Linguistic Analysis of Check-In Conversations

Masterarbeit, 2011
100 Seiten


Table of Content

Table of Illustrations

List of Abbreviations

1 Introduction

2. Linguistic Methods and Theories
2.1 Pragmatics
2.1.1 Cooperative Principle
2.1.2 Grice’s Conversational Implicature
2.1.3 Politeness The Notion of Face Positive Face Negative Face Face Threatening Acts Positive Politeness and Negative Politeness Politeness in Germany and Denmark Address Forms Getting in a Conversation Politeness Markers
2.2 Conversation Analysis
2.2.1 Turn-Taking
2.3 Communication Accommodation Theory

3 Second Language Use
3.1 Willingness to Communicate
3.2 Communication Strategies
3.2.1 Avoidance Strategies
3.2.2 Compensatory Strategies Interference
3.3 Lingua Franca Communication

4 Data Collection
4.1 Recording Environment
4.2 Participants
4.3 Procedure of Recording

5 Analysis and Results
5.1 Method of Analysis
5.2 Results
5.2.1 Language Choice
5.2.2 Structure and Content of Check-In Conversation
5.2.3 Politeness Markers Personal Pronouns in Address
5.2. .2 Use of Subjunctive or Past Tense Indirect Speech Acts Hedges Jokes and Phatic Language Apologies Summary of Politeness Markers
5.2.4 Turn Taking
5.2.5 Misunderstandings and Conflicts
5.2.6 Face Threatening Acts
5.2.7 Linguistic Accommodation
5.3 Does Linguistic Politeness Change?

6 Conclusion


Table of Illustrations

1.1 Language Pairings

2.1 Goffman’s and Brown and Levinson’s Notion of Face Compared

2.2 Circumstances Determining Choice of Strategy

2.3 Pronominal Address

2.4 Pronominal Address Form in German 1

2.5 Pronominal Address Form in German 2

2.6 The Structure of Conversations in Tourist Offices

2.7 Politeness Strategies in Language

2.8 Similarities and Differences in the Intonation of German and Danish

3.1 Pyramid Model McIntyre

3.2. Communication Strategies

3.3 Transfer, Overgeneralization, and Interference

5.1 Structure of Check-in Conversations

5.2 Personal Pronouns in Address

5.3 Use of Subjunctive and Past Tense

5.4 Categories of Overlaps of Talk

5.5 Problems and Misunderstandings in Conversations

5.6 FTAs in Check-in Conversations

5.7 Cumulated Results of the Analysis

6.1 Amount of highest Mean in Language Pairing

List of Abbreviations

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Diese Masterarbeit beschäftigt sich mit der sprachlichen Höflichkeit bei Check- In Gesprächen zwischen Muttersprachlern und Nicht-Muttersprachlern. Es wird der Forschungsfrage nachgegangen, ob sich die sprachliche Höflichkeit verändert, wenn man in einer Fremdsprache kommuniziert, oder sich in seiner Muttersprache mit Menschen unterhält, die diese als Fremdsprache sprechen, im Vergleich zu Gesprächen in der Muttersprache. Im Weiteren wird untersucht, wie sich eine etwaige Änderung in der sprachlichen Höflichkeit äußert.

Die Theorien und Modelle (unter anderem die Politeness Theory von Brown und Levinson), die in der Arbeit vorgestellt werden, unterstützen die Hypothese, dass sich die sprachliche Höflichkeit verändert, wenn man in einer Fremdsprache kommuniziert, oder sich in seiner Muttersprache mit Menschen unterhält, die diese als Fremdsprache sprechen. Die logische Alternative, dass sich der Gebrauch einer Fremdsprache nicht auf die sprachliche Höflichkeit auswirkt, wird sowohl von der Theorie als auch von den vorhandenen Daten nicht unterstützt.

