Polite responses to polite requests

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Dale H. Schunk, Dean (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site: http://library.uncg.edu/

Abstract: Indirect requests vary in politeness, for example, Can you tell me where Jordan Hall is? is more polite than Shouldn't you tell me where Jordan Hall is? By one theory, the more the literal meaning of a request implies personal benefits for the listener, within reason, the more polite is the request. This prediction was confirmed in Experiment I. Responses to indirect requests also vary in politeness. For Can you tell me where Jordan Hall is?, the response Yes, I can — it's up the street is more polite than It's up the street. By an extension of that theory, the more attentive the responder is to all of the requester's meaning, the more polite is the response. This prediction was confirmed in Experiments 2, 3 and 4. From this evidence, we argued that people ordinarily compute both the literal and the indirect meanings of indirect requests. They must if they are to recognize when the speaker is and isn't being polite, and if they are to respond politely, impolitely, or even neutrally.

Additional Information

Cognition, 8, 111-143.
Language: English
Date: 1980
Social mores, Politeness, Direct and indirect requests, Literal and indirect meaning, Cognition

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