Politeness judgments in personal relationships

James Price Dillard, Steven R. Wilson, Kyle James Tusing, Terry A. Kinney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


Brown and Levinson's politeness theory specifies five strategies for achieving politeness. Although the strategies are presented as ordered and mutually exclusive, there is reason to believe that they are neither. The authors offer an alternative means of classifying requests that is grounded in the phenomenology of the social actor and depends on three message features: explicitness, dominance, and argument. Separate samples of judges viewed video clips of one college student attempting to influence another and provided judgments of politeness (n = 100), explicitness and overall dominance (n = 435), linguistic dominance (n = 80), or argument (n = 60). A regression analysis predicting politeness was conducted using message as the unit of analysis. The results showed a strong, negative relationship between politeness and dominance and weaker, positive associations with explicitness and argument.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)297-325
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of Language and Social Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1997

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Linguistics and Language


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