Für die Untersuchung wurden insgesamt 26 Check-In Gespräche zwischen deutschen Rezeptionisten und dänischen bzw. deutschen Gästen an einer deutschen Hotelrezeption im deutsch-dänischen Grenzgebiet aufgezeichnet und anhand zuvor definierter Höflichkeits-Indikatoren analysiert. Fünfzehn der Check-In Gespräche fanden mit dänischen Gästen auf Deutsch statt. Fünf Check-In Gespräche wurden ganz oder teilweise auf Englisch zwischen den beiden Gesprächspartnern abgehalten. Zum Vergleich wurden sechs Check-In Gespräche zwischen deutschen Rezeptionisten und deutschen Gästen analysiert. Die Ergebnisse der vorliegenden Studie zeigen, dass sich die Anzahl der Höflichkeits-Indikatoren bei Check-In Gesprächen zwischen deutschen Rezeptionisten und dänischen Gästen bei Nutzung der deutschen Sprache (für den Gast als Fremdsprache) im Gegensatz zu rein muttersprachlichen Gesprächen verringert. Bei fremdsprachlichen Check-In Gesprächen (auf Englisch) erhöhte sich die Anzahl der Höflichkeits-Indikatoren im Gegensatz zu den Gesprächen in der Muttersprache. Die Resultate der empirischen Studie belegen die anfangs aufgestellte Hypothese.

1 Introduction

In the service industry it is indispensable to be polite. Especially in the hotel business politeness is one of the most important factors in everyday professional life. According to the tourism agency Tourismus Agentur Schleswig-Holstein the number of foreign guests in Schleswig-Holstein increased during the past five years consistently by 30%. Denmark is, besides Sweden and Norway, one of the countries which is considered to have the most visitors in Schleswig-Holstein1. Prospective hotel managers (cf. Langenscheidt 2007: 629) learn the importance of being polite in vocational school and in their practical training in the hotel and how to deal with guests who do not behave polite. Hotel employees, in particular the front office staff, get every day in contact with people from different countries and with different cultural backgrounds who might inherent different concepts of politeness than the receptionist. The different concepts of politeness can cause misunderstandings as well as problems in communication.

This thesis has the aim to examine whether the politeness changes if people speak in a different language than their native language or when talking to a person who speaks in a second language. To do this, the following research question will be answered:

Does linguistic politeness change when native speakers talk to non native speakers or when non-native speakers talk in a lingua franca? And if so, how does the politeness change in native - non-native (L1-L2) and non-native - non-native (L2-L2) communication in contrast to native-native (L1-L1) communication? And if the politeness changes, how does it change?

To answer this question, the possible language pairings L1-L22, L2-L2 and L1-L1 will be considered:

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Table 1.1 Language Pairings

In L1-L2 communications speaker 1 talks in German as his L1 and speaker 2 in German as his L2. In L2-L2 communication both interlocutors talk in English as their L2 and in L1-L1 conversations, both interlocutors talk in German as their L1. It is to note, that for simplification the term L2 refers to every language other than the speakers L1 even though it could be the speakers third or even fourth language.

This thesis deals with the analysis of check-in conversations at receptions in hotels. The focus of this investigation lies on conversations between German hotel employees and Danish guests, either in L1-L2 or L2-L2 communication. For comparison reasons conversations between German guests and German receptionists (L1-L1) are regarded.

Considering research on linguistic politeness, the hypothesis for this thesis is that the language choice people make (using e.g. the L1 or L2) has a certain effect on the politeness they use. The hypothesis is based on the fact that research shows that different languages have different verbal politeness markers as outlined by e.g. Brown and Levinson (1987/ 1990) and Coulmas (2008). This can cause linguistic conflicts as well as misunderstandings. In German and English the subjunctive is used to express politeness. In Danish this is done by the past tense. If the Danish speaker does not use the subjunctive in L1-L2 communication, it could be considered as impolite by the German interlocutor. Another motive for my hypothesis is that second language users tend to make either positive or negative transfers. The first refers to the transfer from the L1 to the L2 that “benefits the learning task” (Brown 2007: 102). The second refers to transfer from their L1 to the L2 and vice versa which “disrupts the performance of a second task” (Brown 2007: 102) known as interference. Interference may cause lexical misunderstandings, which might hinder the communicational flow, leading to communicational problems or misunderstandings.

