Politeness and second language learning: The case of Korean speech styles

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This paper puts forward a model for the study of politeness in second language learning and applies this approach to data collected pertaining to the use of speech styles by advanced learners of Korean from "Western" backgrounds. The learning of politeness in a second language is conceptualized as a process of "re-framing"; in other words, of re-analyzing and enriching existing frames regarding the kind of (linguistic) behavior that normally occurs in given context. This process is complicated by different ideological loadings regarding what it means to "speak politely" in different cultures and also by the instability of "face" in L1-L2 encounters. The data shows that the more egalitarian way that L2 speakers use Korean speech styles does not just result from a lack of knowledge regarding the "frames" in which different styles are usually applied, but also from ideological opposition to using these forms for the overt marking of age-rank relationships. However, rather than being evaluated as "impolite", the salient modes of honorifics use appearing in L1-L2 encounters were rendered appropriate to some extent by the relationships emerging in such contexts. Ultimately, "face" and "politeness" in interactions involving L2 learners are established through interaction and are intrinsically dynamic and discursive.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)243-269
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Politeness Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • face
  • frames
  • Korean speech styles
  • language learning
  • politeness ideologies

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