Gender Variation, Indirectness, and Preference Organization in Threat Responses

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Title: Gender Variation, Indirectness, and Preference Organization in Threat Responses
Author: Geluykens, Ronald; Limberg, Holger
Abstract: In the pragmatic literature, a lot of attention has been paid to the politeness implications of using certain so-called face-threatening acts (or FTAs; Brown and Levinson 1987). However, the literature thus far has been limited in various respects. First of all, only a small subset of acts have been examined (notable requests and apologies). Secondly, the interactive dimension of FTAs, and in particular their behavior in terms of preference organization, has been largely ignored. And finally, the perlocutionary dimension, i.e. the role of reactions to face-threatening acts (which may be face-threats in themselves) has not been given the attention it deserves. This paper employs controlled-elicitation data for investigating reactions to one particular type of FTA, viz. threats. Threats are intrinsically highly face-threatening, so responding to them carries a high degree of face threat (especially if such responses are dispreferred, i.e. do not attempt to fix the social conflict caused by the threat itself). In this paper, we will therefore determine, first of all, whether negative reactions to threats are dispreferred in quantitative terms. Secondly, we will examine to what extent certain types of redressive action correlate systematically with preference organization. Thirdly, we will investigate the effect of one particular type of social varaiation, viz. the the speaker's gender, influences threat responses, both in terms of preference organization and in terms of the politeness strategies involved. Results show (a) that non-compliance with a threat is indeed dispreferred in social terms, (b) that such dispreffered responses require more redresssive action, and (c) that threat responses are subject to gender variation on both these levels. We would like to claim therefore, that use of such discourse completion test data can be useful for analyzing interactive features of FTAs, if used sensibly and, ideally, in combination with other types of (naturally occurring) data.
Citation: Geluykens, Ronald and Limberg, Holger. (2012). "Gender Variation, Indirectness, and Preference Organization in Threat Responses."
Date: 2012-05-21

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