The logic alternative to the hypothesis is that the politeness does not change if a second language is spoken or if one talks to a person speaking in a second language. To investigate the hypothesis stated above, verbal politeness indicators are considered to highlight politeness. In this thesis the term politeness indicator is used to refer to any unit of analysis that is concerned with politeness. Non verbal features of politeness such as gestures and gazes are not part of the present analysis.

The structure of the thesis is as follows: chapter two deals with the methods and theories applied in the analysis. The field of pragmatics, in particular the cooperative principle by Grice (1975) with the conversation maxims and conversational implicature, the politeness theory by Brown and Levinson (1987/ 1990) are considered. Conversation analysis is used as a tool for the analysis and will be dealt with a focus on turn-taking. Finally the communication accommodation theory (CAT) by Giles et al. (1991/ 2010) will be discussed in chapter two. Chapter three deals with the use of the second language, in particular the willingness to communicate as discussed by MacIntyre (2005). The communication strategies avoidance and compensation, interference as well as lingua franca communication will we considered. Chapter four deals with the collection of the present data. The data for my investigation come from natural occurring check-in conversations at a German hotel reception at the German- Danish border region during normal day-to-day business. The data consists of 26 check-in conversations with a total length of 50 minutes and 38 seconds. 15 conversations are conducted in L1-L2, 5 conversations in L2-L2 and 6 conversations are L1-L1 conversations. Those conversations ware transcribed with the help of the transcription software EMARaLDA. The following units of analysis will be analysed:

- language choice
- structure of conversation
- politeness markers (personal pronouns, subjunctive and past tense, indirect speech acts, hedges, jokes and phatic language, apologies)
- turn-taking behaviour
- conflicts and misunderstandings in conversations
- face-threatening acts
- linguistic accommodation

In chapter five the results of the analysis are stated and discussed according to the methods and theories mentioned above. Chapter six gives a summary of the thesis with perspectives for future research.

The present study cannot be regarded as being representative as too little data is available. The stated results apply for the specified data only and cannot be generalized. To meet the requirements for a representative study a largescale investigation on the topic would be necessary which would go beyond the scope of the thesis regarding time and complexity.

The reason why hotel check-in conversations are investigated in this thesis is that I myself did an apprenticeship as a Hotelfachfrau (hotel manageress) at a four-star hotel in the German-Danish border region. During my three-year apprenticeship I was confronted with German and Danish guests and with the communicational problems and difficulties that arose. During my studies at universities in Denmark and Germany I became sensitive towards the linguistic differences between the neighbouring countries Germany and Denmark. The combination of German-Danish language contact and check-in conversations in hotels makes this thesis of special interest to me.

2. Linguistic Methods and Theories

In this chapter the theoretical framework for the analysis of check-in conversations in hotels will be worked out. In 2.1 the linguistic discipline of pragmatics will be outlined with special dedication to Grice’s (1975)

Conversational Implicature and his Cooperative Principle as well as Brown and Levinson’s (1987/ 1990) Politeness Theory. Section 2.2. is concerned with the method of conversation analysis highlighting turn-taking with special interest in intonation as a turn-taking clue. Section 2.3 will discuss the Communication Accommodation Theory developed by Giles, Coupland and Coupland (1991/ 2010).

2.1 Pragmatics

The field of “[p]ragmatics studies the use of language in human communication as determined by the conditions of society” (Mey 2001: 6). That is, pragmatics is concerned with how people use language and how people “do things and mean things in real-world situations” (Cameron 2001: 69), viz. pragmatics is concerned with the interpretation of ‘signs’ sent by the speaker to the hearer of the message.

When people talk to each other there is more than just the words in- cooperated in the communication. The context in which the communication takes place is of high importance. Wishing someone a ’pleasant stay’ in a hotel and in jail has different meanings. Whereas the first is meant honestly, the second is meant ironically. In conclusion one can say that “pragmatics is needed if we want a fuller, deeper and generally more reasonable account of human language behavior.” (May, 2001: 12)

Grice’s cooperative principle and Brown and Levinson’s politeness theory are two features that arise in pragmatics. These two will be highlighted in the following.

