REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE
The concepts of politeness and impoliteness have been the subject of several studies of various experts across different fields over the years. In this study, however, the main focus is on the concept of impoliteness. Several literature and studies are presented here to support the current study.
The concept of impoliteness is not as easily defined as one might think. Several scholars have pointed out the seeming lack of literature that explores the concept. Although there seems to be no single, unanimous meaning, several definitions are offered in various studies and scholarly works. Bousfield in his paper defines impoliteness as:
…constituting the issuing of intentionally gratuitous and con?ictive verbal face-threatening acts which are purposefully performed: unmitigated, in contexts where mitigation is required; and/or with deliberate, aggression, that is, with the face threat intentionally exacerbated, ‘boosted’, or maximised in some way to heighten the face damage in?icted. (2007, p. 2186-2187).
In Bousfield’s theory, the intent with which the act/statement was made is a crucial factor. Whether or not a person intentionally commits offence is a crucial part in determining if the act/statement is considered impolite. In addition, Aliakbari and Hajizadeh (2018) noted that impoliteness may be defined, in the traditional approach, as “strategic” or “instrumental”, denoting as Beebe believes, “a function that the speaker intended, and was not failed politeness” (as cited in Aliakbari ; Hajizadeh, 2018). Accordingly, it has been defined by referring to those actions that might damage the image of the speaker (p. 91). On the other hand, Culpeper, one of the most commonly cited authors/scholars in the study of impoliteness, offers this definition:
Impoliteness is a negative attitude towards specific behaviours occurring in specific contexts. It is sustained by expectations, desires and/or beliefs about social organisation, including, in particular, how one person’s or a group’s identities are mediated by others in interaction. Situated behaviours are viewed negatively—considered “impolite”—when they conflict with how one expects them to be, how one wants them to be and/or how one thinks they ought to be. Such behaviours always have or are presumed to have emotional consequences for at least one participant, that is, they cause or are presumed to cause offence. (Jamet ; Jobert, 2013, p.5).
This offers a more encompassing definition than those that put much emphasis on the role of intention and resolves his own reliance on the notion of “face” from Goffman, which is defined as “the positive social value a person effectively claims for himself sic by the line others assume he has taken during a particular contact” (Jamet ; Jobert, 2013, p.5). By not relying heavily on the notion of face, the concept of impoliteness can encompass a wider array of situations not limited to that of an intentional face-threatening attack. There may be instances where a person might not be intentionally trying to cause offence on another but may be received as such. Intentionally or unintentionally, an impolite act or utterance may be committed.
Moreover, Omar (2010) suggests that impoliteness is context dependent and can be analyzed from the speaker’s and the hearer’s perspectives depending on the speaker’s intention and the hearer’s reception. This is backed up by Keykhayee’s view that the situation or the context of the conversation is critical because the interpretation of both participants of the conversation may depend on it; a certain utterance may be taken as polite in one situation and can be very impolite in another (2013, p.352). In both instances, impoliteness is seen as a subjective concept which varies from person to person and relies on individual perception regardless of intent.
Culpeper uses the term impoliteness to describe the linguistic strategies to attack face – to strengthen the face threat of an act (as cited in Muslim and Sabbagh, n.d., p.3). Further, he described five super-strategies as follows:
(1) Bald on record impoliteness in which face-threatening acts (FTAs) are intentionally performed in a direct, clear, unambiguous and concise way;
(2) Positive impoliteness, concerning the strategies used to damage the addressee’s positive face wants which include ‘ignore, snub the other’, ‘exclude the other from an activity’, ‘disassociate from the other’, ‘be disinterested, unconcerned’, ‘use inappropriate identity markers’, ‘make the other feel uncomfortable’, ‘use taboo words’, and ‘use derogatory nominations’;
(3) Negative impoliteness which involves the use of strategies designed to damage the addressee’s negative face wants which include ‘frighten’, ‘condescend, scorn, or ridicule’, ‘invade the other’s space’ ‘explicitly associate the other with a negative aspect’, and ‘hinder linguistically or physically’;
(4) Sarcasm or mock politeness refers to the situation where politeness strategies are used insincerely and remain surface realization; and
(5) Withhold politeness conveying the absence of politeness where it would be expected. (Innervate, 2014-2015, p.2010-2012)
Relatedly, Bousfield (2007) suggests that the contexts in which impoliteness appears and is utilized strategically must have been previously invoked, that is, the interactant who utters impoliteness must have felt suf?ciently provoked at some point prior to actually delivering the impoliteness. Further, it is thought to be essentially triggered by what is perceived to be a threat to some aspect of the impoliteness utterer’s face (p. 2190). The triggering event as well as the use of any of the super-strategies identified by Culpeper constitutes the beginning of impolite exchanges. As Bousfield (2007) sums it up, the onset of impolite-containing utterances by a particular interlocutor is virtually any (at least, perceived) aggressive, antecedent, event (intentional or otherwise) which offends, threatens or otherwise damages the face of the interlocutor (p. 2195).
