The Role of the Speaker’s Emotional State in Im/politeness Assessments

Nikos Vergis, Marina Terkourafi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Brown and Levinson proposed that three sociological variables—Distance, Power, and Ranking of the imposition—affect politeness assessments. Later scholarship, however, argued that these variables can be operationalized in several ways and are too abstract to capture the realities of im/polite discourse. We focus on one variable, Distance, whose operationalization has produced mixed results, and argue that introducing another variable (Relationship Affect) does not solve this problem, as further variables, such as the Speaker’s Emotional State, can override the latter, leading to an unnecessary proliferation of variables. We propose that local politeness assessments can be better accounted for under a frame-based approach, and report on two studies, a metalinguistic judgment task and a vignette study focusing on the Greek address term re malaka, that support this point.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)316-342
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Language and Social Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 6 2015


  • Relationship Affect
  • Speaker’s Emotional State
  • address terms
  • frame-based approach
  • impoliteness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Linguistics and Language


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