Face- Threatening Acts
The Selection of Informants
Data Analysis and Discussion
Abstract: This study examines the use of face threatening acts and politeness of the Iraqi EFL learners in their conversations. Depending on an eclectic model which consists from Brown and Levinson (1978), Roberts (1992) and Hoebe (2001), one hundred of Iraqi university students’ conversations are analysed and discussed. It hypothesized that: (i) most politeness strategy used by the students is negative politeness and there is a misuse of the face threatening g acts by Iraqi EFL learners; (ii) Brown and Levinson’s model work with the Iraqi EFL learners’ politeness strategies and the value of the politeness expected in any conversation is higher than politeness observed by using brown and Levinson’s Equation. It aims at producing a quantitative and qualitative analysis of face-threatening acts FTA and politeness strategies used by Iraqi EFL learners’ in their conversations; and finding out the effect of the participants and the situations on the choice of the face threatening acts.
Keywords: Face and Face-Threatening Act, Politeness, Negative and Positive Politeness.
'face' is a linguistic term that is used in semantics, pragmatics, sociolinguistics, as well as sociology, psychology, and political science (Lonel, 2011: 76). The term is now used in different cultures in a metaphorical sense to mean the reputation or the standing in the society (ibid.). Goffman (1955:338) defines the term as ''the positive image you seek to establish in social interactions''.
Brown and Levinson (1987:65) believe that in performing a particular speech act in a particular context, the face-wants of the participants are threatened and politeness takes place to modify these face threatening acts. Furthermore, The counteractions that the participants make when they fail to perform a self-image competently are called 'face-work' (ibid.). Thomas (1995: 158) indicates that politeness makes an equality in any social interaction. Politeness is a pragmatic theory that means '' saying the socially correct thing…(and) is developed by societies in order to reduce friction in personal interaction'' (Lakoff, 1975: 53,64). Brown and Levinson's (1987) theory of politeness is still the basis for the latter theoretical and empirical works on this theory (i.e. Kasper, 1990; Harris, 2003 and Ellis, 2008).
Brown and Levinson (1987:61) define face as a linguistic term with an emotional effect that can be lost, saved, or improved. When speakers interact, they try to maintain face in interaction; they do so by relying on 'mutual vulnerability of face' (ibid.). They also state that the notion of face has a dual nature: positive and negative face. The positive face is the positive desire of members for approval; the negative face, on the other hand, is the participants' desire for freedom of action and from imposition (ibid.:62).
Politeness is viewed in relation to face by different scholars; For instance, Brown and Levinson (1987: n.p.) define it as the process of maintaining the hearer's face. likely, Mills (2003: 6) connects politeness to face believing that: ''politeness is refers to the declaration of the speakers' intention to lessen face threats carried by certain face threatening acts toward another''.
Brown and Levinson (1978) approach for politeness is called the Management of Face or the Face Saving Approach. “This theory depends on three main notions: face, face threatening acts, and politeness strategies” (Brown and Levinson, 1987: 58). Their model is called the Model Person and it has two main properties: rationality and face. They define 'rationality' as ''the application of a specific mode of reasoning…which guarantees inferences from ends or goals to means that will satisfy those ends'' (ibid: 313). They mention four main strategies for politeness: the direct bald on record strategy, positive politeness, negative politeness and off record (ibid: 60). Moreover, there is a direct correlation between the use of politeness and the increase in the following three variables: distance, power and threat or extremity (1978: 60). Distance is the social familiarity of the participants; power is social statues of them (Roberts, 1992: 288); and threat, as discussed in previous items, is of central significance for what is being said by the speaker (Grehan and Grimmett, 1990: 215).
Thomas (1995: 158) indicates that politeness makes an equality in any social interaction. Politeness is a pragmatic theory that means '' saying the socially correct thing…(and) is developed by societies in order to reduce friction in personal interaction'' (Lakoff, 1975: 53,64). Brown and Levinson's (1987) theory of politeness is still the basis for the latter theoretical and empirical works on this theory (i.e. Kasper, 1990; Harris, 2003 and Ellis, 2008).