Impoliteness Counter Strategies
In contrast, Bousfield (2007) discusses counter strategies which may be classified as (1) offensive strategies primarily countering face attack with face attack; and as (2) defensive strategies primarily defending one’s own face, or champion that of a third party (p. 2199). However, these two classifications are not as distinct/clear cut from each other. Culpeper notes that offensive strategies, to some degree, have the secondary goal of defending the face of the responder; defensive strategies, to some degree, have the secondary goal of offending the face of the speaker of the original impoliteness act (as cited in Bousfield, 2007, p. 2199). This shows that whichever counter strategy the recipient of an FTA utilizes, there will always be the possibility that the response might elicit another FTA.
The defensive counter strategies identified are as follows:
(1) Direct contradiction a.k.a. inversion provides a simple denial of the propositional content of the linguistic face-threatening act made by an interlocutor (Brenneis and Lein);
(2) Abrogation (social and/or discoursal role-switching) involves the user attempting to deny personal responsibility for the offending, trigger event which has caused him or her to become the focus of another’s exacerbated (impolite) face threatening act(s) (Culpeper et al.);
(3) Dismiss (make light of face damage, joke) works by “dismissing” the face attack as inconsequential and/or non-damaging (Culpeper et al.);
(4) Ignore the face attack (whether explicit or implied), offer insincere agreement is achieved through allowing the interactant issuing the face attack to ‘let off steam ‘by expressing surface agreement or ignoring the implied face attack (Culpeper et al.);
(5) Offer an account/ explanation is an attempt to introduce new and potentially mitigating facts concerning the triggering event which has caused one’s interlocutor to be impolite in the ?rst place (Cohen et al.);
(6) Plead is a theoretical defensive option characterized by copious use of politeness strategies and deference which may also conspire to make the offender look odious for not retracting or mollifying the face attack (Bous?eld);
(7) Opt out on record involves the interactant going on record to indicate that they are ‘opting out’ of the conversation (Culpeper et al.); and
(8) Treat the situation as a different ‘activity type’ wherein the defender linguistically shifts the context from one ‘activity type’ (in which the linguistic lexemes and structures used could be construed as being impolite) into another ‘activity type’ (where the selfsame lexemes and structures used are not construed as being impolite (Culpeper et al.). (as cited in Bousfield, 2007, p. 2200-2201)
Impoliteness in fictional context
According to Muslim and Sabbagh, impoliteness is a type of aggression and aggression has been a source of entertainment for thousands of years. They further theorized that impoliteness in a fictional context such as a drama, has two reasons a character’s behavior bears more interpretative significance than would the same behavior in real life: (1) having the complete set of behaviors that constitute a particular character is impossible in real life, and (2) the audience knows that any character behavior is not just determined by the fictional personality, but could also be the result of the motivated choice of the writer (n.d., p. 4). Impoliteness can be observed in a unique sense in that the observer/audience get a glimpse of three perspectives—the speaker, the receiver, and the author.
Moreover, Richardson recognized the language of television as a relevant area for investigation as it gained popularity all over the world, testified in the phenomenon of fandom, and have developed their own narrative strategies and conversational features which have often become so popular and well spread that some set phrases have promptly been adopted in spontaneous speech too (as cited in Bruti & Zanotti, n.d., p.1). With fictional work now easily available across different platforms, instances where life imitates art is not a novel concept any longer. Real-life social interactions can be easily influenced by the things that people watch on TV, see in the movies, hear on the radio, or read in print, at times adopting language that is observed in fiction.
