Agency and impoliteness in Korean online interactions
(Im)politeness research has often focused either on the importance of social norms or on the intentions of the speaker, with the active role of the listener in assigning social meanings overlooked. This limitation particularly applies to so-called “discernment languages” such as Korean and Japanese. The current paper addresses this gap by offering a small-scale qualitative study of recipient agency in Korean naturally occurring computer-mediated communication (CMC). The data analyzed includes 14 text messages between the recipient (the proprietor of an online food business) and his customer, which were posted on a blog that he owned and operated. We focus on how the recipient agentively evaluates the language usage of the customer, including inconsistent evaluations of her use of non-honorific language, or panmal. The results suggest that the instability of (im)politeness interpretations cannot be explained solely by social norms or intentions but should also include the socially-mediated agency of the recipient.
Keywords: agency, (im)politeness, integrative pragmatics, CMC, Korean
Published online: 21 October 2019
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