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The Pragmatics of Politeness$
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Geoffrey Leech

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780195341386

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195341386.001.0001

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A Case Study

A Case Study


(p.115) 5 A Case Study
The Pragmatics of Politeness

Geoffrey Leech

Oxford University Press

This chapter focuses on a particular type of speech event manifesting politeness: the apology. First, the nature of speech-event categories such as apology is investigated. There are rarely all-or-nothing distinctions in politeness behavior; thus apologies are manifested in scales of gradience and are found in nonprototypical as well as prototypical instances. Apologies are potentially more than a simple speech act: they can involve a main or head act such as I’m sorry, and also subsidiary acts such as an admission of guilt, or an explanation of why the fault occurred. Politeness is also characteristic of respons to apologies, manifesting the neg-politeness of the Maxim of Obligation by the hearer, and thereby contrasting with the pos-polite Maxim of speaker’s Obligation that is typically found in apologies. Finally, the chapter gives attention to public apologies.

Keywords:   apology, I’m sorry, prototypical, responses, Maxim of Obligation, neg-politeness

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