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Copy of The Politeness Principle (Leech)

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dan syed

on 16 January 2014

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Transcript of Copy of The Politeness Principle (Leech)

Introduction in relation to Grice's and Goffman's theories
The politeness principle
Two kinds of politeness
The politeness principle
Positive politeness
The concept of face and the politeness principle:
Negative politeness
Leech's definition:
Maxim of Tact:
Maxims (I)
Maxim of Modesty:
Maxims (II)
Geoffrey Leech was in favor of the cooperative principle, but he realized that it is not enough when it comes to explain how we understand the relation between sense (propositional content) and force.
That is why he proposed
not as a new principle to add to the ones that already exited, but as a necessary complement which could achieve the avoidance of some of the problems of the cooperative principle.
Leech gives an example to make this clear:
A: We'll all miss Bill and Agatha, won't we?
Well, we'll all miss Bill.
Clearly, B confirms part of A's question, ignoring the rest on purpose. This
that not everybody will miss Agatha, but the
cooperative principle
cannot explain why we reach this implicature, since B could have added: "
... but not Agatha". If he had done that, he would have been much more informative, but he would have also been
towards Agatha. As he represses this information (contravening Grice's quantity maxim), he is observing the
politeness principle
Thus, Leech says that the
regulator role
of the politeness principle is more important than the one of the cooperative principle:
"It keeps the social balance and the friendship relationships which allow us presuppose that our interlocutors are being cooperative".
An important term in this theory is , proposed by Goffman and expanded by Brown and Levinson in 1893: "... the positive social value a person effectively claims for himself by the line others assume he has taken during a particular contact" (Goffman, 1955:23).
According to Levinson and Brown, we can distinguish two types of acts in relation to this term:
Face threatening acts
, which impose on our freedom of action (orders, requests).
Face saving acts
, which have a positive effect on our social image (compliments).
Leech uses this distinction to develop his politeness principle as we will see next.
As we say, Levinson and Brown expanded this concept which lead to the distinction of two types of politeness:
Positive and negative politeness
It aims to “save face” by demonstrating closeness and solidarity, appealing to friendship and making other people feel good.
It involves the use of endearment terms, face saving acts, mitigation strategies, etc.
- "You must be hungry, it's a long time since breakfast. How about some lunch?" (Attending to the hearer).
- "So when are you coming to see us?" (Assuming agreement).
- A: " What is she, small?"
B: "Yes, yes, she's small, smallish, um, not really small but certainly not very big." (Avoiding disagreement).
It aims to minimize the negative effects of “face threatening acts” .
They are usually used in situations in which the cost is bigger for the hearer and the benefit is bigger for the speaker.
- "You must forgive me but...." (Asking for forgiveness).
- "I'm looking for a comb." (Being indirect: you try not to impose an action for the hearer, giving him the optionality to help you finding the comb).
According to all we have said, for Leech this principle is a pragmatic one which leads speakers to:

Minimize the expressions of impolite beliefs.
Maximize the expression of polite beliefs.
Besides, he thinks that it is a necessary principle which completes the one of cooperation, to the point that it even
the one by Grice in some contexts.
To be able to explain his theory, and relating it to the one by Grice, he proposes
a series of maxims
a series of maxims
It is the one which Leech expands the most and it refers to directives and commisives.
Minimize cost to others.
Maximize benefit to others.

It can be achieved by means of:
- Minimizers.
- Increasing optionality for the hearer.
- Being indirect (which also increases
Maxim of Generosity:
It also refers to directives and commisives.
Minimize the expression of benefit to self.
Maximize the expression of cost to self.
Maxim of Approbation:
It refers to expressives and assertives.
Minimize dispraise of others.
Maximize praise of others.
It also refers to expressives and assertives.
Minimize praise of self.
Maximize dispraise of self.
Maxim of Agreement:
It only refers to assertives.
Minimize disagreement between self and others.
Maximize agreement between self and others.
Maxim of Sympathy:
It also refers only to assertives.
Minimize antipathy between self and others.
Maximize sympathy between self and others.
Say which maxim is being observed in the following sentences
You can lend my car.
I am sorry to hear about your father.
A: I don't want my daughter to do this, I want her to do that.
B: Yes, but ma'am, I thought we resolved this already on your last visit.
A: Her performance was outstanding!
B: Yes, wasn't it?
Please accept this small gift as a token of our esteem.
Could I interrupt you for a second?
Problem with this theory
Just as Grice's theory was criticized because it was not universal (it variates in relation to the culture), Leech's politeness principle was rejected by some linguists for the same reason.
Thanks for your attention!
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