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«Features of Impoliteness in Journalese Petr Dulava Bachelor Thesis ABSTRAKT Tato bakalářská práce se zabývá hledáním lingvistických prvků, ...»

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Features of Impoliteness in Journalese

Petr Dulava

Bachelor Thesis


Tato bakalářská práce se zabývá hledáním lingvistických prvků, kvůli kterým může být

jazyk užitý v tisku vnímán jako nevhodný, urážející nebo také vulgární. Bakalářská práce

je rozdělena na dvě části. V teoretické části jsou definovány základní pojmy. V jejích

jednotlivých kapitolách je výčet důležitých lingvistických jevů, které jsou pro tuto analýzu

nezbytné. Praktická část se zabývá rozborem vybraných prvků, které souvisejí s lingvistickými projevy nezdvořilosti v tisku. Analýza je založena na rozboru 10 interview, z nichž je patrná jak četnost, tak i způsob, jakým se dané prvky nezdvořilosti v jazyce projevují.

Klíčová slova: nezdvořilost, neformálnost, tisk, lingvistické prvky, slang ABSTRACT This thesis concentrates on linguistic features causing language to be seen as inappropriate or insulting in the journalese. This thesis is divided into two parts. In the theoretical part, elemental terms such as impoliteness are described. In the subchapters, there is a list of significant linguistic features, which are considered essential for the purpose of the analysis. The practical part offers an analysis of chosen features related to impoliteness in journalese. The corpus material consisted of ten interviews, each featuring frequency and mean of production.

Keywords: impoliteness, informality, journalese, linguistic features, slang


I would like to thank especially to my thesis advisor Mgr. Hana Čechová for her support, guidance during my writing of the thesis and her valuable time. I would like to thank my family for supporting me in my studies and also to my friends for their support and patience.














4.2.1 Swearing

4.2.2 Taboo words

4.2.3 Leisure time activities slang

4.2.4 Jargon









7.1 SWEARING AND TABOOS IN ROLLING STONE Q&A INTERVIEWS........ 38 7.1.1 Examples of swearing

7.1.2 Analysis of the word fuck

7.1.3 “Hell” under analysis

7.1.4 “Shit” under analysis


7.2.1 Analyzing “kind of”

7.2.2 Fuzzy hedges and their uncertainty

7.2.3 Hedges as hesitators



7.4.1 Slang phrasal verbs

7.4.2 Slang compounds

7.4.3 Shortened slang expressions

7.4.4 Slang salutation

7.4.5 Slang expressions associated with drugs

7.4.6 Slang expressions associated with sexuality

7.4.7 Unclassified slang expressions



TBU in Zlín, Faculty of Humanities 10


When faced with impoliteness, people may come up with various associations. No matter which perspective is taken, impoliteness will be always associated with human behavior, behavior in human interaction.

Human progress in technical, medical and other sciences has enabled mankind to live long and prosper. Progress in the political field enabled at last majority of people, to live in peace and freedom. We are free to vote, free to live where we want to, do what we want to and even say what we want to. We know and have our freedoms. The freedom is a human right inherent to everybody says democracy. However a question comes to mind: Is the human kind ready to possess such a right? Freedom brings a significant amount of responsibility.

Notwithstanding, people aware of this social threat that can lead to misunderstanding, insults or even physical damage formulated many systems, rules and recommendations.

One them is the theory of im/politeness. This theory touches on both, written and spoken, forms of language. But for the purposes of this bachelor thesis, I will focus on its written form.

This work deals with interviews, as a typical example of journalese, in which features of impoliteness appears and thus can be analyzed. These interviews have been conducted, printed and posted by Rolling stone magazine in the recent years. Although it was printed by the Rolling Stone magazine the source was mainly the Internet for its obvious availability and accessibility.

The theoretical part presents the reader with a description of significant and relevant terms, such as politeness, informal language, swearing and etc. The first chapter focuses on politeness and provides a brief outline of the definitions of politeness. Im/politeness is a term applied to a boarder theory which states that one defines the other. Simply put, what is not polite, is impolite. The notion of face, face-threatening acts and facework as a necessary means of producing or achieving im/politeness are discussed within the framework of the thesis as well. The subsequent chapters of theoretical part provides an outline of impolite linguistic structures and their theoretical description.

The practical part introduces a research corpus and followed by an analysis of the corpus. As the most appropriate way of analyzing the corpus textual analysis was chosen.

In the analysis, it is not possible to take all of the features of impoliteness into consideration, nevertheless, the most frequent features are described and paid attention to.

TBU in Zlín, Faculty of Humanities 11 These features are swearing, fillers, hedging and other slang expressions. The aim of this part is to analyze how a particular feature is used in the corpus and what intention the interactants might have for uttering it. I also argue that selected features of impoliteness are socially approved by the target audience of the magazine, i.e. impoliteness is a part of journalese under certain circumstances.

TBU in Zlín, Faculty of Humanities 12

I. THEORYTBU in Zlín, Faculty of Humanities 13

POLITENESS Politeness is, as suggested by Watts (2003, 19), „an observable interaction that is not automatically assumed as a positive behavior”. In order to understand politeness it is important to set an aim and purpose of the concept. “What a theory of politeness should be able to do is to locate possible realizations of polite or impolite behavior and offer a way of assessing how the members themselves may have evaluated that behavior” (Watts, 2003,19-20).

