Referential and non-referential (im)politeness
The trainer’s speech in a new employee orientation in a Japanese company
Keywords:(im)politeness, honorifics, referential and non-referential indices
Honorifics are non-referential indices that are generally understood as polite linguistic forms. Why do speakers use honorifics when they express a face-attacking referential message? Brown and Levinson’s politeness theory (1987) explains that the use of honorifics is a negative politeness strategy that mitigates an FTA (face-threatening act). However, the reason why honorifics co-occur with a face-attack probably involves more than mitigating an FTA. This article deals with a case of institutional impoliteness by examining a Japanese company’s new employee orientation discourse. This is a context in which impoliteness is ideologically legitimised and often deployed. At the same time, the goal of the orientation is to train new employees to behave in an extremely polite manner. By qualitatively analysing the speech of the trainer of a new employee orientation, this article concludes that the trainer’s use of honorifics while attacking the positive face of the new employees is a way of resolving the conflicting demands of a Japanese company. This article contributes to (im)politeness research in that it points to the importance of distinguishing referential and non-referential (im)politeness.
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