Politeness in compliment responses: A perspective from naturally occurring exchanges in Turkish

Şükriye Ruhi


This paper analyses a corpus of compliment responses in Turkish according to the conversational maxim approach (Leech 1983, 2003) and the face-management approach (Brown and Levinson 1987) with a view to extending the conceptualisation of self-presentation in theorising on politeness. It observes that the two theories ground politeness on consideration for alter and give precedence to politeness in the sense of displaying deference and solidarity at the expense of self-politeness, described in the present study as speaker need for display of competence, self-confidence, and individuality in interaction, besides the need for non-imposition. Regarding the maxim approach, the paper argues that conversational implicatures triggered by a variety of responses ultimately tie to the Tact Maxim and more specifically to the Sympathy Maxim in the Turkish context. The analysis reveals that compliment responses may override the Politeness Principle, that self-presentational concerns are crucial motivating factors, and that face concerns need to be incorporated into the model. From the perspective of the face-management approach, the study supports the claim in O’Driscoll (1996) and Spencer-Oatey (2000) that the notions of positive and negative face as need for community and autonomy need to be disentangled from the theory’s conceptualisation of face as public self-image. With the incorporation of a number of self-politeness strategies, the face-theoretic analysis builds on this distinction and integrates it with the concept of interactional imbalance by extending an analytic framework adapted from Bayraktaroğlu (1991). The paper concludes with suggestions on how the two theories may complement each other.

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