2.1.1 Cooperative Principle

According to H.P. Grice (1975), people have to cooperate when communicating, which means, that they have to follow certain principles to assure good and efficient communication. People presume that their interlocutor is cooperative in communication and that they follow the conversational principle by Grice (1975: 45)

Make your conversational contribution such as is required, at the stage at which it occurs, by the accepted purpose or direction of the talk exchange in which you are engaged (Grice 1975: 45).

Grice’s Cooperative Principle consists of four sub-maxims (ibid: 45-46): The Maxim of Quantity

1. Make your contribution as informative as is required (for the current purpose of the exchange).
2. Do not make your contribution more informative than is required.

The Maxim of Quality

1. Do not say what you believe to be false.
2. Do not say that for which you lack adequate evidence.

The Maxim of Relation

Be relevant.

The Maxim of Manner

1. Avoid obscurity or expression.
2. Avoid ambiguity.
3. Be brief (avoid unnecessary prolixity).
4. Be orderly.

The above mentioned maxims illustrate an ideal way of communication. In real life interlocutors often fail to fulfill these maxims in different ways, obvious as well as unobvious, consciously as well as unconsciously by e.g. (cf. Grice 1975:49)

1. intrusively violating the maxims and thereby deluding the conversation partner,
2. opting out of a communication, showing the unwillingness to communicate,
3. facing a clash by fulfilling one maxim but not being able to fulfil another maxim,
4. floating a maxim by obviously and consciously failing to fulfil a maxim

The failure to fulfil the maxims imply a non-cooperative behaviour of the speaker or might cause special results such as joking, changing topics, showing power over the interlocutor who then has to figure out the implied meaning of what is said. As Mey (2001: 82) notes, even a floated maxim requires cooperation from the interlocutor “as the other needs to have a minimal understanding of what I’m trying to do with my words”, which can be challenging in conversations among second language (L2) speakers.

2.1.2 Grice’s Conversational Implicature

H.P. Grice introduced the term “conversational implicature” in his paper Logic and Conversation (1975). Conversational implicature is “something which is implied in conversations, that is, something which is left implicit in actual language use.” (Mey 2001:45). In other words, when using conversational implicatures, the speaker does not explicitly say what he means, he leaves it to the hearer to interpret the message. One example, adopted by Grice (1975:51), is

(2) A: I am out of petrol.

B: There is a garage around the corner.

With his answer to A’s statement, B implies that the garage around the corner sells petrol. He does not say explicitly that the garage sells petrol. But out of the context B will understand that A is offering help in the situation. At the same time A’s statement could also be understood as general information. But in the context, the conversation occurs in (A standing by an obviously immobilized car) the conversational implicature by B is that A is in need for fuel.

As mentioned in 2.1.1, conversational implicature does also occur when one of the conversational maxims is floated, say by using irony, or by answering a question with something apparently not matching, this answer has its own communicative meaning - the conversational implicature.

A: Where is the museum?
B: Its already closed

This seemingly irrelevant answer causes the listener instantly to rethink and interpret the received message to mach it with the originally asked question (cf. Pridham 2001:38).

2.1.3 Politeness

Particularly in service encounters politeness is a fundamental issue in all situations. It is desired by all employers to be polite at all times and in all situations. Here it is to note, that what one person claims to be polite can seem impolite to another person. Especially in between cultures the concept of politeness might be different (cf. Coulmas 2008: 85, House 2005: 14). Coulmas (2008: 87) notes:

It is hard to be polite if you lack the polite register of speech, but in some languages this is harder than in others, because some languages provide richer lexical and grammatical encoding of politeness than others.

But what actually is politeness? In literature there are several different definitions of politeness, but as Watts (2005: XV) points out “researchers are not in agreement what politeness actually is.” It is also noteworthy that politeness used in scientific context is not the same as used in everyday life (cf. Watts 2005). Hickey and Steward (2005: 3) point out that there are two distinct concepts associated with politeness

a) “one primarily concerned with conventional courtesy, etiquette or good manners” the other concerned with
b) “interactional pragmatics or face-saving” acts.

For this thesis the latter is of prime importance.

