Essay on Brown and Levinson's Framework: Advancing Human Speech & Communication

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1790 Words
Date:  2023-01-03


Speech development and communication has grown for a very long time. There have been many theories which have contributed to this development, and this has made it universal among all human interactions across the world. Brown and Levinson's framework has been used in the advancement of comprehensive speech and communication for human beings. Also, through the development of communication, politeness features arise whenever someone communicates with each other. Therefore, the model of Brown and Levinson (1987) has been instrumental in the development of the universal theory of politeness. The aim of this paper is to examine the extent to which Brown and Levinson's model has been considered as the universal theory of politeness. In the examination, there is a need to find politeness model on how it is applied and how influential it has been in the development of communication. The examination analyses the usage of the politeness in English speaking countries and Japanese to distinguish its applications. The study further explores the criticisms of the Universal Theory of Politeness, Analysis of the Brown and Levinson's (1987) Framework helps to identify the extent towards which is used as the Universal theory of Politeness.

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Brown and Levinson's (1987) Model

Brown and Levinson's (1987) Model aims at accounting for politeness and the consistency of communication through the use of linguistics in speech as people interact with one another through communication languages (Gilks, 2010, pg.2009). The frameworks establish the models of communication which are used by all human interactions as well as the structure showcases the assumptions and the conclusions which are developed in the planning of speech. Therefore, this essays aims at examining how the model is useful in the development of the theory of universal politeness.

To begin with, Brown and Levinson's used the term face as a first consideration in the issues of politeness. The duo further developed the negative and positive look through which it is easier to define and identify politeness in speech and communication (Brown and Levinson, 1987, pg.55). These two aspects inevitably rely on the needs and actions of a particular member of society whether they are young or elderly. Negative faces relate to the needs of competent adults whose actions cannot be prevented by someone else while positive face relates to the needs of each and everyone who belongs to a particular social setting and these needs is desirable to others within that society (Locher, 2011, pg.34). Therefore, anyone engaging in communication utilizes both negative and positive faces in his or her speech to facilitate proper communication and convey his or her address coherently.

Perhaps, as communication continues in the society, the aspects of negative and positive face interact with each other making it possible for conflict. Conflicts arise since there are varying needs which threaten each other and this is likely to lead to face threatening acts. Consequently, to prevent this politeness strategy are to be developed which may help in scoring harmony as well as to avoid damaging of looks by the face-threatening acts in the society. Failure to do so is likely to bring about impeding factors which may damage both the negative and the positive faces in the community. For example, face-threatening acts are likely to affect someone having negative face needs through inhibiting actions for example while requesting or ordering something and positive faces through impeding activities of criticism, accusation or the face-threatening acts may affect both faces simultaneously. Due to this, face-threatening acts have to be dealt with using politeness strategies, and Brown and Levinson proposed several politeness strategies that an addresser may use.

The strategies developed include on-record with redressive action oriented towards positive or negative face off-record, bald on record without redressive effort, and not to perform the face-threatening acts (Brown, 2005, pg.1410). However, while choosing these strategies, an addresser is always influenced by relative power (P), social distance (D), and the absolute ranking imposition (Rx). Therefore, by considering these factors, it is plausible to develop an equation for a specific speaking action involving the addresser and addressee, which aids the speaker in finding the best strategy to use in communication. Consequently, to identify the approach the speaker incorporates all these factors to develop the equation of the weightiness of speech (Wx).

Wx = D(S,H) + P(H, S) + Rx (Terkourafi, 2015, pg.221)

Similarly, this theory is applicable for all communication advances throughout the world which involve interactions. Also, these interactions are affected by social distance, relative power, and absolute rankings. However, there have been developed cultures, subcultures, and subgroups which have made interactions to differ systematically. Interactions are therefore based on people's ways of living and how they influence each other to communicate as well as the type of relationships they engage in. Despite so, this is evident that communication has sparred for a very long time and has developed through the Brown and Levinson model which has brought about the universal theory of politeness across the globe. Thus, universally people communicate easily despite any impeding factors likely to interfere with their interactions.

