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Conference Information

Full Title: (Im)politeness and Mixed Messages

Location: New Delhi, India
Start Date: 08-Sep-2013 - 13-Sep-2013
Contact: Michael Haugh
Meeting Email: click here to access email
Meeting Description: While it was noted in early work theorising politeness that seemingly impolite acts or forms can be means of showing friendliness or solidarity, and that ostensibly polite acts or forms can be a cover for coercion or aggression (Leech 1983), most research to date has focused on more straightforward instances of politeness, and more recently, impoliteness. Yet it is becoming increasingly clear that a notable proportion of interpersonal work does not in fact straightforwardly fit under the scope of politeness or impoliteness. Instead, interpersonal interactions can also involve mixed messages, that is, where features that point towards a polite interpretation are mixed with features that point towards an impolite interpretation (Culpeper 2011; see also Rockwell 2006). Mixed messages are often defined in social psychology as instances where two or more modes of communication (e.g. what is said versus tone of voice) are in conflict. However, in this panel mixed messages are understood more broadly to encompass instances where there are multiple interpretations of interpersonal meanings, actions or attitudes/evaluations in interaction that are ostensibly incongruous or generate a sense of interpretive dissonance in some way. Such phenomena can be analysed as social actions or practices, such as banter, teasing, jocular mockery, jocular abuse, ritual insults, sarcasm and the like, or as interpersonal evaluations, such as mock impoliteness, mock politeness, insincere or manipulative politeness, pushy politeness, under politeness, over politeness and so on (Haugh and Bousfield 2012; Kádár and Haugh forthcoming). These mixed interpersonal messages can have numerous functions, including to reinforce solidarity, cloak coercion or oppressive intent, mask and thereby make more palatable ‘true’ feelings, and even for amusement and entertainment (Culpeper 2011); and they can be oriented to building, maintaining and even challenging both identities and interpersonal relationships in discourse and interaction. The aim of this panel is to explore the ways in which such mixed interpersonal messages are generated and understood in and across various interpersonal and institutional settings in different languages and cultures. We welcome a variety of analytical and methodological approaches that address such issues in a range of languages and settings.


Culpeper, Jonathan. 2011. Impoliteness: Using Language to Cause Offence. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Haugh, Michael, and Bousfield, Derek. 2012. Mock impoliteness, jocular mockery and jocular abuse in Australian and British English. Journal of Pragmatics 44:1099-1114.
Kádár, Dániel, and Haugh, Michael. Forthcoming. Understanding Politeness. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Leech, Geoffrey. 1983. Principles of Pragmatics. London: Longman.
Rockwell, Patricia (2006) Sarcasm and Other Mixed Messages: The Ambiguous Ways People Use Language. Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press.
Linguistic Subfield: Pragmatics; Sociolinguistics
LL Issue: 23.4102

This is a session of the following meeting:
13th International Pragmatics Conference

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