brown, Penelope, and Stephen C. Levinson. 1978. “Universals in Language Usage: Politeness
Phenomena.” In Questions and Politeness: Strategies in Social Interaction, ed. by
Esther N. Goody, 56–311. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Kádár, Dániel Z., and Michael Haugh. 2013. Understanding Politeness. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press.
Kádár, Dániel, and Sara Mills. 2011. Politeness in East Asia. Cambridge: Cambridge University
Kasper, Gabriele. 2008. “Linguistic Etiquette.” In Intercultural Discourse and Communication:
The Essential Readings, ed. by Scott F. Kiesling and Christina Bratt Paulston, 58–76.
London: Wiley.
Review of Culpeper, Haugh & Kádár (2017) 155
© 2021. John Benjamins Publishing Company
All rights reserved
Lako, Robin T. 1973. “The Logic of Politeness; or, Minding Your P’s and Q’s’.” In Papers from
the Ninth Regional Meeting of the Chicago Linguistic Society, ed. by Claudia Corum,
T. Cedric Smith-Stark, and Ann Weiser, 292–305. Chicago: Chicago Linguistic Society.
Leech, Georey N. 1977. Language and Tact, Series A, Paper No. 46. Trier: Linguistic Agency,
University of Trier.
Address for correspondence
Huiyu Zhang
Zhejiang University
866 Yuhangtang Rd, Xihu
Hangzhou 310027 Zhejiang
Biographical notes
Huiyu Zhang is currently Professor of Linguistics in the Department of Linguistics, Zhejiang
University. Her research interests include pragmatics and discourse studies. Her publications
have appeared in the Journal of Pragmatics, in Applied Linguistics and some prominent Chi-
nese journals.
Danqi Zhang is currently a postgraduate in the Department of Linguistics, Zhejiang University.
Her research interests include pragmatics and discourse studies.
156 Huiyu Zhang & Danqi Zhang
© 2021. John Benjamins Publishing Company
All rights reserved
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Full-text available
We use politeness every day when interacting with other people. Yet politeness is an impressively complex linguistic process, and studying it can tell us a lot about the social and cultural values of social groups or even a whole society, helping us to understand how humans 'encode' states of mind in their words. The traditional, stereotypical view is that people in East Asian cultures are indirect, deferential and extremely polite – sometimes more polite than seems necessary. This revealing book takes a fresh look at the phenomenon, showing that the situation is far more complex than these stereotypes would suggest. Taking examples from Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese and Singaporean Chinese, it shows how politeness differs across countries, but also across social groups and subgroups. The first comprehensive study of the subject, this book is essential reading for those interested in intercultural communication, linguistics and East Asian languages.
Politeness is key to all of our relationships and plays a fundamental part in the way we communicate with each other and the way we define ourselves. It is not limited only to conventional aspects of linguistic etiquette, but encompasses all types of interpersonal behaviour through which we explore and maintain our relationships. This groundbreaking exploration navigates the reader through this fascinating area and introduces them to a variety of new insights. The book is divided into three parts and is based on an innovative framework which relies on the concepts of social practice, time and space. In this multidisciplinary approach, the authors capture a range of user and observer understandings and provide a variety of examples from different languages and cultures. With its reader-friendly style, carefully constructed exercises and useful glossary, Understanding Politeness will be welcomed by both researchers and postgraduate students working on politeness, pragmatics and sociolinguistics more broadly.
This study is about the principles for constructing polite speech. We describe and account for some remarkable parallelisms in the linguistic construction of utterances with which people express themselves in different languges 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. Of general interest is the point that underneaath the apparent diversity of polite behaviour in different societies lie some general pan-human principles of social interaction, and the model of politenss provides a tool for analysing the quality of social relations in any society.