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Pragmatics and Humors: Impoliteness
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Pragmatics and Humors: Impoliteness


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  • Good morning and Thank you for the nice introduction. My name is Kriangkrai Vathanalaoha from Srinakharinwot University. I’m glad that I have an opportunity to present my research to everyone. My research topic is shown in the screen already and it is called “Pragmatics and Humors” which literally means that my research will apply pragmatics theories to humors in order to understand mechanisms in comedy conversations. I pick out “Friends” in order to exemplify how pragmatics theories can be used to understand humors in practice.
  • Besides, humorous turns will be based on “canned laughter” throughout the series.
  • First of all, I wanna introduce some background in Friends. In the series, there are 6 feature characters. Ross, Rachel, Monica, Chandler, Phoebe, Joey. They are close friends from different backgrounds. Phoebe Buffay is a strange character, according to the audience perception and critics, she is eccentric and hard-to-predict. Her childhood is difficult, she used to smug people, lived on street. So she is an interesting person to see if how linguistic evidence can be relevant with her uniqueness in character.
  • Her aggressiveness, Street Phoebe, is shown here. Nobody wants to bother her when she’s moody.
  • There are several theories pointing out how humors occur within utterances. Four main theories can be seen in the screen to which I will briefly explain in the next slide. Pragmatic theories that I will use in this research are cooperative principle and impoliteness. I will explain in details later
  • That’s the brief for the first branch in literature review. For pragmatic theory, I am particularly interested in Cooperative Principle because American Sitcom involves conversation and turn-taking mechanisms. there are four maxims which are crucial to understand how comedy works. Communication is a process that requires interlocuters to be cooperative with each other. Maxim of relation is to be relevant with the speech focused. The Maxim of Quality is to make your contribution one that is true, or not to say things that are false or for which you lack adequate evidence. The Maxim of Quantity is to not make more or less informative than required. The Maxim of Manner is to avoid ambiguity and obscurity and be brief and orderly.
  • This is an example of breaking the maxim of quality because when someone asks “how does this cookie taste?” we can answer simply that it’s not good, it’s bad, or it is not delicious. Phoebe, for example, breaks this maxim by using the phrase this is what evil must taste like to give an implicature to the other speaker.
  • Whenever those maxims are violated, the other speaker will need to save the utterance from merely being a faulty conversational contribution. In some cases, breaking maxims can threatening some people’s faces. Positive face want is that the speaker wants respect from the other people. Negative face want is that the speaker does not want some people to impede his/her freedom.
  • Therefore, there are opportunities to attack faces when the maxims are violated. Brown and Levinson’s superstrategies in order to avoid FTA can be categorized in five groups as follows.
  • Impoliteness suprastrategies are proposed by Culpeper (1996)
  • If politeness is the way to minimize the face threatening act, Impoliteness is the way to maximize those face threatening act. For instance in the slide, degrees of impoliteness depends on how the speaker responses to the question “how was my midterm paper?”
  • Phoebe, for example, when she says “you Americans always butcher the French language”, this can be seen that she uses negative impoliteness to ridicule others, saying that they “Americans” are all “butcher” the French language.
  • Comparision between Politeness and Impoliteness suprastrategies,
  • It is not possible to apply theories mention to jokes without conversational forms, like funny monologue, or when Phoebe’s singing songs with strange and dirty words. So my research will focus on conversation.
  • Maxims are found violated by Phoebe Buffay, however we found that Maxim of Relation is mostly violated. Maxim of Quality and Quantity are found violated in percentage shown
  • Phoebe’s mother was dead but she exaggerates this point that her mom will be alive and enjoy her birthday altogether.
  • Rachel is a terrible waitress, so when Phoebe says that someone might get what they actually ordered, it will definitely be an irony.
  • Rachel’s ring was lost when she were making lazagna with Monica. Joey asks when did you have it on last? Phoebe answers that Probably right before she lost it. this is unnecessary information.
  • When Ross sees Rachel talking to her then-boyfriend and Ross asks Phoebe to tell him what she sees outside the window. Ross feels panic when Phoebe says “don’t do that” as Rachel might do something romantically with her boyfriend, Phoebe suddenly switches to “pigeon”
  • As similar, Ross is talking about the monkey, but Phoebe rather focuses on Ross’s friend “Bathel”.
  • Phoebe won’t clarify what she means by “bearings”.
  • Phoebe says as if she works in the mine when she got her first pay check. In reality, she works in Dairy Queen and the tragedy just happened outside her workplace.
  • In similar way, Phoebe uses impoliteness strategies in Bald on Record mostly throughout the series.
  • When they are arguing whether men or women are better. Phoebe says what she feels.
  • Phoebe attempts to exclude Mr. Heckles from her and the cat. So she says “he seems to hate you. Are you sure?”
  • Phoebe frightens the girl who is taking their friend’s pizza.
  • When David talks loudly when she plays the guitar and sing a song, Phoebe tries to be polite to say that he can spill the beans to the audience. Could you speak up please, seems to be polite, but actually she is mocking politeness strategies.
