• Susie Wilson

Etiquette Politeness in everyday communication

Politeness Strategy in Everyday Communication.

The culture of contemporaneity presents itself through various concepts and discourses that constitute the category of everyday life, which they reveal and portray. In linguistic terms, the category of everyday life is manifested in different forms of communication, and first of all in the system of norms and models of speech behaviour, known as speech etiquette. The goal of the article is to analyze the use of some models of English speech etiquette, specifically the use of politeness forms typical of the English. Politeness strategy presents itself in various types, as absolute, relative, negative or positive politeness. The type of politeness presupposes a definite form of etiquette speech act. Politeness strategy is analyzed in speech acts of apologies and condolences, through their pragmatic structures.

The interest of modern science to the problem of everyday life is connected with such questions as perception of world picture by naïve consciousness, archetypes of mass communication as a regulatory system of human behaviour, as a correlation between high and everyday forms of culture. Everyday life in the form of the common opinion reveals itself specifically in an ability to learn some cultural codes that allow raising a personal social status. A system of fixed behavioural reactions to the environment presents itself in the existence of various cultural codes of behaviour, which exist in a language as a special set of speech formulae of social etiquette, regulating the choice of communicative forms, structures and set phrases. In this respect, it is interesting to analyze the communicative behaviour of the people of Great Britain, which is regulated by the so-called speech etiquette. 2. Speech etiquette and language norm Speech etiquette is an essential part of culture, behaviour and human communication. Social relationships and norms of behaviour are fixed in speech etiquette formulae. Etiquette norms are encoded in sayings, proverbs, idioms, set phrases such as Welcome! How do you do! Farewell! Thank you! etc. Being an element of national culture, speech etiquette has a clear national colouring. In linguistics, etiquette is understood as a system of rules and conventions that regulates social and professional behaviour. In any social unit, there are accepted rules of behaviour upheld and enforced by legal codes, or by customs and enforced by group pressure. Regardless of the type of national culture, any society possesses the etiquette, and every person knows the behaviour expected from him towards others and from others toward himself (Etiquette, 2015). The word “etiquette” came from French and entered the English language about 1740-1750. In French, it meant memorandum, a derivative of étiqu(i) (- to attach, stick) (op.cit.). The sense developed in French from small cards written or printed with instructions on how to behave properly at court and/or from behaviour instructions written on a soldier’s billet for lodgings. At the beginning of the XVIII century, etiquette norms were mostly written in periodicals such as The Spectator, The Tattler, where readers could learn what kind of conversations to have and what subjects to talk about if they wanted to look like educated gentlemen of society. Henry Hitchings, a famous British writer, critic and researcher assumes, the first appearance of the word “etiquette” can be found in the collection of letters written by the fourth earl of Chesterfield Philip Stanhope to his son, in which he gave instructions how to become a gentleman (Hitchings, 2013). As Hutchings put it, the word “etiquette” was then understood as a code of conduct, as an idea of self-control, as a virtue. Manners are different from etiquette: etiquette in this modern age is a quaint set of rules for the socially insecure – as old-fashioned as debutantes. Manners, conversely, might be taken to mean natural grace and treating all with equal consideration. Hitchings sees it more formally: manners, a word suggesting broad principles of behaviour, and ‘etiquette’, which denotes the actions that articulate those principles (McKay, 2013). Speech etiquette in a narrow meaning of the term can be defined as a system of language means where etiquette relationships are revealed. The elements of this system can be actualized at various linguistic levels. At the lexical level etiquette relationships are marked with the help of special expressions and set phrases (Thank you; Please; excuse me; Good-bye; etc.), special forms of address (Mr., Miss, Mrs., Madame, Ms, etc). At the level of grammar organization it is supported by polite forms of the language (the use of pronouns in plural form: Vous, вы); the use of interrogative sentences instead of imperative ones (Could you possibly help me?)  At the stylistic level, it is expressed in the use of literary high flown language forms of the official standard, and the ban of obscene lexis which are replaced by euphemisms (Ryabova, 2013). Etiquette is also marked at phonetic and prosodic levels of language which means that a special intonation is used (of the polite model). At the communicative level, it presupposes a prohibition to interfere in a conversation or to interrupt it, etc. Speech etiquette can be analyzed from the point of view of language norm. Thus, understanding of right cultural normalized types of speech includes in itself the definite speech etiquette.

