The IUP Journal of English Studies
Face Negotiation and Politeness in “Interpreter of Maladies”

Article Details
Pub. Date : Dec, 2018
Product Name : The IUP Journal of English Studies
Product Type : Article
Product Code : IJES61812
Author Name : Devi Archana Mohanty* and Sangeeta Mukherjee
Availability : YES
Subject/Domain : English Studies
Download Format : PDF Format
No. of Pages : 08



Politeness, a social interpersonal communicative behavior, is often associated with courtesy, solidarity, and friendliness. Face is considered to be an important aspect of politeness, and politeness arises due to effective face negotiation during interactions. It is assumed that people constantly negotiate their face needs to show politeness toward others. In intercultural contexts, the concern for face gains prominence. This paper focuses on the face negotiation process in intercultural discourse situations. Jhumpa Lahiri’s “Interpreter of Maladies” has been chosen for this purpose. The techniques chosen for analysis include face negotiation, face-enhancing, and face-threatening strategies, and the method preferred is face negotiation theory. The analysis reveals that while negotiating their face needs and showing their face concern to others, the participants are guided not only by their cultural assumptions but are also influenced by the situational needs.


Politeness is an important aspect of human communication. It is a social and behavioral phenomenon reflected both verbally and nonverbally. In daily communication, there is a need for maintaining smooth and effective interpersonal relationship. For this, politeness serves as a crucial factor in establishing smooth relationships between individuals, groups, and even between people belonging to different cultures and nations. Brown and Levinson (1987) view politeness as “basic to the production of social order, and a precondition of human cooperation. It is the foundation of social life.” Leech (1983), on the other hand, defines politeness as “those forms of behavior which are aimed at establishment and maintenance of comity, i.e., the ability of participants in a socio-communicative interaction to engage in interaction in an atmosphere of relative harmony.” It can be associated with a set of attitudinal features like cordiality, solidarity, showing empathy or concern for others, paying respect and gratitude or simply being nice to others, and managing others’ face during interactions. “Face” or “public self-image” (Brown and Levinson 1987) is an important aspect of politeness. “Face” refers to a person’s own image or identity that she/he wants others to have of her/him. In interaction, people attend to each other’s face for maintaining a harmonious and cordial interpersonal relationship. While recognizing the importance of face for maintaining harmony in interpersonal communication, researchers (Brown and Levinson 1987; Lakoff 1973; Leech 1983) contend that participants get engaged in face maintenance activity for creating a smooth and frictionless environment.


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