The speech act of apology : a linguistic exploration of politeness orientation in British and Jordanian culture


Through an investigation of the realisation patterns of apologies in British English and Jordanian Arabic, this study presents an account of politeness phenomena in Jordanian culture as compared to British culture. A comparison is thus made between the British conceptualisation of the pragmatic notions of face and politeness and their Jordanian equivalents. In order to arrive at better understanding of how politeness operates in each of the cultures under study, it was decided to linguistically examine the act of apologising within the theoretical framework of Brown & Levinson's (1978,1987) model of politeness in which a distinction is made between two main constituents of face: negative face and positive face. The adoption of Brown & Levinson's theory of politeness also meets the need to study this particular speech act in connection with explanatory variables, such as social power, social distance, and the absolute ranking of imposition, which all provide more insights into how politeness is conceived of in the two cultures. The intercultural and intracultural analyses carried out in this study uncover the similarities and differences in the two cultures' linguistic behaviour, as exhibited in the performance of this act. The study argues that Brown & Levinson's claim for the universality of their theory, in which apologies and deference are viewed as being intrinsically negative politeness strategies, is not supported on the ground that Jordanian apologies are found to be positive politeness strategies. The study's main contribution to the field of politeness research is to reinforce the findings of previous researchers (Locher & Watts 2005; Spencer-Oatey 2005; Arundale 2006) who argue that Brown & Levinson's (1987) model of politeness can still be valid if politeness strategies they have proposed are viewed as possible realisations of relational work. The study also reaffirms the findings of Davies et al (2007) and Koutsantoni (2007) in which apologies are found to be of benefit for both the apologiser and the apologisee and likely to maintain "equity" between them. Seen in this way, apologies could be viewed as "relational" and "interactional" phenomena

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This paper was published in White Rose E-theses Online.

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