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The diachrony of im/politeness in American and British movies (1930–2019)


Jucker, Andreas H; Landert, Daniela (2023). The diachrony of im/politeness in American and British movies (1930–2019). Journal of Pragmatics, 209:123-141.

Abstract

In this paper, we use a relatively new source of data, the Movie Corpus, to explore the common stereotype that politeness standards keep falling. In this data, which contains transcripts of movies from 1930 to 2019, we trace a range of elements that have relatively clear default politeness or impoliteness values (e.g. please, could you and a range of title nouns versus swear words). And we introduce a terminological distinction between conduct politeness and etiquette politeness. The results suggest a complex picture of some “polite” expressions that are indeed declining (e.g. title nouns, would you (please)) while others are rising (e.g. can you (please)). Many “impolite” swear words have increased considerably over the last five decades. We carefully discuss the reliability of these results, which fully depend on the composition of the corpus and its consistency over time as well as on the reliability of the chosen elements as im/politeness indicators. We compare the results for American/Canadian and for British/Irish movies (following the distinction of the Movie Corpus), and we discuss the extent to which movies can be taken as indicators of language change in general.

Abstract

In this paper, we use a relatively new source of data, the Movie Corpus, to explore the common stereotype that politeness standards keep falling. In this data, which contains transcripts of movies from 1930 to 2019, we trace a range of elements that have relatively clear default politeness or impoliteness values (e.g. please, could you and a range of title nouns versus swear words). And we introduce a terminological distinction between conduct politeness and etiquette politeness. The results suggest a complex picture of some “polite” expressions that are indeed declining (e.g. title nouns, would you (please)) while others are rising (e.g. can you (please)). Many “impolite” swear words have increased considerably over the last five decades. We carefully discuss the reliability of these results, which fully depend on the composition of the corpus and its consistency over time as well as on the reliability of the chosen elements as im/politeness indicators. We compare the results for American/Canadian and for British/Irish movies (following the distinction of the Movie Corpus), and we discuss the extent to which movies can be taken as indicators of language change in general.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > English Department
08 Research Priority Programs > Language and Space
06 Faculty of Arts > Zurich Center for Linguistics
Dewey Decimal Classification:820 English & Old English literatures
Uncontrolled Keywords:Artificial Intelligence, Linguistics and Language, Language and Linguistics
Language:English
Date:1 May 2023
Deposited On:22 Mar 2023 11:00
Last Modified:29 Apr 2024 01:36
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:0378-2166
OA Status:Hybrid
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2023.02.020
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)