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HEDGING STRATEGIES AND HOW TO REALIZE THEM IN ENGLISH AND VIETNAMESE

MINISTRY OF EDUCATION AND TRAINING
HANOI OPEN UNIVERSITY

M.A THESIS
HEDGING STRATEGIES AND HOW TO REALIZE THEM IN ENGLISH
AND VIETNAMESE
(CÁC CHIẾN LƯỢC RÀO ĐÓN VÀ CÁCH THỨC THỰC HIỆN CHÚNG TRONG TIẾNG
ANH VÀ TIẾNG VIỆT)

NGUYỄN THỊ ÁNH TUYẾT
Field: English Linguistics
Code: 60220201

Hanoi, 2017


MINISTRY OF EDUCATION AND TRAINING
HANOI OPEN UNIVERSITY
....................o0o.....................

M.A THESIS


HEDGING STRATEGIES AND HOW TO REALIZE THEM IN ENGLISH
AND VIETNAMESE
(CÁC CHIẾN LƯỢC RÀO ĐÓN VÀ CÁCH THỨC THỰC HIỆN CHÚNG TRONG TIẾNG
ANH VÀ TIẾNG VIỆT)

NGUYỄN THỊ ÁNH TUYẾT
Field: English Linguistics
Code: 60220201

Supervisor: Assoc. Prof. Dr. PHAN VAN QUE

Hanoi, 2017


CERTIFICATE OF ORIGINALITY
I, the undersigned, hereby certify my authority of the study project report entitled
(HEDGING STRATEGIES AND HOW TO REALIZE THEM IN ENGLISH
AND VIETNAMESE) submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the
degree of Master in English Language. Except where the reference is indicated, no
other person’s work has been used without due acknowledgement in the text of the
thesis.
Hanoi, 2017

Nguyen Thi Anh Tuyet

Approved by
SUPERVISOR
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Phan Van Que

(Signature and full name)
Date:.....................................

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
Firstly, I would like to express my special thanks of gratitude to my supervisor Assoc.
Prof. Dr. Phan Van Que, who has given me the golden knowledge and skill to
complete this wonderful thesis on the topic hedging before giving bad news in


Vietnamese.
Secondly, I am also indebted to many teachers of postgraduates Studies Department
who have supported and given the knowledge to my M.A. Course through their
lectures.
Thirdly, many thanks to Le Quy Don High School for the gifted in Lai Chau Province
to give me a chance to find out the actual status on learning English in this school for
me to fulfill my thesis with the situation here.
Last but not least, I would also like to thank my family and friends who helped me a lot
in finalizing this thesis within the limited time frame.

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ABSTRACT
This thesis is to show the hedging before giving bad news in English and
Vietnamese to express the similarities and the differences between using hedging
before bad news in English and Vietnamese.
Moreover, the thesis gives the system of literature review of speech acts,
directness and indirectness, the definition and features of the face, politeness and
politeness strategies. Furthermore, this thesis provide the definition of hedging, giving
the framework of hedging before giving bad news, then analysis the similarities and the
difference in English and Vietnamese on this issue.
Next, the thesis also makes the application on the situation in using this on the
actual status in some context.
Last but not least, the thesis also mentions some suggestions for teachers and
learners to import the language.
The thesis also provides the suggestion for further study.

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LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS
V: Verb
S: Subject
EN: English
VN: Vietnamese

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LIST OF TABLES AND FIGURES
Table 1:Quality hedges with not talking the full responsibility for his utterance’s
truth................................................................................................................................28
Table 2: The speaker’s commitment is stressed to the truth of his utterance.................28
Table 3: The point of the speaker’s assertion is to inform the listener……………......29
Table 4: The degrees of probability expressed in increasingdoubt...............................29
Table 5 : The quality through auxiliary.........................................................................30
Table 6: The quantity hedges that not as much or precise information as might be
expected..........................................................................................................................31
Table 7: Clauses whose use is to modify the performative verb by giving the reason
why the sender made that utterance...............................................................................32
Table 8:Direct function as violations’ notices of face wants which may be derived from
Maxim hedges……………………………………………………………...........34
Table 9: The expressions query if the speaker’s discourse is adequate or
not...................................................................................................................................35
Table 10:The Communicative illocutionary acts..........................................................37
Table 11:expressions which are separated intosections of quality, quantity, relevance,
manner, and politeness...................................................................................................41
Table 12: The adverbs of modal..................................................................................42
Table 13:The achievement of student in Le Quy Don High School The Gifted in Lai
Chau...............................................................................................................................51

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

Contents
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ...................................................................................................................... ii
ABSTRACT ............................................................................................................................................. iii
LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS .................................................................................................................. iv
LIST OF TABLES AND FIGURES ......................................................................................................... v
TABLE OF CONTENTS ......................................................................................................................... vi
Chapter 1: INTRODUCTION ..................................................................................................................1
1.1.

