Positive and Negative in Politeness Theory

Categories: Chinese culture


Politeness theory is mean how to protect our ‘face' and how to avoid we say somethings that other people don't like to hear. According to Brummernhenrich, B., & Jucks, R, they quoted ‘The concept of face derives from politeness theory and refers to the aspects of autonomy and social appreciation people claim for themselves and strive to negotiate cooperatively in discourse.'(Brummernhenrich, B., & Jucks, R,2013) So, Politeness theory can help us to have a good report when we are talking with other people.

According to Brown and Levinson, Politeness Theory is between positive and negative. Both can help us when we are face-threatening acts to restore our face.

Positive in Politeness Theory

In Politeness Theory, the positive face is seen as able and hopeful. Most people like to accept it as it looks more friendly than a negative face. Also, many people think the positive face is admired by others. In Chinese culture, when people face-to-face, they use language to attend each other needs so that can reduce the risk of hurt to other people that we think may harmful.

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(Pan, 2000) Using politeness theory, can preventative the framework, for example, avoid certain topics, changing the subject when we are talking with others. This will avoid some unpleasant things in the conversation. It is because some people may not like those topics or subjects. (DeVito,2019) According to Park, he quoted ‘Speech participants utilize linguistic politeness to avoid and reduce social friction and enhance each other's face, or public self‐image, during social interaction.

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'(Park,2008) So, Politeness Theory can build a good communication relationship between people and people. During daily life, give more polite when talking with others, it can avoid more social friction and form a positive image. After a while, we can build a good relationship. For example, when your friend asks you ‘Do you like this food?'. And you said ‘Sorry, I don't like it, it is not yummy, I heat it.'. This is a case that shows a positive threatening act to the hearer. And hearer will be sad that when he or she hears. As directly or indirectly express dislike is one of a way that damage to the hearer. Therefore, we should not directly or indirectly express dislike to everybody.

Negative in Politeness Theory

In Politeness Theory, the negative face is seen as power and risk. It can show social distance between people and people. (Stephan, E., Liberman, N., & Trope, Y., 2010). Many people like to give lots of promises. However, giving promises is a negative threatening act. Because some people do not complete the promises after giving promises with others. Therefore, giving promises is one of the negative threatening acts to the hearer. For a speaker, if they commit himself to something that they do not want to do, it is a negative threatening act to a speaker. Because they need to say something that they do not want to say. Therefore, if order or threat people to do or say anything that they do not like. It is a negative threatening act to the speaker or hearer. For example, if someone orders you to do something that you do not want to do. You may feel sad as you cannot do something which you like or want to do. Therefore, this is a case that shows a negative threatening act to the hearer and the power, distance and ranking between people and people. It also has seen the social distance between the speaker and the hearer.


Because of Politeness Theory, we can know more about the relationship between people and people with communication. Politeness Theory can harmful to others, but it also can improve the relationship between people and people. Therefore, if we always use Politeness Theory when we talk with other people, we will not be harmful to anybody. In daily life, using Politeness Theory can avoid injury speaker and hearer. If we do not injury to other people, it can improve the relationship between people and people by day today.


  1. Stephan, E., Liberman, N., & Trope, Y. (2010). Politeness and psychological distance: A construal level perspective. Journal of personality and social psychology, 98(2), 268.
  2. Pan, Y. (2000). Politeness in Chinese face-to-face interaction(No. 67). Greenwood Publishing Group.
  3. Lambert, B. L. (1996). Face and politeness in pharmacist-physician interaction. Social science & medicine, 43(8), 1189-1198.
  4. DeVito, J. A. (2019). The interpersonal communication book. Instructor, 1, 18.
  5. Park, J. R. (2008). Linguistic politeness and face‐work in computer‐mediated communication, Part 1: A theoretical framework. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 59(13), 2051-2059. 6. EDITIon, T. (2008). Interpersonal messages: Communication and relationship skills. 7. Brummernhenrich, B., & Jucks, R. (2013). Managing Face Threats and Instructions in Online Tutoring. Journal of Educational Psychology, 105(2), 341-350.
Updated: Feb 02, 2024
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Positive and Negative in Politeness Theory. (2024, Feb 08). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/positive-and-negative-in-politeness-theory-essay

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