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Reconsidering power and distance

By Helen Spencer-Oatey


A wide range of studies indicate that power and distance affect the production and interpretation of language. However, this paper argues that greater consideration needs to be given to the conceptual nature of these dimensions, and to terminological usage. In the first half of the paper, the need for this consideration is explained. A number of pragmatic studies are examined, and this reveals that authors often use the same terms with different meanings, or different terms with the same meaning, and that the parameters are rarely explicitly defined. Then the paper reviews recent calls for an extra parameter of interlocutor relations to be added: for affect to be separated from distance. In the second half of the paper, relevant social psychological research is reported, and it is concluded that the number of ‘horizontal’ dimensions of interlocutor relations needs to be reconsidered. Power, on the other hand, emerges as a robust and relatively unitary dimension, yet its label has connotations that may not be cross-culturally valid.\ud \u

Topics: BF, P1
Publisher: Elsevier BV
Year: 1996
OAI identifier:

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