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How Professors and Students in two Universities in the Philippines Do Power and Politeness in the Classroom

Victoria, Mabel



This research investigates how professors and students from two universities in the Philippines linguistically enact power and politeness in the classroom. Professors can be seen to have more power than their students by virtue of their status, age, skill, more knowledge of the subject matter and authority to assign grades (Rees-Miller 1999). In order to promote a safe and nurturing learning environment, they are usually expected to perform the delicate balancing act of achieving the transactional goals of the lesson while at the same time orienting to the relational needs of the students. To encourage critical thinking, teachers may challenge ideas and withhold encouragement, which can threaten the positive and negative face of their students; the very same face which they are expected to enhance, protect and attend to. Students, on the other hand may find that their desire for self expression and critical thinking are often in conflict with their desire to pay respect to the professor’s status and authority. Using Brown and Levinson’s (1987) model of politeness as analytical framework and field notes and audio recordings of lessons as data, this research describes how professors and students do power and politeness in the classroom. It explores the difference in strategies that professors and students use to mitigate power with linguistic politeness. Preliminary findings indicate that there is power in solidarity or the degree of ‘we-ness’ of the class as a group. Negative politeness might help ‘oil’ the wheels of social interaction but it is solidarity (which is an aspect of positive politeness) that makes all four wheels go together in the same direction, in the first place. Solidarity takes the a out of asymmetry and makes power available where it is needed in the pursuit of teaching and learning goals.

Presentation Conference Type Conference Paper (unpublished)
Conference Name 4th International Symposium on Politeness “East Meets West”
Start Date Jul 2, 2008
End Date Jul 4, 2008
Deposit Date Dec 20, 2021
Public URL