  • In the table, in conclusion, the results show that Phoebe violates/breaks maxim of quality mostly. While she is also using Bald on record strategies in Impoliteness model.
  • The Maxims of Quality and Manners are violated mostly. In addition, Phoebe uses “exaggeration” in order to violate the maxim of quality. It is reflecting on her so-called “eccentricity” as she is always be outrageous throughout the series. Some critics also says that she is “faithful and love her friends most” this can be relevant with the Bald on record because she is always shows her anger, real feelings without redress, to her friends . When she doesn’t like something, she does not keep it to herself, but rather spread it out to her friends. This is a start for studying humor and characterization. In the future, this research, however, needs further investigation in non-verbal language as well in order to explain more on Phoebe’s characteristics.
  • Transcript

    • 2. Objectives To explore the linguistic characteristics of Phoebe Buffay’s humorous turns by frameworks of CP and ImpolitenessTheory To apply pragmatic theories to reflect on Phoebe’s specific characterization
    • 3. Phoebe’s Characteristics  Eccentric  Telepathic/ déjà vu  Exasperated, reverts to a harsher "Street Phoebe" persona Note  The first Emmy award winning character among the others
    • 4. Literature Review: Humors  HumorTheories 1. Superiority 2. Incongruity 3. Relief 4. Semantic Script  PragmaticTheories 1. Cooperative Principle 2. (Im) politeness
    • 5. Humor Theories  Superiority “laughter is an expression of sudden glory and a realization of being superior to someone else” (Hobbes, cf. Berger (1993))  Incongruity “a conflict between what is expected and what actually occurs in a punch line”  Relief “when the surge of energy is in excess of what is needed, the surplus is dispelled through laugher (Morreall, 1983)”
    • 6. Humor Theories  Semantic Script “humor involves a semantic-pragmatic process which includes a semantic opposition between the scripts” (Raskin, 1985) Patient: Is the doctor at home? Doctor’sWife: No, you can come in and wait for me in bed.
    • 7. Pragmatic Theory  Grice’s (1975)Cooperative Principle Maxim of Relation be relevant Maxim of Quality make your contribution one that is true Maxim of Quantity not make more or less informative than required Maxim of Manner avoid ambuiguity/obscurity brief/orderly
    • 8.  Breaking Maxims can threat some people’s faces. Positive FaceWant – want respect from others Negative FaceWant – not want other people to impede his/her freedom
    • 9. Avoid Face Threatening Act  Brown and Levinson’s (1975) Politeness Superstrategies  Bald on record (“the most direct, clear, unambiguous and concise way possible”)  Positive Politeness (“paying attention to the hearer, expressing interest, approval or sympathy”)  Negative Politeness (“mollifying the force of an utterance, deference”)  Off-record (“performed by means of an implicature (Grice 1975)”)  Withhold the FTA (“silence”)
    • 10. Impoliteness’s Strategies  Bald on record impoliteness: the FTA is performed in a direct, clear, unambiguous and concise way  Positive Impoliteness: ignore the other, exclude the other from an activity, be disinterested, unconcerned, unsympathetic  Negative Impoliteness: frighten, condescend, scorn, ridicule, belittle, invade the other’s space  Sarcasm or mock politeness (irony): obviously insincere, using politeness for impoliteness.  Off-record impoliteness: implicature but in such a way that one atrributable intention clearly out- weighs any others.  Withhold politeness: the absence of politeness work
    • 11.  (Im) Politeness Question: “How was my midterm paper?” Perhaps it could have been improved It wasn’t good It was bad It was crap You must have shit for brains Politeness Impoliteness
    • 12.  Impoliteness can only happen when  1) the speaker communicates face-attack intentionally, or  2) the hearer perceives and/or constructs behavior as intentionally face-attacking,  3) a combination of 1) and 2)
    • 13. Culpeper’s impoliteness Bald-on-Record Positive Negative Off-record With-hold FTA ------------------------------------------- Sarcasm Off-record Negative Positive Bald-on-Record Face Enhancing Strategies Face Aggravating/ Attacking Strategies
    • 14. Note  It is almost impossible when confronting jokes without conversational jokes, conversational form.
    • 15. DATA COLLECTION  Friends 1st season  Phoebe Buffay’s humorous turns:
    • 16. Analysis of the Cooperative Principle  The maxim mostly violated by Phoebe is Maxim of Relation (16.17%) Maxim of Manner (25.15%) Maxim of Quality (47.30%) Maxim of Quantity (11.38%)
    • 17. Violating the Maxim of Quality  Speakers have to try to make their conversational contribution correspond to the truth.  exaggeration, irony, excuse, pretending
    • 18. Ep 7  Exaggeration – refers to the way that the speaker overstates the features, defects or the strangeness of someone or something  Rachel: So Pheebs, what do you want for your birthday?  Phoebe:Well, what I really want is for my mom to be alive and enjoy it with me .
