Tensions in current politeness research

2006-05-31T10:00:23Z (GMT) by Chris Christie
The papers in this special issue were initially presented at the Politeness and Power conference held at Loughborough University in 2002. The papers range from studies that focus on variation in linguistic behaviour within specific institutional contexts and those that address cultural variation in politeness behaviour, to discussions that raise fundamental questions about the conceptualisation and application of ‘politeness’ as an analytical tool. In common with much work on politeness, Brown and Levinson’s (1987) model remains a significant point of departure for many of the papers here, but the conceptualisation of politeness and the analytical tools provided by this model are rarely applied here in an unmodified form, or without being recalibrated to fit within an alternative framework. Indeed, as the range of contexts within which politeness has been investigated has broadened in recent years, so too have the theoretical frameworks that are called on in order to be able to address the questions generated by the findings of such studies. My aim in this introduction is to provide a brief context for the questions raised by the papers in this issue by outlining some the key implications that arise from their relocation of the analysis of politeness within this expanding set of theoretical frameworks, and pointing to some of the tensions that this process generates.