The term 'polite' is fundamentally derived from the Latin word 'poiltus' meaning 'to smooth' (Sifianou, 1992:81). Subsequently, the term is now used to mean: 'refined', 'cultivated' and so on, when describing people; and 'courteous', 'urban', etc., when describing manners (ibid.).
Leech (1980:19) defines the politeness as ''strategic conflict avoidance''. It refers to those types of behaviour that are used to make and support the cooperation of participants in a comity environment (ibid.). Hill et al (1986: 349) produce a similar definition: ''politeness is one of the imperatives on human connection, whose reason for existing is to think about others' sentiments, build up levels of shared solace, and advances compatibility''. Many different fields of study are involved in the study of politeness such as pragmatics, stylistics, and conversational analysis (El-Samir, 2014: 4).
Face- Threatening Acts
Face Threatening Act (FTA) refers to the communication act that causes a threat to the individual's expectations regarding self-image (Yule, 1996: 61). Goffman (1955:215) uses different terms to describe such situations; for instance, ''in the wrong face'', ''to be out of face'', ''shamefaced'', and ''threats to face''.
Brown and Levinson (1987: 65) mention that these acts are used as a keynote for the politeness theory. They define these acts as '' acts that by their very nature run contrary to the face wants of the addressee and/or the speaker '' (ibid.). Depending on the hearer's perception, the act itself forms a threat that violates both, hearer’s and speaker’s face (Murakami, 2011: 7).
Such acts can also be threats not only to the hearer's face ,but also to the speaker's face if the speaker performs acts that are opposites to his or her wants and desires (Nasution and Ariyanti, 2013: 3).
Brown and Levinson (1987: 65) define face threatening acts according to two main elements: ''Whose face is being threatened (the speaker's or the addressee's), and which type of face is being threatened (positive- or negative- face)''. “A hearer’s positive face threatening acts are complaints, criticisms, accusations, mention of taboo topics, interruptions”. Acts that threaten an addressee's negative face include offers, promises. “Examples of face threatening acts to the speaker's positive face include confessions, apologies, acceptance of a compliment, and self humiliations”. Some of the face threatening acts that are threatening to the speaker's negative face include ''expressing gratitude, accepting a thank-you, an apology or an offer, and making promises''(ibid.).
The model chosen for the analysis is an eclectic one taken from Brown and Levinson (1987), Hoebe (2001) and Roberts (1998).
Linguistic analysis can be either qualitative or quantitative. The former can be conducted politeness-wise according to the following procedure: In every conversation, there is an immediate purpose which represents a specific end an interlocutor tries to approach in a specific moment. This is a step forward to reach the intermediate goal which represents the objective of the overall situation of the conversation. The medium used to approach the instant goal is called “strategy”. Brown and Levinson” suggest four types of politeness strategies:
1. Bald on record (BOR)
2. “Positive politeness” (+P)
3. “Negative politeness” (-P)
4. “Off record” (OR)
According to Brown and Levinson (1978), “there are three factors that affect the choice of politeness strategy and the degree of seriousness of the face threatening action, the social distance between S and H, the power difference between S and H, and the ranking of imposition” .
Distance values (D):
“0 => extra close”
“1 => low distance”
“2 => medium distance”
“3 => high distance”
Distance here will be weighed following the degree of non-intimacy between (S) and (H). the distance will be extra close If there is big intimacy between them and vice versa .
Power values (P):
“0 => equal power”
“1 => low power”
“2 => medium power”
“3 => high power”
The power (P) refers to the physical power between (S) and (H) when the conversation takes place.
Ranking of the imposition values (R):
1 => low rating of imposition
2 => medium rating
3 => high rating
Imposition value (R): refers to the purpose, which is the absolute rating of the imposition of the circumstances and of the speaker upon the hearer in a particular conversation.