    • 19. Ep 6  Irony – “expresses utterance completely different from the literal meaning” Ross:You know, there's nothing wrong with speaking correctly. Rachel: "Indeed there isn't"... I should really get back to work. Phoebe:Yeah, 'cause otherwise someone might get what they actually ordered. Rachel: Ohh-ho-hooohhh.The hair comes out, and the gloves come on.
    • 20. Violating The Maxim of Quantity  Less information (When Rachel lost her ring) Chandler and Joey: Oh!Yeah! Joey: Alright, when'd'ya have it on last? Phoebe: Doy! Probably right before she lost it!
    • 21. Violating the Maxim of Relation  Irrelevant – “unrelated response so as to show her diverted attention Phoebe: Okay, they're just talking... Ross:Yeah, well, does he look upset? Does he look like he was just told to shove anything? Phoebe: No, no actually, he's smiling.. and... Oh my God, don't do that!! Ross: What? What? What?! Phoebe:That man across the street just kicked that pigeon !
    • 22. Ep 10  Changing the topic – divert attention from the current situation  Ross: 'That' would be Marcel.You wanna say hi?  Monica: No, no, I don't.  Rachel: Oh, he is precious!Where did you get him?  Ross: My friend Bethel rescued him from some lab.  Phoebe:That is so cruel!Why? Why would a parent name their child Bethel ?
    • 23. Violating the Maxim of Manner  Lexical ambiguity  Phoebe: (entering) Hi, sorry I'm late, I couldn't find my bearings.  Rachel: Oh, you-you mean your earrings?  Phoebe:What'd I say ?
    • 24.  Situational ambiguity Rachel: Look-look-look-look-look, my first pay check! Look at the window, there's my name! Hi, me! Phoebe: I remember the day I got my first pay check.There was a cave in one of the mines, and eight people were killed. Monica:Wow, you worked in a mine? Phoebe: I worked in a Dairy Queen, why?
    • 25. (Im)Politeness  Sarcasm (11.32%)  Off-record (17.75%)  Negative (18.75%)  Positive (18.75%)  Bald-on-Record(33.42%)
    • 26. Ep 5 Bald on Record  Joey: Ok, you know what blows my mind? Women can see breasts any time they want. You just look down and there they are. How you get any work done is beyond me.  Phoebe: Oh, ok, you know what I don't get? The way guys can do so many mean things, and then not even care.
    • 27. Ep 7 Positive Impoliteness Rachel: Oh. (they knock at the next door, Mr. Heckles answers) Hi.We just found this cat and we're looking for the owner. Mr. Heckles: Er, yeah, it's mine. Phoebe: (trying to hold back the struggling cat) He seems to hate you. Are you sure ?
    • 28. Ep 8 Negative Impoliteness  Phoebe: Ooh, wait.. wait, I see a woman.  Monica: Please tell me it's his mother.  Phoebe: Definitely not his mother.  Monica: Oh, no...  Phoebe: Oh, wait, she's walking across the floor.. she's walking.. she's walking.. she's going for the pizza- (Yelling) Hey, that's not for you, bitch!
    • 29. Ep 10 Sarcasm/Mock Politeness  Phoebe:Well, c'mon, if it's important enough to discuss while I'm playing, then I assume it's important enough for everyone else to hear .  Chandler: (Quietly, to the others)That guy's going home with a note!  David: Noth- I was- I was just saying to my-  Phoebe: Could you speak up please ?
    • 30. Violation/Flouting Grice’s Maxims Impoliteness Type % Type % Quantity 11.38 Bald-on-Record 33.42 Quality 47.30 Positive 18.75 Relation 16.17 Negative 18.75 Manner 25.15 Off-record 17.75 Sarcasm 11.32
    • 31. Discussion  The results show close relationship between humor and cooperative principle and FTA attached to Buffay’s utterances.  Maxim of Quality is violated mostly  Bald on record is used majorly by Phoebe Buffay  Phoebe’s characteristics “Eccentricity” and “Street Phoebe”?
    • 32. References Attardo, S. (1994). Linguistic theories of humor. Berlin and NewYork: Mouton de Gruyter Brown, P. and Levinson, S.C. (1987) Politeness: some universals in language usage, CambridgeCambridge University Press. Culpeper J. (1996) “Towards an anatomy of impoliteness’, Journal of Pragmatics 25: 349-67 Raskin,V. , & Attardo, S. (1991). Script theory revised: Joke similarity and joke representation model. Humor: International Journal of Humor Research, 4(3) WuY., & ChenY., Humor Strategies in the American Sitcom “Friends”: An Empirical Study, 54-71 Grice, P. (1975). Logic and conversation. In P. Cole, & J. L. Morgan (eds.), Syntax and semantics (vol. 3) NewYork: Academic Press. Ross,A.The Language of Humour, London, Rouledge Shu,Y. (2007). Linguistic Strategies Adopted in the American Sitcom Friends. Unpublished master’s thesis, NationalTaiwan Normal University,Taipei. Sperber, D., &Wilson, D. (1995). Relevance: Communication and cognition. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.
    • 33. Thank you