I'm working on a project and I need to learn how to recognize politeness strategies based on Brown and Levinsons' theory. Even though I've read the theory and many different examples I still have problems with identifying them on my own in this fragment of an interview:

''A: What personally did Black Lives matter? How did it enhance, enlighten, impress you?

B: I say it in several different ways. First of all, I was really delighted to get the education of exactly I mentioned redlining because I thought it was really beautifully finally. Told in a very specific and educational way that no longer could be denied.''

Can anyone, please help me with that? Do you have any good sources that would help me in analyzing other materials in the future?

  • Your question is good, but would be better if you'd eliminate what appears to be ungrammatical constructs that distract us from the honorific/euphemistic/politeness intent of your question. Ungrammatical: “what personally…matter?” grammatical: ‘how personally…matter?’ (unless that weird ”“what” is the focus of your ? here) Ungrammatical: “…education of exactly I mentioned…” grammatical: ‘…education, which is why I mentioned…’. Ungrammatical: “…I though it was really beautifully finally…” grammatical: ‘…I finally thought it was really beautiful’ (or whatever your intent was). We're distracted. Commented Feb 8, 2022 at 18:44
  • 7
    This is part of the auto-transcribed original text, see podgist.com/oprahs-supersoul-conversations/sharon-stone/…. Step 1 would be to produce an accurate transcript.
    – user6726
    Commented Feb 8, 2022 at 20:34

1 Answer 1


Welcome to the site!

I am not a trained linguist, but glanced through an article on the topic out of interest. I also listened to a brief section of the interview and several things jumped out to me immediately, since the topic is close to me culturally and ideologically.

I am obviously not an authority on this issue, but thought to offer a response since none had done so directly so far. If I'm off the mark, feel free to correct or ignore me. I agree with the comment, however, that the transcription is crying out for editing.

The closer you are culturally to this topic, the easier it is to identify strategies the participants used to avoid hitting social landmines. For instance, the same dialog between different races would have been different. That implicates positive face because of the difference in in-and out-group communication, but also negative face if the speaker is not supposed to asserting authority on the question.

The interview format itself seemed to implicate the politeness strategies, resulting in indirect or open questions that could have been blunt and direct Some interviews are meant to provoke and challenge; some are meant to inform and enlighten; some are meant to commiserate. All use different politeness strategies.

''A: What personally did Black Lives matter? How did it enhance, enlighten, impress you?"

Giving the respondent a choice of possible answers seemed aimed at protecting negative face. Not giving expressing options to express a negative view of Black Lives Matter also reflected a strategy to reinforce in-group positive face. Even publicly recognizing the authority of the interviewee to be informative on the answer contributes to positive face.

I mentioned redlining because I thought it was really beautifully finally. Told in a very specific and educational way that no longer could be denied.

I see this as partly in-group signaling and thus related to positive face and also an assertion of authority to any in the outgroup who deny the impact of redlining and so reinforcing the negative face of the speaker, but threatening the negative face of any who would think they could disagree. I even say subtle signals directed at the potential audience.

If you are not culturally close to these issues, I would think it is harder to spot the cues of what is being avoided, reinforced, or indirectly referenced.

If you believe you understand much of the controversy surrounding this issue in the US, try imagining different sets of interviewers and interviewees. Mix and match Fox and MSNB, and White and Black, and maybe male and female; and a lot of language differences will leap out at you in every paragraph.

If you are not culturally aware of this controversy, you should probably read up on it from varying perspectives to see the differences.

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