During the last decades much research was done on politeness and the politeness theory by Brown and Levinson (1987/ 1990), which point out politeness strategies to redress face-threatening acts by the speaker, has been critically discussed (see e.g. Watts et al 2005; House 2005; Hickey and Steward 2005). Main criticism on Brown and Levinson’s theory is, that they regarded mainly the western languages and cultures but did not consider i.e. Asian languages and cultures in their politeness theory (cf. Coulmas 2008: 86 ff)

Concepts of politeness thus defined by researchers may be applicable to any culture. However, we cannot assume that the concept of “politeness” is fully equivalent to the concepts of corresponding terms in other languages, since language is the door to a concept of people’s minds. (Ide et al. 2005: 282)

In the following it will be pointed out how the concept of face and face-saving as well as positive and negative politeness work together. Concluding a summary of how politeness works in two neighbouring countries, namely Germany and Denmark, will be given. The Notion of Face

In this thesis the politeness theory developed by Brown and Levinson (1987/1990) is used which matches with the second concept of Hickey and Stewards (2005) concept of politeness as a face-saving act. Brown and Levinson (1987/1990) consider face as “the public self-image that every member wants to claim for himself” (ibid: 61).

In the hotel business, saving the guest’s face is essentially. A German proverb says ‘Der Gast ist König’ which implies that the guest will get all he wants, if possible. This does not mean that the guest is always right. In situations where the guest is not right, specialist literature on complaint management in hotels suggest, that hotel staff does not need to admit a dept, but to show empathy with the guest (cf. Cerwinka and Schranz 2007: 122).

Following the discussion of criticism Brown and Levinson’s politeness theory had to face, another aspect to highlight is the use of the term face by the two researchers. Watts (Watts, Ide and Ehlich 2005: xii) claims that Brown and Levinson “had transformed a social understanding of face into an individualistic one.” In contrast to Brown and Levinson, Goffman (1967/2008: 31) characterized face as an image pieced together from the expressive implication of the full flow of events in an undertaking;(…).

That means that all outcomes of occasions form a person’s face which than will be maintained in different ways. Watts (2005: xxviii) distinguishes Goffman’s notion of face from that of Brown and Levinson as follows:

Goffman’s understanding of ‘face’ is considerably richer than Brown and Levinson’s individualistic interpretation as, firstly positive face, i.e. ‘the individuals desire that her/his wants be appreciated and approved of in social interaction’ (Watts 2003: 86), or, secondly, negative face, i.e. ‘the desire for freedom of action and the freedom from imposition’. (Watts 2005: xxvii)

Despite the controversy about Brown and Levinson’s use of the term face their politeness theory gives evidence how face threatening acts (FTA) can be mitigated to save the interlocutor’s face. As stated above the notion of face and face-saving, respectively mitigating face-threats, is central in hospitality.

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Figure 2.1 Goffman’s and Brown and Levinson’s Notion of Face Compared (Watts 2004: 104)

A person’s face can consist of two characteristics: positive and negative face, which will be outlined below. Positive Face

The positive face is concerned with the persons want “that his wants be desirable to at least some others” (Brown and Levinson 1987/1990: 62). That is, the positive face of a person is responsible for his need for corporate feeling and will be threatened by e.g. not being accepted or acknowledged. This can happen by e.g. denying questions.

(3) A: May I give you a hand with your luggage?

B: No

In this example, B threats A’s positive face by denying A’s offer. Showing empathy saves the person’s positive face and makes him feel comfortable and understood. Negative Face

The negative face is concerned with “the want of every ‘competent adult member’ that his actions be unimpeded by others” (Brown and Levinson 1987/ 1990: 62). That is, negative face is concerned with the persons need for individuality and freedom of action. The negative face can be threatened by e.g. making orders, requests, suggestions or advices as in

(4) Please check your data and then I need a signature.

as well as by expressing thanks, accepting offers or making excuses (cf. ibid 65 f). The negative face can be saved e.g., by respecting the discretion as well as the belief system of the person. Face Threatening Acts

Face Threatening Acts (henceforth FTAs) are communicative acts that threat the interlocutor’s negative or positive face. In communication interlocutors will face the situation that they have to commit a FTA by e.g. refusing an offer, asking for a favour or making requests.

