• Ingen resultater fundet

9. Analysing the Comprehension of Form of Approaching the Hearer

9.2.2.2. The process across different languages

Yet the question still remains of how exactly the two processes interact when it comes to comprehension and the question of being relative to language or universal. For the native speakers of English, the universal process of directives is very similar to the language-dependent communication process for hearer-oriented languages, i.e. naming is a symptom of the speaker’s experience (experience), framing is a signal to the hearer (information) and anchoring is a model of a situation in reality (model). When paraphrasing the answers of the native speakers into a prototypical comprehension, I assumed that they understood the text as a directive and that they therefore also understood it both as a model of how to act (i.e. what to do), as a signal to act at all (i.e. that they understood that it was in fact a directive of some sort) and as a symptom of the speaker’s experience (i.e. as having origin somewhere in the speaker’s mental universe). But I

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was interested in seeing and trying to express which linguistic elements they might understand as being Satisfaction Conditions and which Obedience Conditions.

In terms of relating this to the comprehension of the non-native speakers, the question of universal vs relative is naturally more pressing since the communication processes of the non-native speakers are quite different in composition to that of the process for directives. For the Russian speakers of English, the communication process of reality-oriented languages means naming does not relate to the speaker’s experience, but rather to information, framing does not involve information but instead relates to the situation in reality and anchoring is not related to the situation but focuses on finding the speaker’s experience of it. For the Chinese and Japanese speakers of English, the communication process of speaker-oriented languages means that naming relates to the situation in reality as opposed to the speaker’s experience of it, framing instead focuses on the speaker’s experience but not on information to the hearer, and anchoring involves information to the hearer, but does not relate to the situation in reality. If the answers of the non-native speakers were completely similar to those of the non-native speakers, then it would be a strong indication that, when it comes to directives, both the process of production and the process of comprehension are universal, but I would still not be able to say, then, how the two processes interact. If, however, the answers from the non-native speakers reflected a different comprehension than the prototypical comprehension of the native speakers, I might be able to say something about how the two processes interact by looking at where the differences in comprehension occur.

Analysing the text with perhaps include

In the first of the texts that the participants come across, the linguistic formulation of the (possible) request is a hedged imperative. According to Brown & Levinson (1987), the imperative itself would be doing the (supposedly) Face Threatening Act on record and baldly, i.e. their first and hence least polite strategy. However, as the formulation includes the hedging perhaps, we would more likely be dealing with a slight redressive action through negative politeness. However, as discussed in Chapter 6, the idea that the imperative in itself is less polite because of its directness or lack of redressive measures has been heavily criticised from many angles (and languages). It is therefore particularly interesting to see how it is comprehended by the participants (native speakers and non-native speakers both) in terms of politeness, but also in terms of the intention they ascribe to it and how they respond to it in terms of their willingness to change.

123 The native speakers of English

If we look at the Politeness Evaluation for the native speakers of English, two things are worth noticing. First of all, although we do see a majority for neutral in terms of politeness (see figure 13 below), it is not a convincing majority. In fact, it is only just above half. And second of all, the rest of the participants divide almost equally between polite and rude, albeit with slightly more for polite than for rude.

Figure 13 Overview of the politeness evaluation of 'perhaps include' by the native speakers of English. Numbers of participants selecting a given answer are presented as percentages for ease of comparison across groups, as the different groups have slightly different numbers of participants.

These two things combined are interesting, because they suggest that for the native speakers the Politeness Evaluation is more of an individual, context-based choice rather than a grammatical distinction tied to the linguistic formulation of the (possible) request. If the Politeness Evaluation were a mere grammatical distinction based on the linguistic formulation, then we should expect to see a much greater majority forming, and we would not expect to find a rather large number of the participants in opposing positions, i.e. divided between polite and rude.

To get a better idea of why then the text may be evaluated as both neutral, polite and rude in terms of politeness, it may be helpful to take a closer look at the native speakers’ interpretation of the Intention.

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Figure 14 Overview of the interpretation of Intention of 'perhaps include' by the native speakers of English. Numbers of participants selecting a given answer are presented as percentages for ease of comparison across groups, as the different groups have slightly different numbers of participants.

As can be seen from figure 14 above, the native speakers of English have no uniform interpretation of the Intention behind the text. There is no real majority, but they do seem to group around mainly three Intentions with 38% in favour of Suggestion followed by Piece of Advice with 29% and then Request with 24 %. Order and Opinion are selected by a single participant each and what the combination of answers into complete utterances shows is that both of these find the text to be rude. Interestingly, Request is the only selected Intention that is not combined with rude. A Suggestion may be rude, a Piece of Advice may be rude, and both Order and Opinion were rude, but Request is not. It is just neutral or in fact even polite for one of the participants. Why is this?

If a Request were to imply a greater threat to the hearer’s negative face because it supposes a stronger imposition on the hearer than Suggestion or Piece of Advice as suggested by Brown &

Levinson, then depending of course on the interpretation of the social variables power and social distance we would expect a need for more negative politeness than a simple hedged imperative to avoid being impolite, but this does not seem to be the case here.

Suggestion and Piece of Advice are similar in the sense that they are both based on the speaker having some sort of input to the hearer’s possible doing or not doing something which the speaker finds would be relevant for the hearer to consider in relation to the hearer’s deciding on doing or not doing that something. They are, however, also different in the sense that Suggestion puts less

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emphasis on subsequent changes than Piece of Advice does. In her semantic dictionary of speech act verbs Wierzbicka (1987) places the verbs Advise and Suggest in the same group and notes on Advise that “I imagine by saying this I can cause you to do it” (Wierzbicka, 1987, p. 181), whereas she notes for Suggest that “I don’t know if you will do it” (Wierzbicka, 1987, p. 187). As for Request, which is in a group of its own, the emphasis on the subsequent changes is even stronger in the sense that the speaker expects the hearer to carry out the changes: “I assume that X will cause Y to happen” (Wierzbicka, 1987, p. 51). In other words, a Request would imply greater expectations of action from the hearer than Piece of Advice and Suggest. When we consider the Willingness to Change by the native speakers, however, it is quite clear that almost all of the participants, regardless of which Intention they interpreted or how they evaluated the text in terms of politeness, would indeed carry out the subsequent changes, as can be seen from Figure 15 below.

Figure 15 Overview of the willingness to change of 'perhaps include' by the native speakers of English. Numbers of participants selecting a given answer are presented as percentages for ease of comparison across groups, as the different groups have slightly different numbers of participants.

It does deserve to be mentioned, however, that the combination of answers into complete sentences show that the two selections of Perhaps Change are in fact found in combination with Suggestion. In this case then the notion based on Wierzbicka that a Suggestion may be less strong than a Piece of Advice and Request is supported. However, for the vast majority of the native speakers of English, there seemed to be no difference regarding the willingness to change

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compared to whether they interpreted the main intention of the text as a Suggestion, Piece of Advice or Request or considered it polite, neutral or rude.

If we are to briefly sum up the discussion of the native speakers’ comprehension until now, what we are able to see from all of this is the fact that the hedging perhaps clearly does not seem to be comprehended as relating to the action to be carried out following the request, but it might explain why the text was interpreted as a Suggestion and Piece of Advice. We may also conclude that in terms of politeness, a small majority favoured neutral, but selections of polite and rude were also present. It will be interesting to see if this pattern continues in the following texts, but it does indicate that the linguistic formulation with the hedged imperative is not inherently polite, neutral or rude, but may in fact depend on the overall interpretation of text and context.