Laitinen (2010), in her research, examined the impoliteness strategies used in the American medical mystery TV-series House M.D. focusing mainly on verbal impoliteness with a brief look at the hearers’ reactions to impoliteness (p.4). This study capitalizes on the observation that the show is different than typical medical shows in that it often makes its viewers laugh and, very often, the humour is created specifically through impoliteness (Laitinen, 2010, p.4). Laitinen (2010) categorized selected excerpts of Dr. House’s interactions with his patients according to Culpeper’s strategies of impoliteness to analyze the data. The result of the study revealed that bald on record strategies and sarcasm are the impoliteness strategies most frequently used in the series and that the patients’ most common responses to Dr. House’s impoliteness was to completely ignore the impolite, sometimes extremely insulting, remarks. However, due to the fact that the patients are actors in a series, it was impossible to analyse the truthfulness of their reactions (Laitinen, 2010, p. 24). In this case, the impoliteness strategies bald on record and sarcasm are commonly used to inspire humor which may also be observed in real-life scenarios as in making a joke or in some cases making fun of other people. The difference may be in that in real-life situations, the receiver of the FTA may not just ignore the impoliteness but reply with his/her own impolite remark.
Additionally, Muslim and Sabbagh (n.d.) point out that impoliteness analysis attempts to describe how participants manipulate their message to face and that such attacking face not only has the general potential to be entertaining, but more importantly, can bring about furthering characterization and plot in a work of fiction (p.10). The study revealed that apart from identifying the use of a significant number of impoliteness strategies in Shaw’s play Pygmalion, the choice of strategies used differed from one character in terms of the social level they belonged to (Muslim and Sabbagh, n.d., p.10). This result is consistent with Griffith’s study which asserts Shaw’s search for equal life standards and his purpose of reaching the ethos of tolerance, the crucial intellectualism and exclusiveness (as cited in Muslim & Sabbagh, n.d., p. 11). In this case, not only was impoliteness used for entertainment and fictional characterization, but also serves as a reflection of the author’s beliefs.
Impoliteness in reality television shows
Brown and Levinson identify three sociological factors that affect the politeness level between the speaker and the hearer: the relative power (P) of the hearer over the speaker; social distance (D) which is the social similarity or familiarity between the speaker and the hearer; and the ranking of the imposition (R) involved in doing FTA or the degree of threat and topic sensitivity in the relevant culture (as cited in Karina and Putri, 2015, p.33). Karina and Putri (2015) believe that celebrities, concerning the image they want to create, or the image that media wants to construct, sometimes use a certain verbal impoliteness in order to cause offence toward their fans and bring popularity and the entertaining element to the show (p.33).
In analyzing the impolite utterances in a reality show, the factors that cause them, and what makes them have entertaining value, Karina and Putri conclude that the impoliteness utterances made by the judge and creator of the reality TV show The X-Factor USA, Simon Cowell, are used in order to attack the contestants’ positive and negative face. Consequently, Cowell considered sarcasm to be the best way to be impolite in the context of entertainment business thus creating his own trademark as a celebrity. Further, the factors which bring entertaining value proposed by Culpeper such as intrinsic pleasure, voyeuristic pleasure, ‘the audience is superior’, and ‘the audience is safe’ factors were also observed in the study, revealing that as much as impoliteness is considered as rude and offensive behavior, it also plays a crucial role in entertaining the audience (as cited in Karina and Putri, 2015, p.39-40). This finding is similar in employing impoliteness in fictional works such as plays and novels. A reality TV show, though featuring actual people, have a certain amount of fiction in it. The genuineness of the utterances cannot be easily determined.
Irony as an Impoliteness Tool
The concept of irony can also be related to impoliteness. In a study by Tselika (2015), pinpointing the abilities of irony which gives it the dual role of being used politely and impolitely; and showing that it is not just a face-saving strategy as is traditionally considered in the literature but as a face-aggravating strategy as well, were the main focus (p.90). According to Tselika (2015), irony balances between politeness and impoliteness with its different subtypes being defined and discerned rather difficultly and carrying a different degree of offensiveness (p.105).
