'Polite' and 'impolite' requests and apologies in British English and Uruguayan Spanish : a comparative study
The research hereby presented provides an analysis and interpretation of the realisation patterns of requests and apologies by female and male native speakers of British English and Uruguayan Spanish. The speech acts in question have been analysed following Brown and Levinson's (1978, 1987) 'negative' and 'positive' politeness distinction. The data for the study were collected in Uruguay and England by means of a non-prescriptive open role-play designed for the present study and performed by university students in both countries. The results obtained show that the performance of the above speech acts is motivated by the same social variables in Uruguayan Spanish and British English. The level of (in)directness in requests correlates negatively with the social distance between the interlocutors. In other words, the smaller the social distance between the participants the more direct the request will be. The performance of apologies, on the other hand, is motivated by an interaction between the severity of the offence and social power in that the less social power a speaker has in relation to his/her addressee and the more severe the offence, the more likely s/he is to apologise. The results also show that higher levels of indirectness together with heavily modified requests are appropriate in British English but not in Uruguayan Spanish where a preference for less tentative requests is expected. In terms of the apologies, this study shows the British employing a much higher number of intensified as well as non-intensified apologies than the Uruguayans. With respect to the distinction between 'positive' and 'negative' politeness this study shows that both forms of politeness interpreted as the want for association and dissociation respectively, are present in both British and Uruguayan culture with the British showing a tendency to pursue 'negative' politeness more than the Uruguayans. This pattern was also found to be present in the linguistic behaviour British and Uruguayan females when compared to their male counterparts.