Politeness and Saying Goodbye Elizabeth Coppock
Face to save one's face: also to save face; to lose face [tr. Chinese tiue lien]: to be humiliated, lose one's credit, good name, or reputation; similarly, loss of face. Hence face = reputation, good name. • (OED online)
Face in sociology Chinese notion of face appropriated by sociolinguist Erving Goffman (1967, i.a.) and re-characterized as: • "the positive social value a person effectively claims for himself by the line [stance; attitude] others assume he has taken during a particular contact" • an image of self, delineated in terms of approved social attributes
Positive and Negative Face Brown and Levinson (1978) distinguish: • Positive face: positive self-image or "personality". • may include solidarity between participants • Negative face: the basic claim to territories, personal preserves, rights to non-distraction -- i.e., to freedom of action and freedom from imposition
Violations of Face • Positive face violations: calling somebody fat, not inviting someone to your party, implying that somebody is stupid or incompetent • Negative face violations: stepping on somebody's toes, taking their time or money, occupying their space, preventing them from passing by
Positive and negative politeness • Positive politeness: acts of saving or protecting the hearer's positive face • Negative politeness: acts of saving or protecting the hearer's negative face
Indirect speech acts • Which one does more to save the addressee's negative face? • Could you pass the salt? • Pass the salt. • Is there a difference in positive politeness?
Imperatives and politeness Imagine that your classmate wants to come to a party that you are hosting. Which is more polite? 1) Can you come to the party? 2) Come to the party! Think about positive vs. negative politeness.
Indirect speech acts • Which is more polite, B or B'? A: How about going to the movies tonight? B: No. B': I can't, I have to study.
Conversation endings A speaker typically does not just say, [Okay,] “Bye,” and walk away; rather, most speakers go through a fairly regular routine of first signaling to the other that the conversation is ending and only then adding a concluding salutation.
Face-threatening nature of ending a conversation By moving to end a conversation, one risks a chain of interpretations leading to a negative conclusion about the other. Moving to end a conversation may be interpreted to mean that one does not wish for the conversation to continue. This in turn risks the implication that the company of the other is not being enjoyed, which then could imply that the interlocutor is boring, for example, or annoying.
Insights from Goffman (1967): When a person begins a mediated or immediate encounter, he already stands in some kind of social relationship to the others concerned, and expect to stand in a given relationship to them after the particular encounter ends. This, of course, is one of the ways in which social contacts are geared into the wider society.
Much of the activity occuring during an encounter can be understood as an effort on everyone’s part to get through the occasion and all the unanticipated and unintentional events that can cast participants in an undesirable light, without disrupting the relationships of the partici- pants. And if relationship are in the process of change, the object will be to bring the encounter to a satisfactory close without altering the expected course of development.
This perspective nicely accounts, for example, for the little ceremonies of greeting and farewell which occur when people begin a conversational encounter or depart from one. Greetings provide a way of showing that a relationship is still what it was at the termination of the previous coparticipation... Farewells sum up the effect of the encounter upon the relationship and show what the participants may expect of one another when they next meet.
The enthusiasm of greetings compensates for the weakening of the relationship caused by the absence just terminated, while the enthusiasm of farewells compensates the relationship for the harm that is about to be done to it by separation. Greetings, of course, serve to clarify and fix the roles that the participants will take during the occasion of talk and to commit participants to these roles, while farewells provide a way of unambiguously terminating the encounter.
Greetings and farewells may also be used to state, and apologize for, extenuating circumstances – in the case of greetings for circumnstances that have kept the participants from interacting until now, and in the case of farewells for circumstances that prevent the participants from continuing their display of solidarity.
Closing section (S&S 1973) • (Topic boundary) • Proper Initiation • Optional other stuff, e.g., • Making arrangements • Reinvocation of things discussed earlier • Explaining the reason for the conversation • Saying “thank you” • Terminal Exchange
Pre-closings B: Right. A: So, uh. B: Okay. A: Well, that's probably all we need to do today. B: Okay. A: Alright. B: So long. A: Thanks a lot. B: Bye-bye.
Pre-closings • Not all sequences “Okay” / “Okay” are pre-closings. • They’re pre-closings only if they occur after a topic boundary. (Schegloff & Sacks 1973)
Positive face-saving strategies • The Positive Comment • The Excuse • The Imperative to End • Plan • General Wish • External positive comment • Dispreference markers • Use of names
Source: Switchboard corpus • Strangers were paid a small amount to have a roughly 5-minute conversation on a given topic (e.g. "sports" or "gardening") with another stranger. • Jacob Bien and I studied 70 of these conversations, attempting to classify each line of the dialogue.
Uniformity Strangers => Politeness Time limit => uniform quantity of preceding discussion Less variety Strangers => Few (sincere) Plans The time limit is an easy justification for ending Pros & Cons of Switchboard
Absent in Switchboard: • [At the beginning]: Sorry to bother you, were you sleeping? • [As the conversation is winding down]: Oh, by the way, I wanted to tell you… • [Just before saying “bye-bye”]: Tell Lucy “hi” for me.
The Positive Comment • Great talking to you.
The Excuse • I’d better get back to my dorm before… • I actually have to get going now… • I’d better go get some work done… I’m so behind in IHUM reading! • My roommate told me to be back before six, so I actually better get going…
The Imperative to End • I guess our time's about up • <Laughter> I guess we're supposed to say good-bye or something …
The Arrangement/Plan • [And] we’ll talk another time perhaps. • [and] maybe we’ll get on line again • [and] maybe we’ll meet up again some time • (Ron,) (we’ll) see you (later) • Talk to you on the next go around Tough case: • We'll see how our predictions come true.
The General Wish • Good luck with that problem set! • Don’t let that chem final worry you. I’m sure you’ll do fine. • Good luck finding his office!
The External Positive Comment • And, uh, let’s hear it for the summertime… • But, uh, this is a great project they’re working on.
Dispreference markers B: Think we've talked long enough? A: I think so <laughter>. B: <Laughter> All right. A: Well, I've enjoyed talking to you. B: [ [ I, + I, ] + I ] have talked long enough. A: Okay <laughter>. B: <Laughter>. A: Thanks. B: Thank you. A: Bye. B: Good-bye.
Names • Ron, we’ll see you later. • Thanks, Sherry.
Combined positive/negative politeness strategies • The Blame • The Promise • The Summary • Goal completion • The Loss for Words • Thanks for the Conversation
The Blame • I better let you get going. • Well, I shouldn’t keep you any longer… I know you’re so busy. • I should probably let you get dinner.
The Promise • I’ll call you soon. • Let’s get lunch sometime. • I’ll talk to you soon.
The Summary • Okay, I guess that’s most of my, um, financial plans right now. [… Mine too.] • Well, it sounds like we're doing our part and at least starting, [to recycle] • But, uh, [ as, + as ] far as that goes, [ I, + we ] at least agree on what we enjoy.
Goal Completion • [Well] I think we’ve done it. • [Well] I think we’re about done. • I guess our five minutes are up according to my watch. • Surely we’ve made it.
The Loss for Words • I can’t think of anything else. • That’s about as much as we can do with current events. • I guess [this, + the ] weather isn’t as lively a topic [ as, + uh, as ] some of the others we might have gotten. • [Well] that’s about all I …
Thank you for the Conversation • [Well] thank you. • [and] thank you for calling • Thanks for your time. • [Well] thanks a lot • Thanks, Sherry. • [and] thanks for participating