Mock politeness and culture: perceptions and practice in UK and Italian data

Taylor, Charlotte (2016) Mock politeness and culture: perceptions and practice in UK and Italian data. Intercultural Pragmatics, 13 (4). pp. 463-498. ISSN 1612-295X

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This paper investigates the extent to which perceptions of cultural variation correspond to actual practice with reference to (national) cultures in Britain and Italy. More specifically, the aspect of im/politeness which is addressed is mock politeness, a subset of implicational impoliteness (Culpeper 2011) which is triggered by an im/politeness mismatch.

In the first phase of the study, two sets of comparable corpora are employed to investigate perceptions of mock politeness (using search terms such as sarcastic and patronising) in relation to cultural identities. The first pair of corpora is composed of national newspapers in England and Italy, collected in 2014, and the second set are web corpora (ItTenTen and EnTenTen12, see Jakubíček et al. 2013). What emerges from this stage is a strong tendency for both the English and Italian corpora to associate (potential) mock polite behaviours such as being ironic with a British cultural identity.

In the second stage of the study, I use a corpus of conversational data from British English and Italian online discussion forums, in which mock polite behaviours have been identified and annotated, in order to investigate whether there is any evidence for the cultural assumptions found in the first phase. As will be shown, the analysis reveals both variation in cultural practice and a significant gap between perceptions and practice.

In describing and identifying this gap between perceptions and practice, I show both how (anglocentric) academic description has underestimated cultural variation, and, in contrast, how cultural variation is over-estimated in lay description.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: pragmatics, impoliteness, sarcasm, corpus linguistics
Schools and Departments: School of English > English
Subjects: P Language and Literature
P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
Depositing User: Charlotte Taylor
Date Deposited: 13 Oct 2016 10:20
Last Modified: 02 Jul 2019 17:33

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