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‘Politeness’ refers to a behavior that people adopt during their social interactions, in order to deliver a particular communicative intent. Pragmatic and sociolinguistic have found that politeness is an increasingly common phenomenon as a wide range of politeness strategies could be identified both in daily conversation and in TV formats. There is little data on politeness strategies’ occurrences in media products, and the current study hopes to improve this new and still rising field of research. This work examined and compared, throughout a qualitative corpus-based analysis, adolescents’ awareness and utilization of politeness strategies toward their interlocutors in two teen dramas, an American and a British one, and also focused on the effect that the choice of these strategies exerts in shaping youth’s identity. A descriptive qualitative analysis was chosen as the methodological approach for this research study because it gives particular attention to the uniqueness of an event’s occurrence in a given context.
The data-set has been collected from a small manually coded corpus, made up of twenty episodes’ scripts taken from two teen dramas cited above, called Awkward and My Mad Fat Diary, respectively. These latter have been selected as the main sources of data, since the teen drama is a television genre that, specifically referring to teenagers and their world, allows us to observe characters’ attitudes not only in interactions between peers but also in which occurring between individuals where there is a wide age gap. The data collection was examined by watching all the episodes with their scripts placed alongside, and then it was classified according to the four types of the politeness strategies, off-record, bald-on-record, positive and negative politeness as brilliantly identified by Brown and Levinson.
The result of this study shown that, independently from characters’ cultural and personal backgrounds (in Awkward Jenna is an American teenager who struggles with her identity, especially after an accident is misconstrued as a suicide attempt, and in My Mad Fat Diary Rachel is a British teenager with a binge eating disorder), positive politeness strategies are preferred in the majority of communicative interactions as they behave as social accelerators by giving a sense of common belonging.
Furthermore, it was observed that the choice of a strategy depends on the character’s self-perception, who would opt for bald on record acts in situations where there is a certain familiarity with the interlocutor or where utterances’ emphasis is needed and recurring to negative politeness especially when there is a clear willingness of social distance.
The research study has shown that not only the positive politeness seems to be a more effective way in showing solidarity or indicating a desire for intimacy between people than any other strategies but also that their occurrence plays a decisive role in identity’s affirmation among peers. Future studies of politeness strategies could explain what people actually understand as polite or impolite in order to see if the results would be similar to those obtained in corpus-based analyses.
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