Brown used in every day conversations. Moreover,

Brown and
Levinson (1987) put forward the idea that their framework for analyzing politeness was
universally applicable. However, their claim to universality has been
challenged by various writers. For example, from a cross-cultural perspective
some scholars challenged the conceptualization and universality of face in
Brown and Levinson’s politeness theory in East Asia. They argue that face is
more logical and connected to each other in East Asia, as against to the more
independent nature of face in the West. Within a single culture, Brown and
Levinson’s politeness model is viewed as relatively instrumental and strategic.
It describes how an individual chooses politeness strategies in order to reduce
face threats. It is possible to accept the idea that connotations of terms are
same in all cultures whereas their expressions are similar. As Sifianou (1999) perceptively states,
the concept of politeness which represents social value is most probably
universal in some form. Although, the visualization of the concept both
verbally and non-verbally is most probably culture specific.  Politeness has been studied in a variety of
cultures for many years, Penelope Brown and Stephen Levinson’s politeness
theory has been very influential. Their claim to the universality of the
framework and its criticisms are the starting point for this research project. The
aim of this essay is to test Brown and Levinson’s theory by examining Turkish
Cypriot politeness strategies. This paper discusses research that has been
conducted to Turkish Cypriot people about the politeness strategies they used
in every day conversations. Moreover, it also discusses different strategies of
politeness and how these strategies related to various cultures. Also, it will look
at examples of different forms such as requests, apologies and complaints can
take. The main aim is to analyze various politeness strategies used between
friends and with people that they are not very familiar with. All these
phenomena of politeness will be discussed in this paper by taking into account of
Brown and Levinson’s politeness theory (1978) in order to prove that there is
more than one way of being polite.


First of all, politeness is a culturally
defined phenomenon.  According to Hickey’s (1998) definition, politeness
is a behaviour that is being considerate to other people. Therefore, what is
considered polite in one culture can sometimes be quite rude or simply strange
in another cultural context. When people start the conversation, they consider certain variables, with
or without noticing, that help them determine the form of their speech. Goffman (1955) called these variables ‘face’. Goffman described face as social value a
person effectively claims for himself. After that, Brown and Levinson used the
term face as a public self-image for defining their politeness theory. According
to their theory of politeness we are concerned to maintain two kinds of face,
the negative and the positive face. The positive face is defined as the
individual desire of people that their personality is appreciated by
others. The negative face describes the basic personal rights of an
individual, including personal freedom as well as freedom of action. People in all cultures
have an idea about face or self-image and put effort to protect it for
successful communication with others.  Face can be lost, maintained or enhanced. Face
threatening act (FTA) is one that would damage hearer’s or speaker’s face in
some way. According to Brown
and Levinson’s theory (1987) there are five basic strategies (see appendix 1). First distinction is that, either speaker can do the FTA or prefer not
doing it. If speaker chooses
to do the FTA than there are two options to do it, On record or Off record. The
term bald on record without redressive action is used when speaker did nothing
to reduce the threat to the hearer’s face. It involves doing it directly and
clearly and as precise as possible. Doing an act with redressive action means
speaker pay attention to hearer’s face. This can be done using positive
politeness, in order to make the hearer feel good or using negative politeness
to interact with the hearer in a non-imposing way. However, people have to evaluate three factors in order
to decide what strategies they will use, power, distance and cost of the
imposition. On the other hand, there is an indirect option which is called off
record. This can be done by dropping hints or using metaphors in order to
transfer the message. As
Fukushima (2000) states, Brown and
Levinson’s politeness theory can be made to work well on a range of different
languages but it does this by focusing on a very restricted model of what
constitutes politeness. Although,
data from several studies seem to prove that this model of politeness is
sufficient when we analyse how politeness is actually functions within
conversation. Brown and Levinson’s model can only cope with certain elements of
the data such as where participants are very polite.

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For this mini research project, a pilot study
is devised in order to gather data from the native speakers of three different
countries; North Cyprus, Italy and Spain. The reason for choosing these three
countries was that the group members came from these countries and Spanish,
Italian and Turkish is their mother tongue. The questionnaire method is used to
conduct the research in order to collect relevant information. Initially, the
questionnaire is prepared in English after that it is translated into Turkish,
Italian and Spanish accordingly. The reason why it is prepared in English is
that the common foreign language of the preparers is English. This pilot study
set out to gather data on how people believe they speak in spontaneous contexts.
A total of fifteen people participated in the survey including five people from
each country between the ages 20-40. For this specific research paper, data is
collected from native Cypriot Turkish speakers in order to compare Turkish
Cypriots politeness strategies with other countries politeness strategies such
as Italy and Spain. The main aim for this paper is to examine various
politeness strategies used by native Turkish speakers in order to challenge the
universality of Brown and Levinson’s theory of politeness.