Rationale for the study ..............................................................................................................1

1.2.

Aims and objectives of the study ..............................................................................................2

1.3.

Research questions ....................................................................................................................2

1.4. Methods of the study ......................................................................................................................2
1.5.

Scope of the study .....................................................................................................................3

1.6.

Significance of the study ...........................................................................................................3

1.7.

Design of the study....................................................................................................................3

Chapter 2: LITERATURE REVIEW ........................................................................................................4
2.1. Previous studies..............................................................................................................................4
2.2. Theoretical background..................................................................................................................5
2.2.1. Speech Acts .............................................................................................................................5
2.2.2. Directness and indirectness in speech .....................................................................................7
2.3.3 Face, politeness, and politeness strategies ............................................................................ 12
2.2.4. Hedging ................................................................................................................................ 20
2.3. Theoretical framework ................................................................................................................ 25
2.3.1. For semantics ....................................................................................................................... 25
2.3.2. For pragmatics...................................................................................................................... 26
2.3.3. Hedging as both positive and negative politeness ................................................................ 26
2.3. 4. Hedging before giving bad news......................................................................................... 34
2.3.5. Hedging as a device ............................................................................................................. 35
2.4. Summary ..................................................................................................................................... 37

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Chapter 3: ANALYSIS OF HEDING STRATEGIES ........................................................................... 38
3.1. Needs of hedging before giving bad news .................................................................................. 38
3.2. Vietnamese equivalents for the English hedges in using hedging before giving bad news ........ 39
3.2.1. Vietnamese equivalents for the English hedges in using hedging before giving bad news . 39
Table 12: The adverbs of modal..................................................................................................... 41
3.2.2. Differences between English and Vietnamese Equivalents in using hedging before giving
bad news......................................................................................................................................... 41
3.3. Hedging strategies in giving bad news........................................................................................ 43
3.4. Summary ..................................................................................................................................... 48
Chapter 4: APPLICATION OF HEDGING STRATEGIES IN TEACHING AND LEARNING ........ 49
4.1. The actual status of teaching English in Le Quy Don high school for the gifted in Lai Chau
Province ............................................................................................................................................. 49
4.2. Suggestions ................................................................................................................................. 57
4.2.1. Suggestion for teachers ........................................................................................................ 57
4.2.2. Suggestions for students....................................................................................................... 57
4.3. Answering for the Research question ......................................................................................... 58
4.4. Summary ..................................................................................................................................... 58
Chapter 5: CONCLUSION .................................................................................................................... 59
5.1 Concluding remarks ..................................................................................................................... 59
5.1.1. Main similarities................................................................................................................... 59
5.1.2. Main differences................................................................................................................... 59
5.2 Limitation of the study ................................................................................................................. 60
5.3

Recommendations/Suggestions for further study .................................................................. 60

REFERENCES....................................................................................................................................... 61

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Chapter 1: INTRODUCTION
1.1.

Rationale for the study
Sharing bad news is part of everyday life. Bad news is not involved to death