Specification of speech etiquette means that it does not only characterize everyday life practices, but also it determines speech norms. Elements of speech etiquette are present in everyday discourse practice of any person, who easily recognizes these norms and expects from the communicator to use them in special contexts. Elements of speech etiquette are set so deep that they are perceived by naive consciousness as a part of everyday natural behaviour. If a person doesn’t know these norms or deliberately breaks them, it is interpreted as a wish to insult somebody, or as a breach of breeding, or as his/her attribution to other culture, or to a different social class. On the other hand, speech etiquette can be assessed in the aspect of language norm. E.g., every person whose native language is English, knows some conversational formulae, expressing excuse; though some expressions are regarded as language norm (sorry, excuse me), while others are rejected, like for e.g. “pardon”. The fact of avoidance of some expressions from language use can already be regarded as an object of standardization: e.g. formulae of excuse are adequate when the speaker disturbs his conversational partner, though to ask for an excuse too often is not advisable, since the partner is put in an awkward position by this. Besides, the breach of norms and rules of literary language, when it looks like carelessness, is a breach of etiquette in itself. The borderline between an everyday speech discourse and a norm in speech etiquette is flexible. Practical implementation of speech etiquette usually differs from standard models not only because of non-acquaintance of the communicants with the rules. The deviation from the rule as well as strict adherence to it can testify the speaker's attitude to the hearer or his/her perception of a situation. 3. Socio-pragmatic conditions of etiquette rules Speech etiquette is tied with the communicative situation as such and with its parameters: personality, time, place, theme and motive of communication and its purpose. Speech etiquette presents a complex of linguistic phenomena that are connected with the addressee, though the speaker’s personality is also important. This can be illustrated by the tu – vous forms of address. A general rule says that various-forms are used as a sign of respect and greater formality of communication, while tu-forms are a sign of less formal style of communication, communication between equals. Though the realization of this principle can be actualized in different variants depending on the age, race, or rank factors, or whether communicants are relatives, friends, or of the same or different social status. Rules of etiquette can vary depending on the fact whether the theme of the conversation is a sad event or a happy one. There are special rules of speech behaviour connected with the place of conversation (dinner, office, business meeting). Speech etiquette has different functions such as: establishing contact between people; attracting attention to the hearer; individualization of a communicant; expressing reverence to a communicant; revealing the status of the event (friendly, official, businesslike, etc.); forming a favourable atmosphere to a conversation; paying a positive influence on a communicant, etc. 4. Politeness strategies in communication A lot of researchers of the English communicative behaviour assume that politeness is, evidently, a most typical feature of their behaviour. As a famous English social anthropologist, Kate Fox remarked, although many of the foreign visitors complained about English reserve, they all tended to be impressed by our courtesy (Fox, 2004). The author gave a detailed description of English politeness which the English demonstrate in the road, in transport, on the way. The etiquette regulating this behaviour is called the negative politeness rule, meaning that it is concerned with other people’s need not to be intruded or imposed upon (as opposed to positive politeness, which is concerned with their need for inclusion and social approval). The restraint, cautiousness and contact- avoidance of English public-transport passengers – the stand-offishness that foreigners complain about – are all characteristic features of negative politeness. What looks like unfriendliness is really a kind of consideration: they judge others by themselves, and assume that everyone shares their obsessive need for privacy – so they mind their own business and politely ignore them (Hitchings, 2013). Marina Ryabova / Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 206 (2015) 90 – 95 93 The rule of negative politeness is part of a general communicative strategy of politeness or tact maxim, which means that the communicant respects the desire of the other not to communicate, not to interfere. Consequently, the speaker prefers to use indirect speech acts, allowing “to keep the face”, i.e. instead of the forms of imperative mood interrogative constructions are preferred, or declarative statements, that express requests implicitly. For e.g. instead of strict order in the form of imperative mood “Shut the door”, the preference will be given to interrogative constructions with “please”: “Will you shut the door, please?” The degree of politeness can be higher with the usage of subjunctive mood forms: “Would you shut the door, please?” “Could you shut the door please?” The highest form of negative politeness is a form of implicit request in an affirmative statement: “There's a draught here”, expressing a presupposition “Shut the door, please”. Together with the negative politeness rule the English use the positive politeness rule in their communicative behaviour, which means that the speaker shows to the hearer that he understands his interests, approves and shares his needs and goals. The form of this strategy is the use of the inclusive pronoun “we”: “Let's shut the door”. Or “We really should close the door”. Inclusive “we” can be used in speech acts of prohibition: “We don't want to park here, do we?” As positive politeness, the plural form of the pronoun, denoting address can be used: “Give us a hand, son” (Renkema, 1993). The politeness principle of communication can be actualized either as absolute politeness or as relative politeness. Absolute politeness in terms of Geoffrey Leech can be associated with a scale, or a set of scales, having a negative and a positive pole. Negative politeness consists in minimizing the impoliteness of impolite illocutions (e.g. orders), and positive politeness consists in maximizing the politeness of polite illocutions. As for relative politeness, it can be stated that people can be polite relative to some norms of behaviour, which for a particular culture they regard as typical. For example, it is commonly said that Japanese and Chinese are very polite in comparison with Europeans. So the norm of politeness for a particular culture, and particular illocution type is different, i.e. relevant. Thus, it is known that the British are excessively polite (and perhaps insincere) when asking favours of others. A further norm is one for a particular category of person, according to sex, age-group, social status or class. Relative politeness is variable in many dimensions, according to the standard or set of standards (Leech, 1996, p. 84). When the English bump into each other they automatically say “sorry”, no matter whose fault was that. The older people were slightly more likely to apologize than younger people. Fox explains this phenomenon as the reflex apology: a reflex – an automatic, knee-jerk response, not a considered admission of guilt. This is a deeply ingrained rule: when any inadvertent, undesired contact occurs (and to the English, almost any contact is by definition undesired), they say ‘sorry’. In fact, the English, due to Fox, think that any intrusion, impingement or imposition of any kind, however minimal or innocuous, generally requires an apology. They use the word ‘sorry’ as a prefix to almost any request or question: ‘Sorry, but do you know if this train stops at Banbury?’ ‘Sorry, but is this seat free?’ ‘Sorry – do you have the time?’ ‘Sorry, but you seem to be sitting on my coat.’ They say ‘sorry’ if an arm accidentally brushes against someone else’s when passing through a crowded doorway; even a ‘near miss’, where no actual physical contact takes place, can often prompt an automatic ‘sorry’ from both parties. They often say ‘sorry’ when they mean ‘excuse me’ (or ‘get out of my way’), such as when asking someone to move so they can get past them.  An interrogative ‘sorry?’ means ‘I didn’t quite hear what you said – could you repeat it?’ (or ‘what?’). Clearly, all these “sorries” are not heartfelt, sincere apologies. Like ‘nice’, ‘sorry’ is a useful, versatile, all-purpose word, suitable for all occasions and circumstances. When in doubt, say ‘sorry’.  Englishness means always having to say you’re sorry (Fox, 2004). Politeness principle of communication is also registered in expressive speech acts that function as illocutions of condoling, used in situations when people want to express their desire to share the sorrow over some sad events, loss, grief, tragedy, etc. The politeness of such speech acts is relative to the situation, atmosphere of formality, the sincerity of communication, their relationship and social distance.  The illocution of condolence speech acts is to express a psychological state determined by sincerity condition concerning the situation of a certain proposition, e.g.: Sympathies to your family on the passing of your sister. She will always be in our hearts.

