Quotation Culpeper, Jonathan, van Dorst, Isolde, Gillings, Mathew. 2019. British politeness expressions and regional stereotypes. Corpus Linguistics 2019, Cardiff, United Kingdom, 22.07-26.07.




In general, British culture is said to be characterized by off-record or negative politeness (e.g. Hickey & Stewart, 2005) and norms which give prominence to social distance (e.g. Bargiela-Chiappini & Kádár, 2011). Yet treating politeness as a monolithic block runs counter to the stereotypes that are articulated in lay discourses, including, for example, that northerners have very different politeness practices from southerners, practices which, broadly, are characterized by friendliness. Wales (2000: 5) suggests that “Northerners, especially from Scotland and Yorkshire, are perceived as miserly; but also friendly and down-to-earth”. This paper aims to explore the reality of regional politeness variation in England, using data from the Spoken British National Corpus 2014 (Love, Dembry, Hardie, Brezina & McEnery, 2017). We build on earlier work by Culpeper and Gillings (2018), which focused purely on the supposed north-south divide. That divide looms large in dialectology studies, and in lay discourses. However, Upton (2012) reminds us that the north-south dichotomy ignores the Midlands. Contrary to suggestions of the Midlands as a transition zone, Upton (2012: 262) argues that it “might warrant attention in its own right rather than being thought of as a mere junction between contrasting varieties”. Similar arguments could be made for other regions of England. We selected 50 key British formulaic politeness expressions, each allotted to one of three different types of politeness (tentativeness, deference or solidarity). We also accommodated differing levels of formality (e.g., different varieties of an expression are included, such as thank you, thanks and ta). Instances of these 50 expressions were retrieved from the regional categories of the Spoken British National Corpus 2014, and then manually screened. Our findings suggest that there are indeed differences in frequency among the politeness expressions according to region.


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Publication's profile

Status of publication Published
Affiliation External
Type of publication Paper presented at an academic conference or symposium
Language English
Title British politeness expressions and regional stereotypes
Event Corpus Linguistics 2019
Year 2019
Date 22.07-26.07
Country United Kingdom
Location Cardiff


van Dorst, Isolde (Details)
Gillings, Mathew (Details)
Culpeper, Jonathan (Lancaster University, United Kingdom)
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