only. Bad news might be news from a doctor telling someone about their terminal
disease, from companies, business or corporation informing the person about a layoff
which is coming. Or bad news might come from a child’s failure at school, or news
about an accident. Therefore, bad news means things affect your mood drastically.
No one enjoys delivering bad news, but soon or late, people will have to deliver
bad news as well as face its unpleasant feelings. Besides, people who send these badnews messages must deliver them in a careful way, which make the person whom
these messages direct to feel acceptable.
Different cultures have different values, especially in communication. Each
culture has its own rules in communication, so learners of a foreign language should
master these rules so that they can avoid communication breakdowns or cultural
shocks. Delivering bad news is such a sensitive task. How to deliver bad news
naturally requires learners much knowledge of the language.
Even though understanding that successful communication is the ultimate
objective of learning a foreign language, many Vietnamese learners hold a view that
being successful in foreign language is to master all the grammar rules and accumulate
as much as possible new words. Therefore, even having grammatically well-formed
ability, students might get some unexpected experience in culture shock as well as
communication breakdown when they get into a real and specific situation. This
unwanted incidence happens because of their insufficient knowledge and the lack of
social values, relationships between people in the new culture that students are not used
to.
It is noticed that every language or culture has its own different expressions of
behavior and ways of speech acts by the language’s users. This lead to a great number
of researchers ,including local and foreign ones, to conduct their studies on crosscultural pragmatics as well as common communication such as thanking, requesting,
complementing, etc. However, people seem to pay little attention to the speech act like
giving bad news using hedges. In everyday life, no one wants to tell their family,
relatives or friends bad news because they find it hard to reduce their beloved people’s
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feeling of sadness or to lessen their pain. However, in some cases, the informers have
no choice even with the best and most talented ones.
Needless to say, hedges such as “I regret to inform” have a great effect of minimizing
the shock to the wife. All in all, hedging is a way used in a certain context for specific
communicative intention that speakers use for some purposes such as politeness,
vagueness, and mitigation. Therefore, the desire to have further findings into major
similarities and differences in using hedges when speakers give bad news by learners
and teachers in Le Quy Don High School in Lai Chauhas motivated the writer to
convey this research entitled “Hedging strategies and how to realize them in
English and Vietnamese”. After this research, the writer hopes to provide all of you
wider socio-cultural knowledge as well as the awareness needed for better
communicating in learning of students and teaching of teachers English in Vietnam.
1.2.

Aims and objectives of the study

Aims
- To find out English use hedges as a polite ways of giving bad newsand Vietnamese
equivalents.
- To implicate for teaching speaking English skill for Vietnamese learners of English
effectively.
Objectives
- To find out hedging strategies in English
- To find out the way to realize them in English and Vietnamese
1.3. Research questions
- What are hedging strategies in communication?
- How are they realized in English and Vietnamese?
- What are implications for teaching speaking English skill?
1.4. Methods of the study
The methods of this study is for finding out the hedging before giving bad news in
Vietnamese and English, so the method is with the comparative and descriptive
analysis to be used. The study is emphasis on research and find out the previous
studies, the theories and then analyzing the ways Vietnamese and English use hedging
before bad new and give specific sample.

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1.5. Scope of the study
The scope of study is research of hedging in English is used in a lot of different
situation, but in this thesis, it is researchedin the scope of before giving bad news.
1.6. Significance of the study
The significance of the finding includes:
Firstly, giving bad news happens increasingly in daily life and it is considered as one
of highly sensitive acts in human interactions every day, so this thesis gives the
similarities and differences of using hedging before giving bad news to learners and
teachers to improve and reduce the shock in each situation.
Second, this thesis gives the ways to employ hedges or hedging appropriately in order
not to hurt the other in the act of giving bad news is essential to achieve successful
communication.
1.7.

Design of the study
The research is divided into 5 below chapters:
Chapter 1 (Introduction) introduces the aims, rationale, scope, research questions, and
methodology of the study
Chapter 2 (Literature review):
Chapter 3 (Findings and discussion) analyses gathered data from survey in order to
explore major cross-cultural similarities and differences when choosing the hedges in
specific situations.
Chapter 4(Applying of the research findings)in Le Quy Don High School for The
Gifted in Lai Chau Province
Chapter5 (Conclusion): summarizes the main findings from the research, offers some
implications for teaching English in Vietnam, and gives some suggestions for further
research later.