In the sphere of expressive speech acts of condolence, we can find at least two groups of utterances: emotive speech acts and etiquette speech acts. Emotive speech acts are those where sincerity principle and emotional force of the utterance reveal deeper emotional feelings and truthfulness in saying that people are really very sorry over the loss of someone, e.g.: Corbin, I’m very sorry to hear about the loss of your father. I know he meant a lot to you; I’m really sorry to hear about your recent loss of your dad. I extend my sincere sympathy to all of you at what I know is very sad and mournful time. While etiquette speech acts of condolence demonstrate more formal (and less sincere) register of communication, greater distance (social, personal or any) between communicants, e.g.: I want you to know that my thoughts are with you during this difficult time; I want to condole you and I want you to know that I am here with you through it all if you need me. It must be added that condolence speech acts actualize the politeness principle as a part of Maxim of Sympathy in communication, due to which the power of the Sympathy Maxim means that the speaker extends condolence as an expression of sympathy for misfortune, i.e. the event of the proposition is interpreted as unfortunate (such as death) for the hearer. The illocution of condolence correlates with a number of psychological states felt by the addressee, such as sympathy; sadness: Dear Casey, I am truly saddened by Sandra’s death; Grief: Yesterday I learned of the unfortunate death of your son. There are no words to describe the utter grief that I am feeling now; Shock: I cannot possibly imagine the shock and sorrow that has been thrust on your family; Pain: How your heart must ache for him! Missing: He was always such a fun person to be around and we will miss his great wit and charm. The perlocution effect of condolence speech acts, felt by the hearer, can possibly be as such: consolation: It is little consolation at this sad time, it should be of some satisfaction to know that in his passing you can celebrate the end of a very long and productive life; good memories: I can tell you though that the very best way to mark his passing is by filling your mind with all of the wonderful memories you have of happier times; peace and comfort: You find peace and comfort in knowing that his loss is felt by all who knew and loved him.  The act of condolence usually is performed orally, but if it is not possible for any reason, it can be sent via a letter of condolence. A condolence letter is an etiquette form of expressing feelings of sympathy over a tragic or sad event. Being a strictly standardized form of etiquette communication, a condolence letter has a rigid text structure. The structure consists of the following parts: (i) a direct address or greetings; (ii) a motive, containing information about a sad event; (iii) the expression of condolence as such, i.e. feelings or emotions experienced over the loss; (iv) words about the deceased with good memories about him/her; (v) words addressed towards the mourning persons; (vi) words offering any help; (vii) signature.  For example: (i) Dear Mr and Mrs Sanborn, (ii) yesterday I learned of the unfortunate and untimely death of your son and my friend Jacob, (iii) there are no words to describe the utter grief that I am feeling now, (iv )he will long be remembered as the hard-working, intelligent and loving man that he was, (v) our condolences with you and your family at this time, (vi) if there is anything that I can do to help you in anything, please do not hesitate to call me at any time, (vii) sincerely, Mrs. Preston. So a condolence letter has a close text structure, being a form of a ritualized discourse and it doesn’t allow any variations, because of strict etiquette rules and norms accepted in the society, demanding to say politely only good thing of the deceased. 5. Conclusion Thus, etiquette norms in speech behaviour of the English is a characteristic feature of their communicative culture, that determines the choice of formulae and models of their everyday communication, revealing their class and social status and operating within politeness strategy of socio-pragmatic conditions.