English Language Theories and Theorists

Some important Theories and Theorists for English Language.

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  • Created by: Rajvir
  • Created on: 10-05-14 18:06

Grice's Maxims

1. Maxims of Quantity - when someone tries to be as informative as possible, they give the exact information and no more.

2. Maxims of Quality - where someone tries to be truthful, they do not give any false information or that lacks evidence.

3. Maxim of Relation - when someone tries to be relevant, and says things that are pertinent to the discussion.

4. Maxim of Manner - when someone tries to be as clear, as brief, and as orderly as they can and avoiding ambiguity and obscurity.

These maxims make up the Cooperative Principle.

According to Grice, the cooperative principle is a norm governing all cooperative interactions amongst humans. He suggested that conversation is based on a shared principle of cooperation.

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Lakoff's Politeness Principle

Lakoff developed the Politeness Principle.

She devised 3 maxims that are usually followed in interaction:
- Don't impose
- Give the receiver options
- Make the receiver feel good

She said that these are paramount in good interaction. By not following these maxims, one is said to be flouting the maxims.

Lakoff proposes that women's speech can be distinguished from men's. Women tend to:
- Hedge
- Use empty adjectives
- Use superpolite forms
- Apologise more
- Avoid coarse language
- Use indirect requests.

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Brown and Levison's Politeness Theory

Brown and Levison developed their 'face theory' based on the principle of our desire to be liked and to not be imposed upon.

Face is defined as the public self image every adult portrays which must be attended to in interaction.

:) - positive face - desire to be liked and appreciated
:( - negative face - desire to have freedom and not be imposed upon

A Face Threatening Act (FTA) is an act which deliberately threatens the face needs of others.

Rules about Politeness...
- Acts which threaten the audience's negative face: ordering, advising, warning
- Acts which threaten the audience's positive face: complaining, disagreeing, criticising
- Acts which threaten a speaker's negative face: accepting an offer, accepting thanks, promising unwillingly
- Acts which threaten a speaker's positive face: apologizing, accepting compliments and confessing

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Erving Goffman's Face Theory

Goffman worked out that we present a particular image of ourselves to others - and he calls the image we present 'face'.

Example: 'I want to listen to a new CD but can't get a copy of my own'

Option 1. Do the act on record -> 'Give me that CD' -> Face Saving Act -> Positive Politeness 'I really appreciate all the music you have let me borrow...' or Negative Politeness 'I'm really sorry to ask you again but...'

Option 2. Do the act off record -> 'It's a shame I won't be able to listen to that new CD'

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Peter Trudgill's Overt and Covert Prestige

Overt Prestige: Speakers who adopt prestigious dialect to gain social status - gained by the use of Standard English. Over prestige is usually associated with the spoken language of the 'elite' social groups within society.

Covert Prestige: Used by speakers who chose not to adopt a standard dialect. It derives from behaviour that goes against the norms and conventions of 'respectable' society.

Trudgill found that women use overt prestige as they are more status conscious than men and more aware of social significance of linguistic variables...
- Social position of women is less secure in society so they use overt prestige in an attempt to secure their position linguistically.
- Men are socially accepted due to job, earnings and abilities so this is why they tend to use covert prestige.

FLAW - This study is very time dependent - 1974 - when women were significantly seen as the less dominant sex - times have changed therefore theory may not be valid anymore.

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Howard Giles' Accomodation Theory

The accomodation theory suggests that we adjust our speech to 'accomodate' the person we are addressing. Giles believed that the commuication theory can be applied to almost any situation. The communication theory also shares values of politeness with the 'politeness theory' by Lakoff.

Convergence - when someone alters their speech to match or mimic the speech pattern of the person they are addressing. This decreases social distance betwen people. We change the accent, rate of talking and type of words we choose when speaking to someone else.

Divergence - when someone identifies a speech pattern of a person they are talking to and makes an effort to prevent themselves copying or mimicking the speech pattern.

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Labov's Narrative Theory

The Narrative Theory tries to explain how oral narrative is structured.

Abstract (A) - the indication that a narrative is about to start and the speaker wants the listener's attention.

Orientation (O) - the who, what, where and why of the narrative. This sets the scene and provides further contextual information for the listener.

Complicating Action (CA) - the main body providing a range of narrative detail

Resolution (R) - the final events, gives narrative closure

Evaluation (E) - additions to the basic story, highlights attitudes or to command the listener's attention at important moments

Coda (C) - a sign the narrative is complete.

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