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Chapter 2: LITERATURE REVIEW
2.1. Previous studies
B. Halabisaz Department of English, A. Pazhakh (Corresponding Author) Department
of English, M. Shakibafar Department of English, Islamic Azad University Boroujerd
Science and Research Branch, Boroujerd, Iran (2014) with the title “Hedging in Thesis
Abstracts on Applied Linguistics across Persian and English” This study investigated
the hedge in thesis abstracts to understand how the writers of these theses make their
claims about their new findings. The categories of hedges were applied according to
Crompton’s (1997) taxonomy of hedge, and the data were analyzed through two-way
Chi-Square, SPSS version 16. The results showed that there was a significant
difference between natives and non-natives in terms of using hedges in abstracts of
linguistic theses written by English and Persian writers. Native English writers used
more hedging devices, while non-natives (Iranian) writers employed less hedge devices
in their M.A. abstracts. The differences are attributed to the degree of rhetorical
sensitivity and modality, awareness of audience, purpose, and cultural background of
the learners. The implication of this study can be helpful in academic writing, and EFL
writing instruction.
Adamu Musa(2014), with the thesis of “Hedging In Academic Writing: A Pragmatic
Analysis Of English And Chemistry Masters’ Theses In A Ghanaian University” using
Hyland’s (1998) Poly-pragmatic Model, the present study investigates the discourse
functions of hedges in English and Chemistry Masters’ Theses in the University of
Cape Coast. It further explores the differences regarding the discourse functions hedges
perform in both disciplines. The study, which is both qualitative and quantitative in
nature, reveals that hedging in English and Chemistry Masters’ Theses perform three
pragmatic functions and that the preference for these functions, to some extent, varies
in both disciplines due to a number of factors. The study has a pedagogical implication.
Adamu Musa(2014), the thesis title of “Hedging Strategies in English and Chemistry
Masters’ Thesis in the University of Cape Coast, Ghana” Following this argument,
hedging, the technique of presenting claims with caution, precision, moderation, and
humility has attracted much scholarly attention. However, a plethora of studies into
hedging as an important rhetorical tool in academic writing have concentrated on
experts writing, particularly.
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Vassileva (2001), of University of Auckland in New Zealand the title of “Ideas and
Options in English for specific Purposes” found out the hedge when giving bad news to
patients of doctors.
According the the research of Tran Thi My Linh (2010), the title “
A vietnamese – english cross – cultural study of the use of hedging before giving bad
new“ to show the differences and similarities in English and Vietnamese when using
the hedging before giving bad news with the situation of abroad people coming to
Vietnam for travelling.
Nguyen Thanh Huy and Truong Thi Hong Nhung (2015) with the thesis of “Using
hedges in English and Vietnamese conversations: The similarities and differences”
Doing research on using hedges in conversation is the first step to approach pragmatics
study which requires learner a determined effort. With hardworking process to deal
with pragmatics, learners’ language power of word usage is extremely widened. Not
only do they can use target language flexibly, but they are also more confident in
conversational English with less anxieties of unexpected interpretation. This article
mainly focuses on the similarities and differences in using hedges in English and
Vietnamese conversation in order to help students use English effectively based on the
cooperative principles as well as point out the implication for leaning and using
hedges.
In conclusion, Although these thesis has shown some researches on using the hedging
before giving bad news, but the situations are different, and the above researchers has
not found the hedging strategies and how to realize it in English and Vietnamese.
Therefore, this thesis will show more about the situation of learning English of hedging
before giving bad news for high school students is the first thesis on this issue.
2.2. Theoretical background
2.2.1. Speech Acts
People often use language for doing things: to report, greet, and ask
questions,order,warn propose marriage, and promise and perform many other actions in
daily life.The sentences people utter are not used only to say something but also to do
things Davidson (1998).

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For example: After “I sentence you to death” is declared by a judge, there will be an
action of executing the prisoner. Speech act theorists try to explain what people do
when a sentence is uttered.
For example: when a speaker says “Close the door,” this speaker performs the act of
ordering and also expects the hearer to recognize the speaker’s intention by going to
close the door.
Actions performed when the speakers utter the sentence are called speech acts. This
idea shows that when people utter statements, they do not only utter the sounds or
words with grammatical structure, but they also perform some actions in the process of
speaking. There are many theorists mentioning about speech acts, and the one most
mentioned is J.L Austin.
According to Austin (1998) in How to Do Things with Words, when producing
an utterance, three related acts are performed:
- A locutionary act involves uttering sounds and words following the
grammatical rules to form meaning.
- An illocutionary act is a particular act performed via utterance or the
function of the utterance.
- A perlocutionary act involves intention to produce an effect on feeling and
action of the hearer.
According to Leech (1998), he agrees with Austin in the way that each sentence
has alocutionary act and an illocutionary act, but he refers to them as sense and
force,respectively.
Moreover, Bach and Harnish (1998) state that when people speak thereis mutual
belief that both speaker and hearer refer to the same thing and meaning, andthe speaker
is saying with some recognizable illocutionary intent. Another speech acttheorist,
Stenius (1998) points out that each utterance comprises a sentence-radicalthat is
descriptive content of the sentence, and a modal element or mood. Steniusmentions 3
moods including indicative mood, describing something; imperative mood,performing
the desire of the speaker; and interrogative mood, performing a feeling ofuncertainty or
curiosity.
Davidson (1998) makes a distinction among moods in thesame way as Stenius
does, and adds uses in sentences such as to assert, to give orders,and to ask questions.
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From the ideas proposed by these theorists, it can be seen clearlythat when a sentence
is uttered, not only the meaning is conveyed but also the force ofthe utterance or the
illocutionary intent of the speaker for the hearer to recognize.
Normally, some sociolinguistics report that research relating to language is usually
beyond just words or sentences which are considered as principle elements of
linguistics.
According to Bach (1979) shown that The inference the hearer makes and takes
himself to be intended to make is based not just on what the speaker says but also
mutual contextual beliefs.
Austin (1962) has shown as speech act is to report states of affairs and utterance
of some sentences can be treated as performance of an act. Moreover, Richards defines
speech acts as an utterance or a functional unit in communication. Similarly, Hymes
(1972) defines them as the acts we perform when we speak. It is argued that speech
acts are relating to culture and manner of doing them is ruled by social contexts which
are different in each community.
In other word, these findings have to be analyzed with social context also. It
means that language must deal with real situations with human’s interactions and social
contexts. According to Nguyen Hoa (2000) defined asthe business of a statement can
only be to describe some state of affairs or to state some fact, which must do either
falsely or truly, this meant that it is needed to understand that some sentences intend to
show emotion and feeling clearly or to affect them in special ways.
2.2.2. Directness and indirectness in speech
2.2.2.1. Directness and indirectness
According to Jannedy, Poletto, and Welden (1994), it is point out that for direct
speech acts,declarative sentences constitute speech acts of assertion, interrogative
sentencesconstitute questions, and imperative sentences constitute orders and requests.
In otherwords, a direct speech act has a direct relationship between the form and
the functionto communicate the literal meaning that the words in sentences
conventionallyexpress. As a result, the declarative sentence “the book is on the table”
has thefunction of assertion. The interrogative sentence “Who is he talking to?” has
thefunction of question, while the imperative sentence “Leave me alone!” is an order.

