DOI: 10.1515/pr-2022-0002 ISSN:

A corpus-assisted analysis of indexical signs for (im)politeness in Japanese apology-like behaviour

Eugenia Diegoli
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Cultural Studies
  • Social Psychology


This study provides a corpus-assisted pragmatic investigation of three Japanese expressions: the adverb chotto ‘a little’, the verb-ending form -te shimau, conveying (formulaic) regret, and the conditional clause with -tara. These are deictic forms I refer to as indexical signs for (im)politeness because they can, under certain circumstances, trigger evaluations in terms of (im)politeness, potentially favouring an indirect interpretation of the utterance. They are investigated in co-occurrence with apology-like behaviour based on the assumption that, in this context, interactants are more likely to exploit linguistic strategies for conveying additional layers of pragmatic meaning. The main findings point to a wide range of possible interactional meanings the selected forms can acquire in naturally occurring data, from affecting the illocutionary force of the utterance, to conventionally matching interactants’ expectations, to conveying a potentially face-threatening act. These results support the assumption that seemingly polite speech acts will not necessarily be doing polite work (or not only) and highlight the relevance of the interactional context for retrieving communicative meanings.

More from our Archive