Traduzione e Interpretazione


In this co-authored book, Penelope Brown and Stephen Levinson first formulate the politeness theory.

In their thorough analysis of speech, they state that some speech acts may threaten other’s face needs. Politeness is nothing but the expression of the speakers’ intention to mitigate face threatening acts toward other speakers.

Deriving their theory from that of Erving Goffman (1967), Brown and Levinson expand the notion of face by distinguishing a positive and a negative one, and consequently a positive and a negative politeness. While the former “is oriented toward the positive face of H” namely to the “positive self-image that he claims for himself” (1987: 70), the latter “is oriented mainly toward partially satisfying (redressing) H’s negative face”, which is his “basic want to maintain claims of territory and self-determination” (1987: 70).

Apart from the fundamental role it plays in linguistics, this book is particularly worth reading, since it offers an insight into our everyday communication, giving us the opportunity to better understand our, and other people’s, reactions to certain speech acts.

It may help you understand, for instance, the reason why some people get on your nerves when they address you, or the reason why your way of talking could irritate or offend someone else.

I am strongly convinced that everybody ought to read this book, because it enables readers to grasp some of the mechanisms of communication, which is something that all people do, often without even thinking about it.

As interpreters working in booths and especially in community settings, we absolutely have to be aware of these mechanisms to play our role in the best possible way.

Brown P. & S. Levinson (1987). Politeness. Some universals in language usage. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

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