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Moreover, the direct speech act sometimes contains performative verbs, such as
“Ipromise to drive you home,” and “I order you to drive me home.” These
statementsdirectly perform the speech act stated by the verbs promise and order,
respectively
According to Searle (1993) sentences should be read on two levels. One is
themeaning conveyed by words and sentences themselves or literal meaning, while
theother is the speaker’s meaning or metaphorical meaning. When the speaker
conveysmetaphorical meaning, the speaker’s intended meaning for the word or
sentence coulddiffer from the literal meaning.
All of the sentences: “The car is broken, dear,” “Couldyou help me lift the
box?” and “Enjoy your meal” should be read for metaphoricalmeaning because the
speakers‟ intended meanings differ from what they literallyspeak. When people
communicate with indirect speech acts, the hearer can understandthe real intent of the
speaker because both sides share background informationtogether with the power of
rationality and inference on the side of the hearer.
Both indirect and direct ways are considered as verbal expressions. So, there are
two main forms of universal expressions which directness and indirectness. But it can
be said that language is only used straightforwardly or indirectly. Therefore, the way
we employ language will depend a lot on cultural contexts which are different among
various communities.
Kaplan (1972) has showed four structures or cultural patterns, which are
different from English linearity (figure a). He focuses on writing and paragraphs as his
main concentration in the research.
According to Nguyen Quang (1998), direct and indirect speech in English and
Vietnamese is also found in phenomenon of by the way.
For example: “safe” topics as good news, congratulations, weather. This phenomenon
happens less frequently. But for the “subtle” and “unsafe” topics (bad news, borrowing
money, sex, religions, etc.) this phenomenon appears much more frequently.
In English, people seem to show three purpose of the conversation right away in
the beginning. But in Vietnamese, it goes in the opposite way and people often go
around before going straight to their main point. According to Nguyen Quang (1998),

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if relationship between them and the time allow, participants will have a discuss
unrelated stuff or small talk.
The exact sentence spoken in one context can perform a different act inanother
context. As Searle (1998) says, the utterance can constitute differentillocutionary acts,
and it is quite complex to tell what the act of the utterance is.
Forexample, when a wife says to a husband at a party “It’s quite really late,” it might
bejust a statement of fact and sometimes a request. If the speaker intends to state the
factof the time, the statement in a declarative sentence type is a direct speech act.
However, if the speaker wants to request her husband to take them home, thesentence,
although declarative, does not directly perform a representative act butrather the act of
request. When the type of sentences and the function are not related,the indirect speech
act occurs.
Indirectnessis opposed to directness. Indirectness also has some advantages. Thai
(2007) alleges that the indirect approach to an issue is employed when the speaker
needs to avoid or postpone a certain sensitive point in a conversation or composition
and adigressive development or delayed theme in writing is meant to respect the
judgment of readers.
Indirectness is also a strategy used to avoid “face-threatening-acts”. Furthermore,
indirectness is a good choice to maintain politeness as in “Indirectness is thus most
generally attributed to politeness. Deborah (2007) supposes that sometimes telling the
complete truth can actually get communicators into trouble, for example a
communicator asks a question and his partner gives him a truthful answer with no
explanation, the communicator may think the answer is suspicious even though the
partner is telling the truth.
2.2.2.2. Factors affecting directness and indirectness
There are many factors in social and natural patterns what influence the use of
directness and indirectness in daily communication. According to Nguyen Quang
(1998) finds out in his research that there are twelve factors which may affect people’s
decision in using these two kind of interactions as below:
Age: the old tend to choose indirect speaking than the young do.
Sex: women prefer indirect expressions to direct ones.