Brown and Levinson (1987/ 1990: 65ff) discuss four possible distinctions of FTAs

1. Threat of negative face of the hearer by the speaker

(e.g. by making orders, requests, suggestions, advices)

2. Threat of positive face of the hearer by the speaker

(e.g. by expressing disapproval, criticism, disagreements)

3. Threat of negative face of the speaker by the hearer

(e.g. by expressing thanks and accepting thanks of the hearer, accepting offers, making excuses)

4. Threat of positive face of the speaker by the hearer

(e.g. by apologizing, accepting a compliment, admitting guilt, emotion leakage)

Furthermore Brown and Levinson (ibid: 68) exemplify “possible strategies for doing FTAs” as exemplified in the graphic below:

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Figure 2.2 Circumstances Determining Choice of Strategy (Brown and Levinson 1987/ 1990: 60)

By strategy (1.) without redressive action, baldly, the speaker follows the cooperative principle by Grice discussed in 2.1.1. This strategy is used when the talk is conducted in a direct manner as in

(5) I (hereby) promise to come tomorrow (Brown and Levinson 1987/ 1990: 69)

It must be clear to the interlocutors what “communicative intention” (ibid: 68) caused the speaker to do the utterance.

When the speaker wants to “give face” (ibid: 69) and to show that “no such face threat is intended or desired” (ibid: 70), he talks with redressive action. That is the speaker accepts the face wants of the interlocutor by using either positive or negative politeness (see below). Strategy (2.) Positive politeness is connected to the positive face of the hearer which is expressed through e.g. showing recognition or unity (for a detailed discussion of positive politeness see section Strategy (3.) Negative politeness, in contrast to positive politeness, is connected to the speaker’s negative face by e.g. keeping a distance between hearer and speaker not to impair the hearer’s freedom of action e.g. through the use of impersonal expressions and apologies (for a detailed discussion of negative politeness see section Politeness Strategy (4.) off record implies expressing an act indirectly with more ambiguous intention with the help of e.g. “metaphor and irony, rhetorical questions, understatement, tautologies, all kinds of hints as to what a speaker wants or means to communicate, (...)” (Brown and Levinson 1987/ 1990: 69). People decide to ‘hide’ their message behind an indirect request, statement or question as in

(6) It is cold in here.

instead of saying explicitly “Close the door”. This strategy includes the conversational implicature outlined by Grice and already discussed in 2.1.2. By strategy (5.) Don’t do the FTA, the speaker simply decides not to threat the speakers face. Positive Politeness and Negative Politeness

As seen in the previous section, these strategies apply when the speaker has to commit a FTA but wants to save the interlocutor’s face. The positive face is saved by positive politeness, the negative face by negative politeness.

In their politeness theory, Brown and Levinson (1987/ 1990) defined positive politeness as “redress directed to the addressee’s positive face, his perennial desire that his wants […] should be thought of as desirable.” (ibid: 62). That is, the speaker of a positive polite message assumes that the wants of the addressee are, at least in some aspects, the same as his own. The speaker shows proximity to the speaker. An example for a positive polite message could be

(7) Can I help you to change the room?

by emphasizing communality and cooperation with the hearer.

In western cultures negative politeness is the politeness strategy mostly involved for FTA redress (cf. Brown and Levinson 1987/1990: 129-30). It is the redressive action adressed to the adressee’s negative face: his want to have his freedom of action unhindered and his attention unimpeded. (ibid: 129).

An example for a negative polite message could be

(8) Excuse me, could you please sign the bill?

For negative polite sentences excuses at the beginning of a question as in example (8) as well as the passive form is often used. Saving the positive face can also be done by using off-record strategies, that is the speaker leaves the message to the interlocutors interpretation (see also Grice’s conversational implicature in 2.1.2) Politeness in Germany and Denmark

Although Germany and Denmark are neighboring countries there are differences in they way politeness is used. In the following the differences between German and Danish politeness will be illustrates. To do so, the aspects outlined by Fredsted (2005: 159) namely adress form, getting in a conversation and politeness markers will be considered. Address Forms

Addressing people differs from culture to culture (cf. Coulmas 2005). In today’s English speaking world only one form of adress is available whereas in e.g. German, French, Dutch, Italian and Greek there are two pronominal forms.

