Among the various approaches to the linguistic investigations of interpersonal relationship management, the study of politeness strategies is probably the most well-established. However, most of the investigations into ‘politeness’ strategies have focused on the use of language on the utterance level, in particular, on speech act realization (Spencer-Oatey, 2008). Pan (2011, p.77) points out that one of the key methodological issues that the politeness researchers are faced with is ‘[W]hat is the unit of analysis? Should it be a single utterance, a string of utterances, or the entire interaction?’ Du (2015) proposed an analytical framework for understanding interactive behaviours in the workplace, the Multi-Level Model (MLM) and argues that analysis on the speech act level without reference to the broader context may provide a distorted interpretation of the interactants’ communicative intent. A problematic meeting in a multicultural Chinese workplace will be examined to demonstrate how the MLM framework can be applied to the understanding of the participants’ relational (politeness) strategies for problem talk on different levels of the discourse, including speech act realization level, turn-taking level, situational level as well as inter-event level. The findings of the study indicate that contextual factors not only can influence the choice and interpretation of relational strategies, but also can be manipulated by the workplace interactants as part of the relational strategy scheme for the achievement of interactive goals.
Bionote Dr Du, Ping is Assistant Professor at School of English, the University of Nottingham Ningbo China. Her major research interest is in intercultural workplace communication. Her degrees include PhD in Intercultural and Workplace Discourse (Nottingham), MA with Distinction in English Language in Literary Studies (Nottingham), and BA in Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language (BLCU). To find out more, please visit Dr Du Ping's profile page.
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