Politeness strategies

According to Brown and Levinson, speakers can adopt one of four approaches:

  • Bald on record: direct and concise orders or statements, without mitigation. These are perfectly acceptable from high superiors, but highly impolite between peers, except in emergencies.
  • Positive politeness, which seeks to flatter positive face: praise, exaggerate markers of solidarity and group membership, joke around, offer reciprocity, use inclusive language.
  • Negative politeness, which seeks to minimize negative face: use conventionalized indirectness, assume noncompliance, minimize the request, be deferential, apologize, use impersonal forms.
  • Off record, which avoids a direct request by using language that can be interpreted as not a request at all: hint, use understatement or exaggeration, use tautologies or contradictions (i.e., flout the conversational maxims), be vague or elliptic.

Frames and metonymy