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Residence: people in rural areas tend to use more indirectness than ones in urban and
cities.
Mood: people often say indirectly when getting angry.
Occupation: Those whose jobs relating to social sciences seem to be more indirect than
those whose jobs involving in natural sciences.
Personality: The extroverted tend to be more direct than the introverted
Topics: people tend to use indirect ways of communication in subtle topics.
Place: those staying at home tend to be direct rather than they are in other places.
Communication environment/ setting: When staying in an informal context, people
have inclination of expressing themselves in a more direct way.
Social distance: those whose relationship is more closed, they are more likely to
communicate directly.
Time pressure: people tend to be direct when they are in a hurry.
Relative powers: When in a superior or high position, people prefer directness , which
is different from their inferiors.
2.2.2.3. Indirect Speech and Flouting of Cooperative Principle
When the indirect speech act is considered, it is related to the flouting of
thecooperative principle. Grice states that people have a cooperative principle when
they
communicate. They interpret language on the assumption that the speaker is
obeyingfour maxims: the maxim of quality, the maxim of quantity, the maxim of
relevance,and the maxim of manner Yule (1996).
1. The maxim of quality. It means that the speaker always says the truth. Hewill not say
something that he believes is false, and he will not say things for whichhe does not
have the adequate evidence.
2. The maxim of quantity. It is assumed that the speaker follows the rule ofgiving
enough information. The speaker does not say too much or too little; he will beas
informative as required.
3. The maxim of relevance. It means that the speaker should be relevant whenhe
engages in the communication. Whatever he says should be related to the topic
ofcommunication.

