Politeness theory and requests in Xhosa

Dlali, Mawande,1965- (2001-04)

Thesis (PhD)--University of Stellenbosch, 2001.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This study investigates how politeness may be employed in requests in Xhosa. While numerous studies on speech act have been conducted in different languages, the investigation of speech acts in African Languages, particularly Xhosa, shows no such progress. This study attempts to fill this gap by examining the notions of politeness in requests as perceived among the Xhosas. With the study of speech acts, two instances of meaning have been identified. In the first meaning a speaker utters a sentence and means exactly and literally what he says. In the second meaning the speaker utters a sentence with an additional illocution with a different prepositional content. It has been established that various meanings playa role in the understanding of indirect requests. This finding is based on the theory of Brown and Levinson's (1987) face work of politeness. Scholars like Clark and Schunk (1980) argue that the politeness of response is governed by the attentiveness hypothesis which states that the more attentive the hearer is to all aspects of the speaker's request, within reason, the more polite he is. One of the most common motivations for politeness is a request. Brown and Levinson (1987) define politeness as the manifestation of respect for and recognition of another's face. They delineate face into two components: negative face and positive face. Positive face is the way a person wants to be regarded, admired, or approved by others and to be treated as a friend. On the other hand, negative face is the person's desire not to be imposed on by other people. A request threatens face in the sense that it imposes on the hearer, that is why in some cases requests call for mitigation, so as to compensate for their impositive effect on the hearer. Various subcategories of requests within which negative politeness may appear have been established, as well as the various ways in which these subcategories of requests may be linguistically expressed in Xhosa. Three distribution types of request categories with negative politeness have been found: high frequency, No very regular and negligible. Requests with the highest frequency may be divided into three subcategories: compliance; information; and action. These subcategories demand non-threatening strategies: compliance demands obedience, action demand doing things with a desired result, and information demands knowledge from a person. These three are thus face-threatening acts, which demand respect for the hearer's antonomy. Such requests may seriously threaten the hearer's negative face. If no politeness strategy is attempted, these requests will be viewed as most threatening acts. The ten negative politeness strategies of Brown and Levinson did not apply to Xhosa because they have been developed for a Western language. In the place of these strategies, it has been found that negative politeness may be expressed in Xhosa through certain subcategories as above, but also through certain pragmatic functions by means of which negative politeness may be applied to avert a face-threatening act. Brown and Levinson (1987) list fifteen positive politeness strategies. In the case of the four Xhosa books, which were analyzed, only eight strategies for positive politeness were found. These strategies can be divided into two groups: high frequency and negligible. The most regular strategies are: seek agreement, give or ask for reasons, address forms, presupposition, and those, which include both speaker and hearer. An explanation for the high frequency of these strategies is to be found within positive politeness. Positive politeness forms emphasize closeness between speaker and hearer and it can be seen as a solidarity strategy. Thus, a face saving act, which is concerned with the person's positive face, will show solidarity.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie studie ondersoek hoe beleeftheid aangewend kan word in Xhosa versoeke. Daar is verskeie studies oor spraakhandelinge in verskillende tale, maar die ondersoek na spraakhandelinge in die Afrikatale, veral Xhosa, toon nie sodanige vooruitgang nie. Hierdie studie poog om hierdie gaping te vul deur die begrip beleefdheid in versoeke by die Xhosa te ondersoek. In die studie van spraakhandelinge is twee instansies van betekenis geïdentifiseer. In die eerste betekenis uiter 'n spreker 'n sin en die betekenis is presies wat gesê word. In die tweede betekenis uiter die spreker 'n sin met 'n bykomende illokusie met 'n verskillende proposisionele indruk. Daar is vasgestel dat verskeie betekenisse 'n rol speel in die verstaan van indirekte versoeke. Hierdie bevinding is gebaseer op die teorie van Brown en Levinson (1987) se werk oor gesig in beleefdheid. Onder andere Clark en Schunk (1980) is van mening dat die beleefdheid van 'n respons op 'n versoek beheer word deur die attentheid hipotese waardeur aangedui word dat hoe meer aandagtig 'n hoorder is op alle aspekte van die spreker se versoek, hoe meer beleefd hy is. Een van die algemeenste motiverings vir beleefdheid is versoeke. Brown en Levinson (1987) definieer beleefdheid as die manifestasie van respek en erkenning van 'n ander se gesig. Hulle grens gesig af in twee dele: negatiewe gesig en positiewe gesig. Positiewe gesig is die wyse waarop 'n persoon beskou, bewonder of waardeer word deur ander en om soos 'n vriend behandel te word. Aan die ander kant, negatiewe gesig is 'n persoon se begeerte om nie bedrieg te word deur ander mense. 'n Versoek bedreig gesig in die sin dat dit misbruik maak van die hoorder. Dit is waarom in sommige gevalle daar versagting vir versoeke is om te vergoed vir die misbruikmaking op die hoorder. Verskeie subkategorieë van versoeke waarin negatiewe beleefdheid voorkom is onderskei, asook die verskillende wyses waarin hierdie subkategorieë van versoeke linguisties uitgedruk kan word in Xhosa. Drie spreidingstipes van versoek kategorieë met negatiewe beleefdheid is gevind: hoë frekwensie, nie baie reëlmatig en onbeduidend. Versoeke met die hoogste frekwensie kan verdeel word in drie subkategorieë: inskiklikheid, inligting en handeling. Hierdie subkategorieë vereis strategieë wat nie bedreiging inhou: inskiklikheid vereis gehoorsaamheid, handeling vereis dat iets gedoen moet word met 'n sekere resultaat, en inligting vereis kennis van 'n persoon. Hierdie drie is dus handelinge wat 'n bedreiging inhou vir gesig en wat respek vereis vir die hoorder se outonomie. Sulke versoeke kan 'n ernstige bedreiging inhou vir die hoorder se negatiewe gesig. As geen beleefdheidsstrategie gevolg word, kan hierdie versoeke beskou word as handelinge wat geweldig bedreigend is. Die tien negatiewe beleefdheidsstrategieë van Brown en Levinson (1987) is nie van toepassing in Xhosa nie, omdat dit ontwikkel is vir 'n Westerse taal. In die plek van hierdie strategieë is gevind dat negatiewe beleefdheid in Xhosa uitgedruk kan word deur sekere subkategorieë soos hierbo, maar ook deur sekere pragmatiese funksies waardeur negatiewe beleefdheid aangewend kan word om in handeling wat gesig bedreig af te weer. Brown en Levinson (1987) gee 15 strategieë vir positiewe beleefdheid. In die geval van Xhosa is agt (8) van hierdie strategieë gevind in die boeke wat geanaliseer is. Hierdie strategieë kan in twee groepe verdeel word: hoë frekwensie en onbeduidend. Die strategieë met die hoogste frekwensie is: soek ooreenstemming; gee of vra redes; aanspreekvorme, presupposisieen die wat beide spreker en hoorder insluit. 'n Verklaring vir die hoë frekwensie van hierdie strategieë kan gevind word in positiewe beleefdheid. Positiewe beleefdheid benadruk nabyheid tussen spreker en hoorder en dit kan gesien word as 'n solidariteitsstrategie. Dus, 'n handeling wat gesig red wat betrokke is by'n persoon se positiewe gesig sal solidariteit toon.

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