Publication Details

Chang, W. and Haugh, M. (2011). Strategic embarrassment and face threatening in business interactions. Journal of Pragmatics, 43 (12), 2948-2963.


Face threats are generally studied as either something to be avoided or reduced in politeness research, or as deliberate forms of aggression in impoliteness research. The notion of face threat itself, however, has remained largely dependent on the intuitive notion of threatening. In Face Constituting Theory (Arundale, Robert, 2010. Constituting face in conversation: face, facework and interactional achievement. Journal of Pragmatics 42, 2078–2105), an approach to theorising face threats is posited that goes beyond such pre-theoretical notions. The advantages of employing such an analytical framework is that interactional practices which are open to evaluation as face threatening can be explicated in a manner that is grounded in the perspective of the participants, yet the range of practices examined can be expanded beyond that encompassed by folk or first-order conceptualisations of face. In this paper examples of one such practice, namely, strategic embarrassment, where the speaker attempts to embarrass the addressee into doing what he or she wants by topicalising unmet expectations and thereby implying a mild reproach or complaint, is examined in the context of business interactions in Taiwan. The way in which this action is interactionally achieved coordinate with constituting evaluations of face threat is outlined before considering the implications of this analysis for politeness and impoliteness research more broadly.



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