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4. The maxim of manner. The speaker will not speak something ambiguous orobscure,
and he will make his speech flow orderly.
If the speaker does not follow each cooperative principle, it is said that
heviolates the particular maxim; as a result, the hearer cannot understand what
thespeaker wants to convey. Sometimes, the speaker seems to violate the principle,
buthe actually does not and the hearer can still understand what the speaker really
wantsto say. For example, the speaker might use hyperbole, but this is not because
thespeaker intends to violate the maxim of quality, and he does not lie, as well. He
justmakes his point more forceful, while the hearer understands his intention. If
thissituation happens, it is called flouting, not violating.
According to Sadock (2004) flouting the cooperative principle is related to
theindirect speech act. When the indirect speech act is used, at least one maxim of
thecooperative principle is being flouted. For example, in the context that a guest of
arestaurant who finds the food disgusting says, “This meal is delicious”, the speaker
isflouting the maxim of quality because he does not speak the truth. The hearer,
whodoes not know the context and takes the literal meaning, thinking the utterance
isperforming the direct speech act, will find that this is the act of
complimenting;however, the real intent of the speaker is to criticize or to complain.
The utterance isirony or sarcasm, so the speaker does not literally mean what he
asserts. By saying itas if it were the speech act of praising, the speaker actually
performs the speech act ofblaming.
For the hearer to comprehend the indirect speech act the utterance performs,the
hearer and the speaker need to share sufficient background about the context.When A
asks a question “Do you like ice-cream?” and B responds “Is the PopeCatholic?”, B is
flouting the maxim of relevance because it seems that theinterrogative sentence does
not answer the question “Do you like ice-cream?” If Adoes not have the background
knowledge that Pope is the religious leader ofCatholics, A cannot take the interrogative
sentence “Is the Pope Catholic?” as theanswer “Yes” for the question “Do you like icecream?”, but A might take it as aquestion being asking of him. Although “Is the Pope
Catholic? is an interrogativesentence, it is used to perform the act of response or the
statement, not the questionrequiring the answer “yes” or “no. Moreover, only persons
sharing the knowledge of“the Pope” will be able to interpret the sentence correctly.
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2.2.2.4. Speech acts and Culture
Speech acts are also related to culture. According to Cutting (2002: 21)
“theways of expressing speech acts vary from country to country, from culture to
culture”.
He gives an example of Indian culture which has a positive attitude towards fat
peoplebecause they indicate prosperity and health. That is why “How fat you are!” in
Indiais the speech act of praising or congratulating. Nevertheless, “How fat you are!”
inWestern society now will be recognized as criticizing. To compliment
femaleWesterners on their appearance, “How slender you are!” is used. In Thai
culture,people once praised an unborn child by saying “how ugly the baby is” because
in thepast many newborn children died very young and people believed that the
ghostsliked to take the beautiful babies.
However, nowadays with the progression of themedicine and hospital, that
belief has gradually disappeared and “How ugly the babyis!” is not a compliment any
more. People have changed to say, “How lovely the babyis!”, instead. Any more here,
like a threat in one culture is not a threat in another.Therefore, the way to perform the
speech act in one culture is different from anotherculture. Hedging strategies play an
important role in speech act. Hedges are used to moderate the force of an utterance or
the certainty of its content and therefore play an important role in interpersonal
communication.
2.3.3 Face, politeness, and politeness strategies
According to Brown and Levinson (1987) “Politeness is basic to the production
of social order and a precondition of human cooperation, so that any theory which
provides an understanding of this phenomenon at the same time goes to the foundation
of human social life.”
2.3.3.1. The definition of the face
Face is a technical term used in psychology and sociology to refer to the status
and esteem of individuals within social interactions. Thompson (2003).
Since face, understood as every individual’s feelings of self-image Thomas
(1995), can be destroyed, maintained via communicating with other people, an
individual usually claims for himself or herself through interaction. That is the reasons
why people usually avoid making other people feel embarrassed.
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People know that and respect that is why in everyday interchange, we usually
avoid embarrassing the other person, or making him feel uncomfortable simply
because we bear in mind that everybody has basic face needs or wants which refers to
the respect that individual has for him or herself.
According to Brown and Levinson (1987), face is the public self-image that all
rational adult members of society possessand something that is emotionally invested,
and that can be maintained, lost, or enhanced and must be constantly attended to in
interaction with others. Once face is damaged or threatened, there seems to be a risk of
communication breakdown.
Therefore, To Watts (2003) & Holmes (1995) maintaining or partially satisfying
each other’s face seems to be the major and apparently the only motivation to be polite
in communication. In many aspects, face wants include two opposing ones as positive
and negative face in that
Positive face
Naturally, people often face two desires: one is to get their goals or purpose and
the other is to avoid causing uncomfortable feeling to their partner. According to
Brown and Levinson (1987) Positive face, is the positive consistent self-image or
personality (crucially including the desire that this self-image be appreciated and
approved of) claimed by interaction. It means that people consider positive face as the
desire one person admire or value other person’s needs or the need people want to be a
member of a group, to be accepted by others.
Negative face
According to Brown and Levinson, Negative face isthe basic claim to territories,
personal preserves, rights to non-distraction. Moreover, Negative face is reflected in
the desire not to be impeded or put upon, to have the freedom to act as one chooses.
Thomas (1995), following to Eleden (2001) the wants that one’s action be unimpeded
by othersand is the need to be independent, to have freedom of action, and not to be
imposed on by others. Yule (1996)
2.3.3.2. What is politeness?
The definition of Politeness
People have paid a lot of attention to Politeness, especially sociolinguistics and
pragmatics. Two key issues to politeness are: politeness as social norms (normative
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politeness) or conversational principle and maxims and face-saving acts or politeness
strategies Blum-Kulka(1987).
Blum-Kulka(1987) indicates in her cross-cultural findings that politeness is a function
of repressive action with the latter having correlative relationship with indirectness, an
interaction achieved between two needs, the need for pragmatic clarity and the need to
avoid coerciveness and a social distance and role relationship. Through her definition
of politeness, she shows an idea that the more indirect we are, the more polite we
become. Clearly, she implies that there is a close relationship between indirectness and
politeness.
For examples:
(1) Indirect way: What’s the hell? It is too tidy.
Direct way: you should tidy up your room, son
(2) Indirect: What’s the wife expected to do at this time? (Implies “to get dinner
ready”)
Direct : Time to cook, sweetheart.
Inspire of the fact that “Face threatening acts” have a variety of degrees, many
direct ways of speaking seem to be more accepted so more polite. However, according
to Dascal (1983), indirectness might be costly and risky because the speaker have to
think more and process more in indirectness (costly) while the hearer may not
understand what the speaker wants to perform (risky).
Nguyen Quang (1994) defines politeness in a better way, which is used as politeness’s
definition for this study. This concept does not lean to any sides: positive or negative
but is the combination of the two.
In the research, the term of politeness or we can say “speaking in a polite way” is used
for for politeness reasons in what Brown and Levinson say due to the following
reasons:
Firstly, despite some conversational views, contract and the difference between
normative and strategic politeness is not very clear, almost all illocutionary acts should
be performed in the scale of interpersonal relationships
Secondly, according to the writer, normative politeness which relies on social
patterns is the foundation of strategic politeness. Therefore, interpersonal relationships

