Vague References to Quantities as a Face-Saving Strategy in Teacher-Student Interaction

Lodz Papers in Pragmatics 3:157-178 (2007)

Vague References to Quantities as a Face-Saving Strategy in Teacher-Student Interaction The main focus of the present paper is to show how vague language categories can function as a face-saving strategy. The observations made in this article are based on the analysis of one category of vague language, that is, quantifiers in British and American spoken academic discourse. The data used for the present investigation have been obtained from two corpora: the sub-corpus of educational events of the British National Corpus and the Michigan Corpus of Academic Spoken Discourse. The results suggest that quantifiers as a face-saving strategy are used when self-criticism or criticism towards others is expressed. They are often employed in apologies, promises, self-justifications, when giving advice and in cases of uncertainty. Both students and teachers use quantifiers in these situations, but in teachers' speech they are of special importance, since teachers, if they want to maintain their authority, are especially conscious of their positive face. Paucal quantifiers especially frequently function as a face-saving device since they have a mitigating effect. The use of quantifiers as mitigators is especially evident in those instances where they occur in negative contexts. Such instances demonstrate that the main difference between the two varieties under investigation is that in BE quantifiers significantly more frequently function as mitigators. Finally, it has been observed that quantifiers frequently occur alongside other means of self-distancing and face-saving in both varieties.
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DOI 10.2478/v10016-007-0011-x
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