Publication details [#62922]

Kecskés, István. 2017. Context-dependency and impoliteness in intercultural communication. Journal of Politeness Research 13 (1) : 7–32.
Publication type
Article in journal
Publication language
Place, Publisher
De Gruyter


On the basis of inquiry on L1s and cross-cultural assay of impoliteness, most of the researchers (e.g. Culpeper 2005, 2009, Haugh 2011; Watts 2003) in the field appear to agree that no act is inherently impolite, and that such an interpretation depends on the context or speech situation that inflences interpretation (see Culpeper 2009). The article explores this context-dependency in intercultural communication where interlocutors cannot always depend on much existing common ground, shared knowledge and conventionalized context but need to co-construct most of those in the communicative process. It is claimed that restricted shared knowledge and common ground may limit the interpretation process to the propositional content of utterances, which may result in a growth in the actual situational context-creating power of utterances. Recent inquiry (e.g. Abel 2003; Bortfeld 2002, 2003; Cieślicka 2004, 2006; House 2002, 2003; Kecskes 2007) showed that in intercultural communication the most salient interpretation for non-native speakers is usually the propositional meaning of an utterance. So interpretation generally relies on what the utterance says rather than on what it actually communicates. As a consequence of their taking propositional meaning for the actual meaning of an utterance, interlocutors are sometimes unaware of impoliteness transferred implicitly or via paralinguistic means.