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are really important to perform normative politeness, which help preserve someone’s
face through specific politeness norms.
Thirdly, through verbal interaction, whether it is your intention to give a
dispraise or not, any disprasing act might have potential effect create a great damage to
the hearer’s positive and negative face.
Fourthly, politeness strategies can either support the listener’s positive face or
avoid affect thee hearer’s freedom.
Lastly, Brown and Levinson’s model is suitable for the explanation of verbal
interaction used on daily activities in which “participants are reciprocally attending to
one another’s face needs” Watts (2003)
2.3.3.3. Principles of politeness
Lakoff (1973) indicates most of the conversations are ruled by politeness
principle. Similarly Grice in an earlier time said that there are three rules that should be
followed in conversation to keep the politeness including Don’t impose and give option
in that Don’t impose is similar to negative politeness’s definition and is you need to try
not to impose on others or to disrupt them in any way and Give options isthat you
should avoid forcing the hearer. Similarly Grice in an earlier time said that there are
three rules that should be followed in conversation to keep the politeness:
Don’t impose – similar to negative politeness’s definition – you need to try not
toimpose on others or to disrupt them in any way. Let’s look at following examples:
- Could you possibly ……?
- It’s asking a lot, but can you ……
- I’m sorry to bother you …..
Give options – You should avoid forcing the hearer into a corner by using following
expressions:
- It’s up to you,……
- I don’t care if you don’t want to …….
- Make the hearer feel good – you can say things that make the listener feel
great as such expressions below
-

What would I have done without you?

-

I’d really appreciate what you have done.
I owe you once for this help.
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Leech’s (1983) Politeness principle contains 6 maxims including Tact,
Generosity, Approbation, Modesty, Agreement and Sympathy, those maxims which
involve in the cost and advantage and also the favorableness to the listener.
2.3.3.4. Positive politeness and strategies
Brown and Levinson (1987) also show some examples for the kinds of decisions
that speaker can choose and fifteen politeness strategies toward the positive face of the
hearer. In general, positive politeness strategies’ purpose is to save the positive face
and they are addressed to the hearer’s positive face through informality, intimacy
solidarity,… and familiarity’s expressions. Therefore, the speaker develops those to
satisfy the hearer’s positive face chiefly by two ways including by expressing the
similarities among participants (using expressions such as let’s or why don’t we in
English or chúng ta/ chúng mình in Vietnamese), and by showing an appreciation of
the hearer’s self-image.
Seventeen below strategies focus on positive face, and are also the examples of
positive politeness (cited from Watts 2003 and Nguyen Quang 2003).
The following fifteen strategies are addressed to positive face, and are thus examples of
positive politeness (cited from Watts 2003 and Nguyen Quang 2003).
(1) Strategy 1: Notice, attend to H (her/ his interests, wants, needs, goods etc)
- Ái chà chà! Hôm nay nhân dịp gì mà diện bộ củ đẹp thế. À này, có tiền cho tớ vay
năm chục. (Wow, how smart you look today! What occasion? By the way, can I
borrow 50,000 VND, if you have?)
(2) Strategy 2: Exaggerate (interest, approval, sympathy with H)
- Good old Jim. Just the man I wanted to see. I knew I’d find you here. Could you
spare me a couple of minutes?
- Giời ơi, chặc …. chặc….., chặc …. con bé ấy vô cùng quyến rũ.
(3) Strategy 3: Intensify interests to the hearer in the speaker’s contribution
- You’ll never guess what Fred told me last night. This is right up your street.
- Cậu biết không, bọn tớ quyết định tháng sau sẽ cưới.
(4) Strategy 4: Use in-group identity markers in speech
- Here’s my old mate, Fred. How are you doing today, mate? Could you give us a hand
to get this car to start?
- Ta đi chứ anh bạn (Shall we go, mate?)
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