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Hi, in the previous videos of this module,
we have now seen that every language shows variation, and also that there
is structure to this variation. A structure, which corresponds to
social structure, and in this video, we're going to look a little bit
deeper into the social structure. So, one aspect, which is very important
in many cultures, and therefore, also in many languages, is politeness. How to be polite, whether or
not to be polite in a specific situation, that's something which can change from
one language, or culture to the next. There's presumably no culture in which
you would address some high authority, some monarch, or
some minister in the same way, in which you would address a small child,
and that's the difference in politeness. So, exactly, that difference in addressing
people is a difference in politeness, so languages are all similar because they
all have this notion of politeness, and they're all different because
they use it in different ways. Here's a famous example,
it's an example taken from Japanese, a culture which is famous for
its politeness. It's a small dialogue between Tanaka,
and his professor. What's interesting about this dialogue,
is that there are three different verbs, which all would be translated,
as eat in English. First Tanaka uses a honorific form of eat, a form which expresses
politeness towards the listener. Then the professor uses a neutral form, which doesn't say anything
about politeness. And finally, Tanaka uses a form for eat, which is about himself, and which
therefore, is humbling for the eater. So, Japanese has at least three
different forms for this one verb eat. Humbling for the eater, honorific for
the eater, or just neutral. Another thing you actually can see in
this dialog, is that both Tanaka, and his professor used a suffix,
the suffix mas on every verb, and that expresses politeness
towards the listener. What is politeness? Well, it's primarily, a way to
express your awareness of the situation you are in, in particular,
the social situation you are in. And even more in particular,
about your relation to the other person, like the person you are speaking to,
or other people around you. There's a central concept about this
in linguistic theorem, I think, and that's face. It's a technical notion, it means
something like a public self-image. It is a quality that everybody has,
we all have, and which we try to protect. That is something like honor, or
dignity, those are the closest words. There's a very famous theory in
linguistics about politeness that stems from 1978, and
was created by Penelope Brown and Stephen Levinson, and it distinguishes
between two types of face. They're, both of them important,
and both of them have their own, rather technical definition. There's negative face, and positive face. Negative face is your want,
the want of every person, that your actions
are unimpeded by other people. Positive face is the want
of every person for his wants to be desirable to at least,
some other people. What does that mean? Well, negative face is the thing
that comes closest to how we usually understand politeness. We do not want other people
to tread on our territory, we do not want other people to be in our
way, we do not want other people to do things, which we do not like,
that's negative face. Positive face is maybe a little
bit less obvious immediately, but it's also a kind of politeness. You want other people to acknowledge us,
our existence, our personality. Who we are, the things we like. Brown and Levinson actually gave,
I think, a nice example of this. This, Mrs. Brown, or Mrs.
B was a fervent gardener, and in particular, she's very fond,
and very proud of her roses. When you visit her, and
you say, what lovely roses, I wish ours looked like that,
or something like that. Then Mrs. B will feel very gratified
because we have saved her positive face. We have acknowledged, what she has done,
and the things she likes, so she feels pleasant,
and we have been polite. Remember when we talked
about speech acts? These were ways of changing
your world with language. We talked about them in
the previous module. Now, politeness very often
has this property, as well. So, by being polite, or inversely, by being rude, we do not just express
the social situation. I don't just express,
how I feel about you, but I also change this
relation a little bit, by making you feel more comfortable,
by making you feel more at ease. I change you, I change the situation,
and I change the world a little bit, so this means there are speech acts
which are about politeness, and such speech acts we call face-threatening
acts, or inherently face-threatening acts. For instance, suppose it's very
cold here in the studio, and now I start bossing everybody around,
telling them, you have to heat up the studio because it's too cold,
that means I threaten their negative face. Why?
Because they no longer feel free to do, as they like,
because I tell them what to do. Okay, well, what can I do? I can be polite, and
try to mitigate this face-threatening act. One way to do that, is to just say,
oh, it's very cold in here. In that case, other people around me,
they can draw their own conclusions, they can think, oh, this guy is so cold. Well, we want to help him. Let's heat it up. They don't feel forced by me to do it. They still feel free. I don't threaten their face. Maybe I threaten my own
face a little bit because I humiliate myself by
expressing these feelings. It depends on the culture. It's very important to understand that
in every act of politeness, there's a face of the speaker, and there's a face
of the hearer, and both are an issue. For instance,
Anne gives an order to Bob, that means, Bob's negative face is threatened. We've just seen that,
he's no longer free to do what he likes. On the other hand, suppose Anne
accepts Bob's apologies, that means, her negative face is threatened because
she can no longer be indignant, she had just accepted his apologies. Or suppose Anne admits a mistake,
and she apologizes to Bob. And it's her positive face that's
threatened, she no longer can feel nicely about herself, but
if she criticizes Bob, it is his positive face that is at stake because he
no longer can feel nicely about his self. Although politeness,
in the conventional sense, the way we talk about it in everyday life,
is usually about the hearer's face. In order to understand the situation
really well from a linguistic point of view, it's important to also
take into account the speaker's face. For instance, you can denigrate yourself
in front of somebody that's more powerful, and that's also a kind of politeness. So, I denigrate myself, I threaten my
own face, and by doing that I make the other person feel happier, that's
what happened in the Japanese example. Politeness is famously a very sensitive
topic in intercultural communication. When you talk to people from
other cultures, how to be polite, where to be polite, when to be polite
can be a very complicated issue. The reason for this is that, like any
speech act, being polite requires that both the hearer, and the speaker
understand the situation in the same way. But in this case,
the situation is also socially defined, for instance, in one culture may
be perfectly acceptable, and even prefer to refer to everybody as brother,
or friend, or something like that. But in other cultures,
this one may need to be very aware, we have just seen Japanese, or
Korean to be very aware of, very precisely understand the social
prestige of one's partner, and you should express this
awareness constantly. It's impolite to refer to everybody,
as brother or friend. Furthermore, in some cases, trying to avoid
the face-threatening act will sometimes not be necessary, and even unhelpful. Everybody in the world, everywhere in the
world will agree that you shouldn't try to be polite when you are drowning. So, would you please be so kind, and if you have the time please
can you come to help me. But the taxation of when this point is
reached, that you no longer need to be, and should be polite can be very
different between different cultures. In the next video, I'm going to discuss
this kind of issue with Marten and Inge, to what extent is
politeness culturally bound?

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