Dissertation, State University of New York at Buffalo (2002)

In this dissertation, I investigate apologies---what they are, what they do, and what role they play in social interaction. More specifically, I will attempt to answer four questions: What are apologies? What are the main types of apologies? What are the primary aims and functions of apologies? And finally, what role do apologies play in social interaction? The dissertation will be divided into four chapters. In Chapter 1, I will present and examine the two main approaches to the topic of apologies: J. L. Austin's speech-act model, and Erving Goffman's sociological model. In addition, I will identify a number of areas where Austin's model and Goffman's model coincide, and point out a number of problems that the two models share in common. In Chapter 2, I will attempt to move beyond Austin's and Goffman's models, and forge my own definition of apologies. To achieve this goal, it will be necessary to compare apologies with two other forms of discourse with which they are often associated: excuses and justifications. In Chapter 3, I will develop a taxonomy of the general forms of apologies. In other words, I will develop a system of categories through which we can classify and explain the varying types of apologies. Finally, in Chapter 4, I will examine the role apologies play in social interaction. More specifically, I will address four questions: What motivation does an agent have for offering an apology, and what does he hope to achieve? What is the primary function of an apology, and how does it help an agent fulfill his goals? On what grounds are we to determine the success or failure of an apology? And finally, what is the relationship between apologies and forgiveness?
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