"Give me the salt" and "Please pass the salt" make the same request, but in a polite situation the first utterance may give offense, while the second may not. How and why such differences in wording and intonation, in a particular context, produce different effects is the concern of pragmatics, the area of linguistics that deals with how speech is used in interaction. In this innovative study of pragmatics in Brazilian Portuguese, Dale Koike analyzes the politeness phenomenon, specifically in the context of speech acts known as "directives."
As acts intended to get someone to do something, directives bring into play a variety of sociocultural factors, depending on the relationship between the participants. Using empirical data obtained through natural language observation and from questionnaires of over one hundred adult native speakers, Koike identifies factors—such as age, education, and gender—that influence the strategies of politeness a given speaker is likely to use in making a directive. This research clarifies the unwritten language rules and assumptions that native speakers intuitively follow in phrasing their directive utterances.
Koike also includes important material on the acquisition of strategies for politeness by children and adult second-language learners, as well as on gender differences in politeness forms. Her research proposes important additions to the theory of speech acts as conceived by Austin and Searle, particularly in the application of deictic organization to account for a hierarchy of pragmatic forms.
Language and Social Relationship in Brazilian Portuguese will be of interest to a wide audience in diverse fields, including linguistics, anthropology, interaction analysis, communications, semantics, sociology, psychology, and education.
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