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Imprisoned in EnglishThe Hazards of English as a Default Language$
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Anna Wierzbicka

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199321490

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199321490.001.0001

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Talking to Other People: “Politeness” and Cultural Scripts

Talking to Other People: “Politeness” and Cultural Scripts

(p.89) 8 Talking to Other People: “Politeness” and Cultural Scripts
Imprisoned in English

Anna Wierzbicka

Oxford University Press

Speech practices and tacit assumptions associated with them vary a great deal across languages and cultures. Yet in Anglophone social science such diversity is often ignored and Anglo/English ways of speaking are mistaken for the human norm. A particularly striking example of such absolutization of Anglo norms is presented by an influential article by the American philosopher H. P. Grice (1975). Grice’s basic ideas were transplanted onto the ground of linguistics by linguists Penelope Brown and Stephen Levinson and continue to exercise considerable influence in language studies. This chapter discusses in detail the Anglocentrism of Grice’s “Cooperative Principle” and of the linguistic theories based on it, and offers an alternative: the theory of “cultural scripts.” The explanatory power of this theory and its language-independent character are illustrated with many cultural scripts, some of which are formulated not only in English but also in Chinese.

Keywords:   theories of “politeness”, theory of cultural scripts, cultural scripts in English and Chinese, Grice’s “Cooperative Principle”, Searle on “politeness”, Brown and Levinson on “politeness”, Richard Watts on “politeness”, Francis Bacon on words

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