Firstly, participants’ research gathered
through the qualitative research method of a questionnaire, designed to gain
the personal opinions of possible members of the target group. The main
characteristic of qualitative research is that it is mostly appropriate for
small samples, while its outcomes are not measurable and quantifiable. Qualitative
method helped me to accumulate data based on people’s attitudes towards
politeness. At this point, it is important to mention that the data gathered is
not from actual recorded conversations but only native speakers’ beliefs of how
they would use their language in given situations. It should be taken into
consideration that this method allowed participants to respond with more than
one request, apology or complain when in real situations only one chance would
be given. This research relies on a smaller sample of population therefore it
is harder to generalise the answers. However, it focuses on much more in-depth
information. The major benefit of creating a questionnaire is that it allows
open-ended questions. The questionnaire consists of two sections (see Appendix 2). First section aims to
collect personal information about participants such as age, gender and
nationality and second section includes open-ended questions. The questionnaire
consists of eleven questions. First two question is about what is politeness
and in which situations they usually try to be polite. The remaining nine
questions were asked to observe how they apologise, request and complain to
people they already know and they do not know. The five informants were
randomly selected which provides equal chances of being picked for each member
of target population. Target population for this study was the native speakers
of Turkish Language. Overall, five respondents, male and female, participated
in the study ranged age from 20 to 40. Respondents
were sequenced according to their ages in the table.

In this study it was observed that as age gets
older people become politer. In this section the main aim is to analyse the
questions three and five accordingly (see
Appendix 3). The question number three is asking for how would you request
a coffee from barista, friend and grandparents. Four out of five participants
preferred doing FTA, on record, without redressive action baldly towards their
friends. However, only one of them used negative politeness strategy in
accordance with the second person plural form of ‘you’ and with past tense in
order to minimize the imposition on the hearer. On the other hand, it is really
interesting that all participants used the word ‘please’ while requesting a
coffee from barista because they thought it was a polite word. Nevertheless,
the usage of word ‘please’ did not change the strategy of politeness. They
still used direct bald on record strategy. Besides, when it comes to
grandparents there is a general tendency towards positive politeness strategy
in order to show respect to their age. Some example sentences are ‘The taste of
your coffee is the best grandmother can you please make one.’ or ‘grandma make
me a coffee I am in love with yours.’ these make the hearer feel good about
themselves. This shows that speaker is interested in protecting and also
enhancing hearer’s face.

Question number five is asking for if their
coffee is not hot enough, how would they complain this situation? Participants
had to complain towards their family member (sister/brother), barista and
towards their boss. Four out of five again used direct bald on record strategy
to complain towards barista however, only one of them did not say anything and
preferred drinking it cold. When they need to complain towards their sisters
about situation they totally did not care about hearer’s face.  They tried to emphasize the coldness of the
coffee by using metaphoric words. For example, ‘what can I expect from you’ is
totally impolite. In Cypriot family structure because of the close relationship
and equal power this is neither polite nor impolite. In fact, by using
metaphorically meaningful words speakers both conveyed the message in a
non-direct way and made a casual affair. When a foreigner read the given answer
presumably thought they were rude. Actually, they are not really polite.
However, because of the style of Cypriot Turkish and close relationship with
hearer cause it not to be perceived as rude behaviour. Besides towards their
boss, again four out of five people again agreed with each other and preferred
not to complain and drinking coffee cold. One out of five preferred to lie. He
said that this coffee is as sweet as honey. He also added that despite the
coffee being cold, he would not tell it to his boss.  Majority of them did not do the FTA towards
their boss. This clearly shows that the boss is more powerful than the speaker
therefore speaker chose not to perform the FTA.


It is also important to conclude that rules for
appropriate, polite speech behavior may vary from one society to another but if
there were nothing shared and universal about politeness then learning a
foreign language as well as translation from one language to another would
almost be impossible tasks. For this research, participants’ answers were
translated from Turkish to English. If we are able to translate, analyze and find
similarities and differences between politeness strategies, then there is
something universally shared. In addition, Brown and Levinson’s model provided
an explicit and detailed model for analysis of linguistic data from such different languages as
Spanish, Italian and Turkish.