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Figure 2.3. Pronominal Address (Coulmas 2005: 88)

In Denmark the formal adress form De, which was equivalent to the German formal Sie, is not used anymore in everyday Danish (cf. Fredsted 2005:161). However, according to Fredsted (2005: 160) De is used in some occasions by “employees (…) in an official context”. In her reseach Fredsted found “a consistent and mutual use of De in conversations between the guides [native speakers of Danish] and middle-aged or elderly tourists who speak Copenhagen Standard Danish” (ibid: 161 my italics), whereas in conversations “with tourists who speak a regional West Danish variety of Standard Danish, a dialect or the low Copenhagen sociolect” informal adress forms were used. She concludes that there is not a universal rule how to address people in Denmark but that

formal address forms have often been treated as being eo ipso more polite than the informal (…) (Fredsted 2005: 162).

According to Braunmüller (2007: 137f) there is a three staged model of address forms in Denmark which differentiates according to the degree of formality:

(1) De + hr/ fru + familyname or

De + full name (first and family name)

(2) du + full name (first and family name) or du + family name

(3) du + firstname

This list shows the formality in descending formality with (1. De + hr/ fru + familyname or De + full name (first and family name)) beeing the most formal variety and (3. du + firstname) the less formal variety in adressing people in Danish.

In German, a change in the use of address forms also occurred. Around the year 1800 about eight differend address forms were used. It was not until the late 18th century that the address pronouns Du and Sie were established (cf. Glück and Sauer 1997: 120). Today it is common to distinguish between Du and Sie according to two distinct facts

(a) to show intimacy and formaility (see figure 2.3) and
(b) to show solidarity and social distance (see figure 2.4) (cf. Besch1998: 24)

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Table 2.4. Pronominal Address Form in German 1 (Besch 1998: 24)

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Table 2.5 Pronominal Address Form in German 2 (Besch 1998:24)

Today it is common in Germany to address people one does not know or one is not related to with the formal Sie (except the case the interlucoturs agreed on the use of Du) (cf. Liedtke 2001: 304). In the youth culture and among young adults, on the other hand, people start adressing peers in informal settings, even if they do not know them and are not related to them with the informal Du. Braunmüller (2007: 137) outlines that in contrast to Danish there is a link between the pronominal address Sie and Du and the use of first or family name

Von Ausnahmen abgesehen, haben wir es in einer Sprache wie der deutschen mit einem dualen Anredesystem zu tun: Entweder siezt man sich (Sie) und gebraucht im nominalen Bereich den Nachnamen (und evtl. noch den Titel) oder man duzt sich (Du, Ihr) und verwendet in nominaler Hinsicht den Vornamen (Braunmüller 2007: 137).

Especially in the hotel business in Germany the employees are encouraged to address guests and customers with the formal Sie as well as their lastname. This can be matched with figure 2.3 where the pronoun Sie expresses the acceptance of the interlocutor as a mature personality. Exceptions are young hotel groups and hostels where most guests are addressed with the informal Du (cf. web page of the hostel Flensburg4 ) . This example is best illustrated by figure 2.4 which sees the informal pronoun Du as a means to show solidarity, group membership, common interest and common opinions. Getting in a Conversation

Phatic language is communication that serves the purpose of small talk and to make and ensure contact between the interlocutors (cf. Wahrig 2003: 712). Considering Fredsteds (2005) study, Germans tend to use “more pathic language and conventional verbal politeness” whereas “Danish conversations show almost exclusively referential language (…)” (Fredsted 2005: 163). That is, Danish people start directly with their request, while Germans haver until they actually start with their question or request (cf. ibid: 162). Fredsted illustrates this in the following table, showing the structure of a conversation in turist offices.