Politeness theory is a border-crossing subject and it is difficult to locate the theory of im/politeness in a naturally occurring discourse (Watts 2003). Because of that we should

become acquainted with a features of (im)politeness as follows:

 It is impossible to evaluate (im)polite behaviour out of the context of a real, ongoing verbal interaction. Often the amount of contextual information needed can be considerable;

 A theory of (im)polite behaviour needs to take the perspectives of the speakers and the hearers, and vice versa. What may have been originally interpreted as (im)polite behaviour is always open to evaluative remodification the interaction progresses;

 As a direct corollary of the previous two points, it will never be possible to develop a predicative model of linguistic (im)politeness;

 Consequently, there can be no idealised, universal scientific concept of (im)politeness which can be applied to instances of social interaction across cultures, subcultures and languages (Watts 2003, 23).

Im/politeness, as mentioned above, cannot be idealised, a universal scientific concept cannot be applied and it is always open to discussion and remodificaton, resulting in the fact that linguists define politeness differently (Watts 2003). There is a brief range of definitions given in the literature.

1. Lakoff (1975) claims that politeness is developed by societies in order to reduce friction in personal interaction;

2. Leech (1980) states that politeness is as strategic conflict avoidance, which can be measured in terms of the degree of effort put into the avoidance of a conflict situation and the establishment and maintenance of comity;

3. Brown and Levinson (1978) define politeness as a complex system for softening face-threatening acts;

TBU in Zlín, Faculty of Humanities 14

4. Kasper (1990) images politeness this way: Communication is seen as a fundamentally dangerous and antagonistic endeavor. Politeness is, then, a term used for the strategies available to interactants to defuse the danger and to minimalise the antagonism;

5. Arndt and Janney (1985) refer politeness to interpersonal supportiveness;

6. Hill (1986) mediates politeness as one of the constraints on human interaction, whose purpose is to consider other´s feelings, establish level of mutual comfort, and promote rapport;

7. Ide (1989) defines politeness as language usage associated with smooth communication;

8. Saifianou (1992) evaluates politeness as the set of social values which instructs interactants to consider each other by satisfying shared expectations (Watts 2003, 50-53).

Discussing politeness in pragmatic context, politeness theory does not imply on social rules and codes of behavior such as shaking hands when meeting someone, letting people, especially woman, go first through a door or a man entering restaurant before a woman because of possible fight and harm. Politeness theory “refers to the choices that are made in language, the linguistic expressions that give people space and show a friendly attitude to them, […] if one wants to save face and be appreciated in return”(Cutting 2002, 46).

1.1 Notion of face “Brown and Levinson (1987) analyzed politeness, and said that in order to enter social relationship, we have to acknowledge and show an awareness of the face, the public selfimage, the sense of self, of the people that we address” (Cutting, 2002, 45). The concept of face was discussed even before Brown and Levinson in papers of Goffman. Goffman researched different roles of conversation participants and defined the conception or notion of face as follows: “The term face may be defined as the positive social value a person effectively claims for himself by the line others assume he has taken during a particular contact. Face is an image of self delineated in terms of approved social attributes – albeit an image that others may share as when a person makes a good showing for his profession or religion by making a good showing for himself” (Locher, 2004, 52). Face, in this context, can be compared to a mask or image that particular element of social event puts on TBU in Zlín, Faculty of Humanities 15 during a particular interaction. Every interaction of social basis has different circumstances therefore a face would correspondingly differ according to it (Locher, 2004).

The concept of face is from this perspective important and essential. Every human being encounters social interactions daily, and harm done due to unfamiliarity of the issue could be enormous.

1.2 Face threatening acts “Empirical research has provided strong evidence for the powerful influence of face on communication behaviors, namely, politeness (e.g Brown and Levinson, 1987), compliance gaining (e.g. Baxter, 1984; Tracy, Craig, Smith and Spisak, 1984), emotional disclosure (e.g.Shimanoff, 1985, 1987) and conflict styles (e.g. Oetzel et al., 2001)” (Xiaowen, 2008, 8).

Brown and Levinson characterize face as “the public self image that every member of a society wants to claim for himself/herself” (Brown and Levinson, 1987, 61). They distinguish two elemental kinds of face: positive and negative face.

Positive face can be defined as “the want of every member that his wants be desirable to at least some others” (Locher, 2004, 53) and negative face can be defined as “the want of every competent adult member that his actions be unimpeded by others” (Locher, 2004, 53).

It is considered polite when social participant´s positive and negative face is pleased in interactions (Xiaowen, 2008). Social interactions in daily life do not necessarily satisfy face needs mentioned above, therefore, can be viewed as impolite. “Brown and Levinson called verbal or nonverbal acts that run contrary to the actor´s desired face needs face threatening acts” (Xiaowen, 2008, 9).

Negative face is threatened through imposition on other person´s autonomy of action.

It is realized by requests, suggestions, threats, warnings and reminders. Positive face can be threatened through pressure on the other person´s want to be approved of or appreciated. Such an attack can be undertaken by disapproval, disagreement, complaints or insults. Social acts can result in threatening both, positive as well as negative face, at the same time too (Xiaowen, 2008).

To become more acknowledged with the issue, there is a list of examples of positive

and negative face threats given by Xiaowen (2008, 106):

 Positive face threat:

o Her comment made me look bad;

TBU in Zlín, Faculty of Humanities 16

–  –  –

1.3 Facework Brown and Levinson highlight a need, that is universal across cultures, to respect each other´s expectations, taking into account one´s self-image, their feelings, and apply face threatening acts avoidance. However, this need is not complied with at times and people´s created masks are threatened, attacked or lost. People, then, are motivated to restore their original image and to repair the damages that were done. A tool, strategy engaged in such cases is named facework (Xiaowen, 2008).

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