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      Face Management and Negative Strengthening: The Role of Power Relations, Social Distance, and Gender

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          Abstract

          Negated gradable adjectives often convey an interpretation that is stronger than their literal meaning, which is referred to as ‘negative strengthening.’ For example, a sentence like ‘John is not kind’ may give rise to the inference that John is rather mean. Crucially, negation is more likely to be pragmatically strengthened in the case of positive adjectives (‘not kind’ to mean rather mean) than negative adjectives (‘not mean’ to mean rather kind). A classical explanation of this polarity asymmetry is based on politeness, specifically on the potential face threat of bare negative adjectives ( Horn, 1989; Brown and Levinson, 1987). This paper presents the results of two experiments investigating the role of face management in negative strengthening. We show that negative strengthening of positive and negative adjectives interacts differently with the social variables of power, social distance, and gender.

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          Most cited references49

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          AN INVESTIGATION OF COMPLIANCE-GAINING AS POLITENESS

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            Paying compliments: A sex-preferential politeness strategy

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              Rationales for indirect speech: the theory of the strategic speaker.

              Speakers often do not state requests directly but employ innuendos such as Would you like to see my etchings? Though such indirectness seems puzzlingly inefficient, it can be explained by a theory of the strategic speaker, who seeks plausible deniability when he or she is uncertain of whether the hearer is cooperative or antagonistic. A paradigm case is bribing a policeman who may be corrupt or honest: A veiled bribe may be accepted by the former and ignored by the latter. Everyday social interactions can have a similar payoff structure (with emotional rather than legal penalties) whenever a request is implicitly forbidden by the relational model holding between speaker and hearer (e.g., bribing an honest maitre d', where the reciprocity of the bribe clashes with his authority). Even when a hearer's willingness is known, indirect speech offers higher-order plausible deniability by preempting certainty, gossip, and common knowledge of the request. In supporting experiments, participants judged the intentions and reactions of characters in scenarios that involved fraught requests varying in politeness and directness. (c) 2010 APA, all rights reserved.
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Journal
                Front Psychol
                Front Psychol
                Front. Psychol.
                Frontiers in Psychology
                Frontiers Media S.A.
                1664-1078
                27 September 2021
                2021
                : 12
                Affiliations
                [1] 1Cognitive Sciences, Department of Linguistics, University of Potsdam , Potsdam, Germany
                [2] 2Cognitive Science Centre, University of Neuchâtel , Neuchâtel, Switzerland
                Author notes

                Edited by: Valentina Cuccio, University of Messina, Italy

                Reviewed by: Paolo Canal, University Institute of Higher Studies in Pavia, Italy; Bob van Tiel, Radboud University Nijmegen, Netherlands

                *Correspondence: Nicole Gotzner, gotzner@ 123456uni-potsdam.de

                These authors share first authorship

                This article was submitted to Language Sciences, a section of the journal Frontiers in Psychology

                Article
                10.3389/fpsyg.2021.602977
                8502883
                64260e50-6d4d-426d-b945-0486cbefaafc
                Copyright © 2021 Gotzner and Mazzarella.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

                Page count
                Figures: 5, Tables: 7, Equations: 1, References: 49, Pages: 13, Words: 11668
                Funding
                Funded by: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, doi 10.13039/501100001659;
                Categories
                Psychology
                Original Research

                Clinical Psychology & Psychiatry
                conversational implicature,negation,politeness,social meaning,antonymy,adjectives

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