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Figure: 2.6 The Structure of Conversations in Tourist Offices (Fredsted 2005:163)

That is, Danes continue directly after the dialogue opening with introducing the topic whereas Germans tend to use phatic language before introducing the topic. Fredsted (2005: 163) concludes that Danish conversations start in general with introducing the topic and end with the conclusion. German conversations on the other hand start with a pre request and end with a thank you. Politeness Markers

In communication there are expressions and grammatical units that mark politeness in a language. Those markers differ from language to language (cf. Coulmas 2008: 87). In their politeness theory Brown and Levinson (1987/ 1990) created 15 strategies for positive politeness, 10 strategies for negative politeness and 15 off record strategies (for an extensive discussion of the politeness strategies see ibid. 103 ff).

illustration not visible in this excerpt5

Table 2.7 Politeness Strategies in Language (free after Brown and Levinson 1987/ 1990)

By applying one or more of the above stated politeness strategies, the used politeness markers enable people to communicate politely with each other and help to mitigate FTAs. In the fourth positive polite strategy Use in-group identity markers, the use of address forms, dialects or other forms of in-group language gives the hearer a sense of affiliation. In the first negative polite strategy Be conventionally indirect, the use of indirect speech acts and the subjunctive gives the interlocutor the opportunity to decide whether to accept the request or not. The same applies for the third negative polite strategy Be pessimistic in which the subjunctive is used as a politeness marker. Those politeness markers can indicate how politeness is used in conversations and help to mitigate FTAs.

One can conclude that the address forms in both countries differ. Denmark uses the, for Germany informal, personal pronoun Du in almost all situations. This form differs according to the combination of title and name constellation as Braunmüller (2007) illustrated. In Germany for strangers and people in higher positions usually the formal personal pronoun Sie is used. A change in societal behaviour can be recognised towards the use of the informal Du among younger Germans. When considering the opening and closing of conversations, Danes have a tendency to start very quickly with initiating the topic whereas Germans use phatic language to initiate the conversation. Politeness markers are used to mitigate FTAs in conversations and help to ensure a successful communication.

2.2 Conversation Analysis

For this thesis the methodology of conversation analysis is used since “[t]he main objective of CA [Converstaion Analysis] is to uncover the sociolinguistic competences which underly the production and interpretation of talk in social interactions.” (Drew 1998: 165, in Eggeling 2008:75, my parentheses). As Cameron (2001:87) points out, conversation analysis (henceforth CA) is not only concerned with conversation, that is casual talk between two people (cf. Cameron 2001: 10), but also with institutional talk, talk at workplaces, political speeches and media genres. CA was developed by Harvey Sacks to analyse interactive talk, that is talk which involves at least two people who talk in turns (see next section for detailed discussion on turn taking). In the pristine version of CA, the analyst is not allowed to take into account other factors or evidence than stated in the data. This pure position of CA has been subject to several discussions (i.e. Hutchby 1996, Fishman 1983 and Zimmerman and West 1975, all cited in Cameron 2001: 86). CA shows how talk in conversations is organized and illustrates phenomena that are, in general, taken for granted. “Things that appear obvious - so obvious, indeed, that in everyday life no one would ever remark on them- may turn out on closer inspection to be less obvious than they seem.” (Cameron, 2001: 89).

Another factor that is important in conversation ayalysis is conversational management, or conversational inference, as Gumperz and Cook-Gumpertz (2007) put it. Conversational inference is the context-bound process of interpretation by means of which participants in an exchange assess other participants communicative intentions and on which they base their own response. (Gumpertz and Cook Gumpertz 2007: 18)

That is, when the conversation is context-bound, as check-in conversations are, the interlocutor might be able to follow the conversation without actually getting the whole content of it. Check-In conversations follow universal conventions. The guest states the name, the receptionist hands out the registration form for approval and signature, the guest receives the key or key card.


1 retrieved 18.07.11

2 L1 refers to the first language, L2 to the second language 6

3 For simplification, the term L2 refers to any other language used by the speaker than the L1 7

4 retrieved June 4, 2011

5 rating of imposition (cf. Brown and Levinson 1987/ 1990: xii) 24

Ende der Leseprobe aus 100 Seiten


Linguistic Analysis of Check-In Conversations
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Andrea Sander (Autor), 2011, Linguistic Analysis of Check-In Conversations, München, GRIN Verlag,


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