Roberts, Nichola (2019) The Impact of Anxiety Disorders on the Choice of Politeness Strategies: A Case Study of Women Postgraduates. Masters thesis, University of Huddersfield.

The prominent theory of politeness proposed by Brown and Levinson (1987) suggests that the choice of politeness strategies is determined by power, social distance and rank of the imposition. To account for differences, it is suggested that cultural agreement on which factor is most important impacts the choices made. This study argues that there are factors beyond culturally agreed norms which affect the choice of politeness strategy used. Anxiety impacts millions of people around the world and can influence every aspect of a person’s life, including their behaviour. It is, therefore, reasonable to assume that it may also impact how a person uses language including how they perform politeness.

This study consists of a corpus analysis of face-to-face interviews with sufferers of anxiety and an online survey taken by anxious and non-anxious participants. Results from this study show that the anxious interviewees were far more prone to using positive politeness strategies than negative politeness and that, when asked to choose politeness strategies they would use, they were more likely to avoid face threatening acts or enact them off-record than their non-anxious counterparts. The results of the corpus analysis, in particular, show a strong preference for seeking agreement with the Hearer and appealing to the Hearer’s positive face as opposed to reducing the imposition. The survey suggests that, when evaluating their behaviour, anxious people were more prone to avoidance than non-anxious people. While some answers were similar, it became clear that there were notable differences in choice of politeness strategy.

By annotating the corpus with politeness strategies, this study was able to provide numerical evidence for politeness theory where the research is usually discursive. This method proved a useful tool in enumerating data that would otherwise have been intuitive in nature. The results of this study suggest that corpus analysis could be implemented in other politeness studies to provide empirical data as evidence.

FINAL THESIS - Roberts, Nichola.pdf - Accepted Version
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