Positive Politeness & Social Harmony in Literary Discourse

Author: Nawal

Keywords: Politeness, positive politeness strategies, social power, social distance, rank of imposition


The strategies of politeness are not arbitrarily chosen by speakers in interaction. Instead, the choice of a strategy is constrained by a number of contextual features (socio-cultural variables), such as the relative power of the speakers, the social distance of the speakers and what the speakers happen to be negotiating at the time of speaking. This study focuses on the linguistic strategies of politeness, and more specifically on the positive politeness, as represented in fiction. The novel chosen is that of Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables- a novel in which the main character Anne Shirley tries her best to establish common grounds with others until she achieves friendly and social harmonious relationships with nearly everybody. To show the above point, Brown and Levinson’s (1987) theory of politeness is adopted to account for the linguistic strategies, in addition to some subsequent contribution provided by Spencer-Oatey (2002) to account for sociality rights and obligations. This model is chosen to explore the relation between language use and the social relationship of the speakers. A point of departure, and according to O’Driscoll (1996), Brown and Levinson’s hierarchy of politeness strategies allows attention to positive to cover more ground than that subsumed under positive politeness (super-strategy 2). That is why baldly on-record (super-strategy 1) is used to pay positive face. The analysis shows that most of Anne’s directives in this speech event, which are linguistic realizations of both superstrategy 1 and 2, are meant to establish common grounds to achieve friendly and harmonious relationships with others.