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Negative politeness features and impoliteness functions: a corpus-assisted approach

posted on 2023-06-08, 15:53 authored by Charlotte TaylorCharlotte Taylor
This chapter uses corpus-assisted discourse studies to examine the variety of functions which negative politeness forms fulfil in institutional discourse, and in particular it aims to add to the increasing literature which demonstrates that negative politeness features are clearly not limited to mitigation of the effect of an unavoidable face-threatening act (FTA) on the addressee. I would argue that in certain contexts some ‘polite’ phraseologies have become so conventionalized that, like Hacker, most competent English speakers would be primed to treat them as discourse markers indicating that a (possibly avoidable) face threat is about to follow. Within the discourse types studied here, polite phraseologies, while superficially expressing distance and deference, are seen to perform a variety of overlapping functions including: showing awareness of the discourse norms, allowing the participant to be ‘consciously aggressive in an acceptable way’ (Locher, 2004: 90), demonstrating that the participant can ‘handle it’ (Mullany, 2002), marking sections of the interaction for attention of the beneficiaries, and, finally, functioning as an integral part of the impolite move in the case of mock politeness. A secondary aim of this chapter is to explore the contribution that corpus linguistics can make to im/politeness studies.


Publication status

  • Published


Bloomsbury Academic



Book title

Situated politeness

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Department affiliated with

  • English Publications

Full text available

  • No

Peer reviewed?

  • Yes


Bethan L Davies, Andrew John Merrison, Michael Haugh

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