Retour vers liste

Détail de la contribution

Auteur: Jessica SOLTYS

Co-Auteur(s): Napoleon KATSOS, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom Marina TERKOURAFI, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, United States

Why imply something when you could say it explicitly? Cross-cultural motivations for off-record indirect speech

Abstract/Résumé: This paper is paper is part of an ongoing theoretical and empirical project on off-record indirect speech, acts typified by novel utterances such as hints and innuendo and interpretable for both literal (direct) or implied (indirect) meanings. The utterance “It’s a bit chilly in here,” for example, is an off-record request, conveying both a direct meaning (an assertion about the temperature) and an indirect meaning (a request to close an open window). We present a detailed analytical overview of two prominent accounts of off-record speech, Brown and Levinson’s Politeness Theory (1987) and Pinker and colleagues’ Strategic Speaker account (Pinker, et al. 2008; Lee and Pinker 2010). Brown & Levinson incorporate their discussion of off-record speech into their larger account of polite language. They focus on the notion of ‘face’, with face threat calculated by the combined weight of three sociological factors: the social distance between the interlocutors, the balance of relative between them, and culture-specific imposition associated with the speech act in question. They assert that off-record speech is ideal when weight is at its highest. In such scenarios, the off-record act allows the speaker to respect the addressee’s negative face wants by softening the imposition upon him and thereby providing him with an ‘out’ should wish not to comply. Pinker and colleagues propose an alternative motivation for off-record indirectness. Their theory is designed to account for those scenarios that do not fall within the realm of politeness-based accounts, namely potentially contentious speech acts such as threats, bribery, and sexual propositions. Such acts, they explain, pose a number of risks to the speaker. The speaker issuing a bribe, for example, may be subject to financial or legal consequences. A speaker attempting a sexual proposition risks social and emotional consequences as a result of his challenge to the relationship (based here on evolutionary biology) at play between him and the addressee. Using a game-theoretical model, Pinker and colleagues assert that off-record indirect speech is the optimal solution for these acts, affording the speaker plausible deniability and allowing him to efficiently and meaningfully balance potential costs and benefits. The accounts are contrasted, with overlap highlighted and significant practical and theoretical differences explained. We aim to disentangle the theories, and explore the scope and limitations of each, in an effort to broaden current theoretical understanding of the phenomenon of off-record indirect speech.