Politeness, Paradigms of Family, and the Japanese ESL Speaker
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This paper addresses the issue of linguistic-politeness dysfunction in Japanese ESL speakers within a theoretical framework that sees shared assumptions concerning Power and Distance differentials as crucial. Developing the notion that linguistic politeness is a function of a status-dependent and context-dependent variety of language usage, it describes four fundamental styles of utterance that can be visualised as existing on a grid and argues that utterances from any part of this grid can be considered to be polite if both S and H have similar conceptions of their role-relationship within a given speech event. It argues further that perceptions of role relationships result from primary socialisation within culturally codified family groupings, and that this socialisation provides a conceptual template for the manufacture and maintenance of social reality in extra-familial face-to-face interaction. Given that role-relationships are delineated primarily in terms of Power and Distance differentials, the paper goes on to argue that many of the problems experienced by Japanese ESL speakers in accomplishing linguistic politeness in English can be traced back directly to the nature of the role-relationships which define the Japanese conception of family.
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