Because each utterance will be face-threatening to a certain extent, consequently, there is no (0) value
The previous components of the equation are given values per conversation for every speaker. However, before (R) is given value, it has to be determined what a speaker purpose is.
(W) => weight of face threatening act that a person is performing in a conversation. “It refers to the level of politeness that the performer of FTA is expected to use in the conversation in question, so it is the weight expected or We henceforth, value of which should be from 1 – 9 as we are dealing with three variables the maximum value of each is 3. Now, one should find the degree of politeness actually used in a any conversation or the weight observed or Wo henceforth” . Then a comparison should be made between the values of We and Wo to check the validity of the theory.
To find Wo, all speakers should be taken into account. The four strategies; BOR, +P, -P, and OR are ranked on a scale from 1 – 9. According to Brown and Levinson (1987:71), “the more an act threatens the H’s/S’s face, the more the S wants to choose a higher numbered strategy as these strategies afford payoffs of increasingly minimized risk” . So, according to the payoffs, BOR ranks 1 on the scale, +P ranks 4, -P ranks 6 and OR ranks 9.
As the scale for both We and Wo is from 1 – 9, “it is possible to see whether there is a correlation between them. The higher the speaker’s We, the higher Wo should be. If a speaker produces 10 utterances in a conversation of which 4 are done BOR, 3 +P and 3 OR, then the values given are 4*1 + 3*4 + 3*9 and the sum of these values is be divided by S’s number of utterances in that conversation. The resulting We and Wo values are then compared to check if there is a significant relation between them” .
The results represent the qualitative analysis of the conversation which leads us to determine which politeness sub-strategy is employed and consequently which politeness strategy is used and what face threatening acts employed depending on the relationship between the participants in the situations.
Brown and Levinson suggest the equation: Wx = D (s, h) + P (h, s) + Rx, Where (W) stands for Weightiness and (x) for the face threatening act; so (Wx) “means the weightiness of the face threatening act or politeness”. (D) stands for Distance; (P) for Power; (R) for Ranking of imposition; (Rx) for ranking of imposition of the face threatening act; (S) for speaker and (H) for hearer (Brown & Levinson, 1987: 76).
On the other hand, in order to be dealt with, the quantitative analysis, distance, power and ranking of imposition must be given numerical values and these numerical values have to be applied into the equation:
“Wx = D (s, h) + P (h, s) + Rx” .
The Selection of Informants
The participants are students in the “department of English / College of Education for Humanities, University of Thi-Qar” academic year (2018-2019). The test is applied to one hundred students of the third and the fourth stage since they are considered to be advanced EFL learners. All the students are Iraqi and there is no native speakers among them.
Data Analysis and Discussion
According to the values stated by Brown and Levinson, politeness expected is easy to be measured. Three items (1, 5, 14) of the test are chosen to be analysed in which the ranking of imposition rates from 1 to 3 according to the purpose of the conversation itself.
The analysis of the three items is done for the reason that they have they the highest and the lowest value of ranking of imposition. The first item has the highest value of (R), thus, the highest value of WE and the fifth item has the lowest value of (R). These values are used in comparing the differences between WE and WO.
In the first item of the test, the distance between the participant and his teacher is fixed value high distance = 3 because of the high non-intimacy between them. The power here is high power = 3 and since the purpose of the conversation here is seeking forgiveness, the ranking of imposition of the participant over the teacher is high rating of imposition = 3 .
In the fifth item of the test the distance between the participant and his colleague is a fixed value medium distance = 2. The power here is high power = 3 and the ranking of imposition of the participant over his colleague is low rating of imposition = 1, because the purpose in this conversation benefits both the speaker and the hearer.
In the fourteenth item of the test the distance between the participant and his colleague is fixed value medium distance = 2. The power here is high power = 3 and the ranking of imposition of the participant over his colleague is medium rating of imposition = 2 (as shown in table 1).