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Sociolinguistics Course
Prof Necdet Osam
All the world
is a stage,
and we are
As you will see using language involves
costs and benefits in what Holmes
(1992) refers to as “linguistic
market”. It also involves role-playing,
forging identity, power-sharing,
alternating converging and diverging
strategies, power and solidarity,
which, all in all, signify that “language is
a behavior” or, better said, “language is
an act.”
The Agenda
 Some definitions
 Conversational Principles
 Implicatures
 Politeness
 Face
 Is politeness diglossic?
 Are implicatures accidental?
 The issue of identity
 The issue of ideology
 Grice (1975) says ‘we
are able to converse with
one another because we
recognize common goals
in conversation and
specific ways of achieving
it.’ In other words, how
we say something is as
important as what we
 To Grice, conversation is
cooperative in that both
interlocutors accept each
other for what they claim
to be. Conversation is
also bound to some
principles which calls
Conversational Maxims
or Cooperative
Gricean Cooperative

Maxim of
Maxim of quality
Maxim of relation
Maxim of manner
Maxim of Quantity
 Make your contribution as
informative as is required.
A: Excuse me, have you got the time on you?
B: 10 of 5.

A: Sorry, love. Got the time?

B: Yes. The time on my Swiss watch given to
me by my mum on my birthday is 10 of 5.

“war is war.”
So, what?
Maxim of Quality
 Do not say what you believe is
false or lacks adequate
A: Do you know who invented the

B: Wasn’t it Graham Bell?

A: Dad, do you know what a

Green car means?
B: It is a car than runs on grass,
Maxim of Relation
 Be relevant.

A: Is Tom seeing anyone lately?

B: I suspect he is. His phone bills are

A: Did I say you look gorgeous?

B: By the way, did you manage to
freeze your stolen credit card?
Maxim of Manner
 Avoid obscurity and
ambiguity, and be brief and

A: ‘Cuse me, is there a phone box round

B: Yes. Not far. Just round the next

You’ll first break the eggs, no

 Grice maintains that speech
often occurs in less than ideal
circumstances in which
speakers compromise or
flout the maxims as a result of
which an implicature is driven
from what has been said. It is
also possible an act of
conversation involves
implicature of more than one
 Leech defines politeness
as forms of behavior that
establish and maintain
comity. That is the ability
of participants in a social
interaction to engage in
interaction in an
atmosphere of relative
Leech’s Maxims of
 Tact maxim
 Generosity maxim
 Approbation maxim
 Modesty maxim
 Agreement maxim
 Sympathy maxim
Tact maxim
1. Minimize cost to
other; maximize
benefit to other.
Ex: Could I interrupt
you for a second? If I
could just clarify this
Generosity Maxim
 Minimize benefit to
self; maximize cost to

Ex: You relax and let

me do the dishes. You
must come and have
Approbation Maxim
 Minimize dispraise of
other; maximize praise
of other.

Ex: John, I know you're

a genius - would you
know how to solve this
math problem here?
Modesty Maxim

 Minimize praise of
self; maximize
dispraise of self.

Ex: Oh, I'm so stupid -

I didn't make a note of
our lecture! Did you?
Agreement Maxim
 Minimize disagreement
between self and other;
maximize agreement between
self and other.

A: Do you like this skirt, John?

    B: Yes, it looks great, but I am
sure you can find a better one.
Yes, but ma'am, I thought we
resolved this already on your last
Sympathy Maxim
 Minimize antipathy
between self and other;
maximize sympathy
between self and other.

Ex: I was sorry to hear

about your accident.
 Face is something that is
emotionally invested, and
that can be lost, maintained,
or enhanced, and must be
constantly attended to in
interaction. Normally
everyone’s face depends on
everyone else’s being
maintained, and it is in
general in every participant’s
 “Face” (as in “lose face”) refers
to a speaker's sense of linguistic
and social identity. Any speech
act may impose on this sense,
and is therefore face
threatening. And speakers have
strategies for lessening the
threat. Positive politeness
means being complimentary and
gracious to the addressee.
Negative politeness is found in
ways of mitigating the imposition.
 In Goffman (1955)
terminology an act of
face-changing is called
face-work. Whatever
face one adopts, it will
be ‘the affective state
of the speaker’ and ‘the
profile of his/her
Is politeness diglossic?
 V/V & V/T forms are
common among the U class
and in addressing the M & L
classes as a marker of
exercising power.
 T/T & T/V forms are a
marker of solidarity and
intimacy among M & L
classes. T/V is also used to
address members of the U
Is politeness ideological?
 T/T is common among young Italian U
members who want to dissociate
themselves from the aristocracy or
 T/T is a useful implement for the
politicians who aspire to reflect vox
populi–the voice of the public. Consider
‘revolutionary’ Ahmadinejad.
 T/T used by a young male French
student would mean he favors
nationalization of the industry, free
love, trial marriage, abolition of capital
Solidarity or power?
 With the decline of aristocracy
and growth of democratization
it appears that non-reciprocal
T/V is now being replaced by
mutual V as between officer
and soldier.
 In former T/V situations we can
now find mutual T as between
father and son, and employer
and employee.

 How do power and politeness

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