Do insults always insult? Genuine impoliteness versus non-genuine impoliteness in colloquial Spanish
This study is based mainly on conversations extracted from a corpus of spoken Spanish gathered in the metropolitan area of Valencia, Spain (Briz and Val.Es.Co Group 2002). Adopting a socio-pragmatic perspective (Bravo and Briz 2004), our purpose is to describe the social effects produced by the use of certain strategies related to (im)politeness phenomena in face-to-face interaction with the ongoing negotiation of participants’ face (Goffman 1967). We will refer in this paper to Culpeper’s concept of authentic impoliteness (1996, 2003, 2005), aimed at describing the damage of a hearer’s face. For this author, insults constitute intentionally threatening acts. However, in our study we found that some expressions commonly used for insulting or mocking can, in certain contexts, produce an affiliative social effect, strengthening feelings of solidarity within a group and of closeness between interlocutors. We call this use non-authentic impoliteness. Kienpointner (1997) and Culpeper (op. cit.) identify this impoliteness as mock impoliteness. In turn, Zimmermann (2003) uses the term anti-politeness to refer to similar strategies of impoliteness. We follow Zimmermann’s concept but without restricting it to the function of creating male teen identity only. This is because in the Spanish society we observe other groups in which such identity feature is absent. We also take into account Bravo’s concepts relative to the crucial role of context to consider participants’ expectations and shared knowledge in a given society, such as Bravo’s socio-cultural hypothesis (2003: 104; Bravo, in this volume). In our analysis of colloquial interactions, we have registered different linguistic realisations that can be classified as insults in their unmarked form. This unmarkedness is not present in all instances: In certain cases, for example, insults can encourage an interpersonal affiliation between participants. The markedness of insults depends on certain contextual factors (such as interactions between close friends) and an adequate socio-cultural contextualisation and textual co-textualisation. As mentioned above, this markedness would constitute realisations of non-authentic impoliteness. It seems then that there would be a principle of no offence between participants that characterises the communicative exchange.