International Journal of Speech Language and the Law, Vol 21, No 2 (2014)

Linguistic politeness in lawyers’ petitions under the Confucian ideal of no litigation

Liping Zhang
Issued Date: 18 Feb 2015


In order to investigate the linguistic consequences of the humble social position of Chinese lawyers shaped under the Confucian notion of no litigation, this article examines how lawyers strategically perform requests for legal actions by magistrates. The article draws on Penman’s (1990) grid of linguistic politeness strategies in court and Holmes et al.’s (2012) model of social constraints on linguistic politeness, two extensions of politeness in the Brown and Levinson (1978) tradition. I conceptualise group-face related positive and negative politeness and output strategies derived from Chinese Neo-Confucianism so as to accommodate linguistic politeness practices within the legal ‘community of practice’ (Mills 2009: 1057; Wenger 1998). A comparative discourse analysis of lawyers’ petitions captures the similarities and differences in their deployment of linguistic politeness in the past and the present when making requests threatens their face/security.

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DOI: 10.1558/ijsll.v21i2.317


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