The power of speech has been universalized, and through the super strategies, everyone can communicate politely. Even though in the event of face-threatening acts that are likely to exist in society. These are easily dealt with politeness strategies making communication easier and plausible among every member of community. People can communicate easily without interfering with each other instead they relate well with each other. Even though factors like social distances are relevant in interaction, this depends on who (addresser) is addressing who (addressee) in any interaction. There may be those people with high social distance, the speaker, and he or she needs to communicate with people of a low social distance, the speaker will need to evaluate his speech weightiness to ensure he can easily convey his or her message to the hearers. Therefore, this would require him or her to adopt the politeness strategies in a speech to mitigate all impeding factors likely to affect the interaction.

Some researchers have been successful in identifying how the framework developed by Brown and Levinson has been useful in advancing the universal theory of politeness. Holmes (1990, pg.265) investigated the language differences in New Zealand to aid her in establishing the usefulness of the theory of politeness. The findings of her study found that speech in New Zealand utilizes both positives and negative politeness, as well as speech, is affected by aspects of societal status and relative control in the event of face-threatening acts in speech. When Holmes tries to compare male and female expression she establishes that the strategy used in appositive face aids in ensuring there is a strong interaction between the addresser and the addressee. Therefore, due to this the framework of Brown and Levinson has grown such that it is used in communication and speech. Moreover, those who engage in interactions use politeness strategies to handle any face threatening acts that may impede a positive or negative speech (Holmes, 1995, pg.186). Also, she showed that men and women act differently when it comes to speech and communication strategies have to be adopted. In this case, men adapt easily to the theory, but women find it challenging to change to the model adequately especially while considering the apology behavior.

Moreover, Lane (1990, pg.221) carried out research which he used to investigate how lawyers communicate while in criminal trials. The study was explicitly done in questioning a trial suspect at a District Court in Auckland. Lane applied the weightiness of face-threatening acts equation to establish the findings. Lane found that the theory of politeness is used by lawyers to question criminals more so, these communications involve the use and misuse of politeness strategies such that the speaker can identify the peril. Therefore, this shows how the framework has developed, and it is being used to aid in communication in every aspect of life. In this case where its applications are in cross-examinations of criminals' means that the theory is likely to be used in numerous aspects and politeness strategies would be developed to aid in proper communication for those who are engaged in any interaction.

However, the model has been heavily criticized in several contexts. Eelen (2014, pg.82) scrutinizes the Brown and Levinson model (1987) politeness theories. The criticism is based on etic and emic linguistic distinctions. Emic linguistics in politeness refers to the ability of the speaker to assess and review of his or her behavior to develop politeness. Etic linguistics, on the other hand, is the ability of a speaker to conceptualize behavior applied in sociolinguistics to aid in explanation and prediction of occurrences. Due to this, Eelen suggests that politeness is not influenced by the face-threatening acts but arises from the interaction between the emic and etic linguistics which aid the speaker developed politeness based on where he is interacting.

Watts (2003, pg.96) suggests that the framework's equation of weightiness of FTA is difficult to construct by any speaker. The components of the equation; relative power and social status need to be estimated which makes it challenging for the speaker. Therefore, Watts (2017, pg.1292) suggest that these components have to be known to calculate which establishes that the model has imposed the societal status, relative influence, and total ranking obligation in speech. Consequently, it would be difficult to ascertain that the variables contribute to the weightiness of the FTAs acts in speech since the face-threatening acts measurements rely on qualitative parameters. Due to this, a problem is likely to arise since there is a substantial difference in the power relations of both the speaker and whoever is being addressed. Eventually, this makes it difficult to adopt a suitable politeness strategy that would aid in the development of appropriate communication.

Lakoff (1998, pg.102) and Kasper (1990, pg.208) further criticized Brown and Levinson's framework for failing to consider impoliteness in speech. Different people engage in communication and how they interact with each other differs with how they will communicate to them; therefore, there is a possibility of rude or impolite behavior while communicating. According to Kasper (1990, pg.2018) abusive behavior in politeness arises from three different aspects; when the speakers have no affection control, instances of strategy rudeness as well as sarcastic contempt Therefore this shows how the model did not factor the converse of politeness in speech (Eelen, 2014, pg.92).

Universal Theory of Politeness Application in the Japanese Language

The universal theory of politeness was mainly applied in English settings, but now there is a need to consider some evidence from the non-English speaking country. Therefore, this section involves the examination of the Matsumoto arguments based on the Japanese face work and politeness behavior (Kavanagh, 2016, pg.53). Matsumoto questioned the Brown and Levinson theory of politeness claiming that it does not explicitly explain the Japanese honorific language phenomenon.

In Japan language is very subtle to the social setting unlike Western languages;...

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