Consequently, Tselika identified several different uses of irony not only as a face-saving strategy but also as a face-aggravating strategy:
The Case of Overpoliteness – excessive politeness bears an ironic tone and is usually judged as insincere by the hearer but allows the speaker to make an impolite remark without appearing socially inappropriate;
Irony as Self-containment – Social appropriacy is the second trait of irony which allows people to make criticism without attacking someone straightforwardly and therefore appearing rude;
Cancellability of Irony – allows initially the speaker to cancel the utterance communicated according to the reaction of the speaker or the audience and deny ironic intention; and secondly, to communicate one message to the hearer and another to the audience;
Intentionality of Irony – the speaker can easily withdraw from what is said because her real intentions are not always clear;
Irony Among Equals -in cases of equal relationships, irony is used as mock-politeness for jocular purposes and its function is face-saving;
Going ‘Downwards’ – in cases of unequal relationships (e.g. military context), irony is used as mock-politeness to enhance the strength of criticism with a negative perlocutionary effect on the hearer. (2015, p.105-106).
In the above instances, irony is presented as having the dual capacity of being a polite and an impolite act depending on how it was used.
Impoliteness in the virtual world
According to Wibowo and Kuntjara (n.d.), Computer Mediated Communication (CMC) has revolutionized linguistic and social interactions enabling people to interact in far distant space and time (p.166). In studying the Okezone, an Indonesian football website, Wibowo and Kuntjara (n.d.) points out that the non-face-to-face communication style gives the participants a chance of doing impoliteness. Consequently, the likelihood of participants in CMC using comparatively impolite ways in communication in comparison with face-to-face communication is increased (p.166). Anonymity plays a crucial role in exhibiting impoliteness online as the risk of seeing the effect of an FTA on the receiver and the culpability of the one delivering the FTA is reduced, if not eliminated. People generally avoid causing offence towards another individual especially if the chances for accountability for another’s feelings is more likely.
Similarly, video gaming, another modern platform, has become more popular over the years. In fact, Moiseev (2015) noted that it has become so large that South Korea and Sweden have recently offered ‘e-sports’, i.e. online competitive gaming, to be viewed on national television and be viewed online (p.1). More importantly, the highly competitive, social gameplay nature of video gaming makes for an interesting new forum with which to research (im)politeness (Moiseev, 2015, p.1).
The League of Legends (LoL), the subject in Moiseev’s (2015) study, provides a fast-paced, real-time strategic, role-playing game where two teams of powerful champions, each with a unique design and playstyle, battle head-to-head across multiple battlefields and game modes (p.4). In addition, a chat system within the game allows players to bond and discuss strategy for the specific games (Moiseev, 2015, p.6-7). This allows the players to interact and communicate as they would in real-life but having the interaction occur in a virtual world. However, quite often the communication between players becomes negative and impolite (Moiseev, 2015, p.7). To address the issue, a code of conduct (i.e. Summoner’s Code) is given in the world of LoL as well as a system (i.e. Tribunal) of reprimanding or cautioning players who violate the code. Although this measure does not totally eliminate the possibility of impoliteness, it provides some type of restriction towards the behavior.
The results of Moiseev’s (2015) study show that the top two reasons for impoliteness in LoL—other players dying and other players going AFK (away from the keyboard)—two major contributors to losses in a ranked game, reflect the competitive stressful environment contributing to a large and diverse frequency of impolite English language (p.92). Essentially, Moiseev’s work supports the significance of the present study by recognizing the importance of studying online interaction. It identified the role social media and online video gaming has played in the daily interaction in which people engage; and recognized the difference of online communication from real life interaction, mainly due to partial or complete anonymity and the lack of face-to-face cues (Moiseev, 2015, p.95).
In the modern world, where social interaction and forms of communication have markedly evolved into a vast array of platforms, it is essential that the way we view and understand communication also evolves with it. We cannot be limited to traditional analyses of face-to-face interactions, fictional works resulting from an individual’s creative thinking, and written works, in understanding how social interaction and linguistic styles of people operate. The key is in adapting to the ever-changing nature of time.