The embodied enactment of politeness metapragmatics

Lucien Brown, Soung U. Kim, Hyunji Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Whereas previous research on metapragmatic talk has tended to focus on what people say about politeness, the current paper additionally explores how people talk about politeness. More specifically, we extend our analysis to the embodied resources, including gestures and nonverbal behaviour, that people use when enacting politeness talk. The data comes from two semi-structured interviews that we conducted with South Korean participants, both of whom were middle-aged university professors. We subjected the data to three rounds of analysis. First, we thematically coded the content of the narratives, revealing important differences in how these two participants from the same language background conceived of politeness. Second, we analyzed the appearance of verbal and non-verbal markers of deferential politeness. This analysis revealed that the overall bodily comportment of the two participants closely matched the different politeness narratives that they inhabited. Third and finally, we examined how the participants used bodily movements when evoking specific embodied practices related to politeness, and used embodied behaviours to represent abstract politeness-related concepts and map them onto spatial locations. Overall, the analysis shows that metapragmatic talk about politeness is an embodied achievement and thus needs to be treated within the remit of the multimodal turn in politeness research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)149-183
Number of pages35
JournalJournal of Politeness Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2023


  • embodiment
  • gesture
  • Korean
  • metapragmatics
  • politeness

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