Relationship between Interlocutors’ Choice of Speech Strategies and Their Power Strength


校园英语·上旬 2016年8期


【Abstract】Interactional sociolinguistics is a sub-branch of linguistics that uses discourse analysis to study how language users create meaning via social interaction. The topics in this discipline include cross-cultural communication, politeness and framing. This study focuses on the aspect of politeness in interactional sociolinguistics.

【Key words】interlocutors choice of speech strategies; power strengt


Politeness principle is the important point in pragmatics proposed by Brown and Levinson (1978). It shows peoples politeness when speaking with others. However, we should also consider the speakers strength of social power to avoid communication barriers.

This study looks at the respondents reaction to given situations to examine the relationship between interlocutors speech strategies and their power strength.

Literature Review

Interactional sociolinguistics believes any word spoken by participants of a conversation is a shared product and will be affected by the speaker, the hearer and outside world; during the session of a conversation, the participants should make the most of not only vocabulary and grammar, but context knowledge including knowledge of the speakers social background.

The Present Study

The present study attempts study the relationship between the speakers use of speech strategies and their power strength in the angle of interactional sociolinguistics. The research is guided by the following questions:

1)Is peoples power strength affects their speech strategies in interactive situations?

2)If the answer is positive, how does speakers express their speech strategies?

Research Design


40 questionnaires with two questions were given to college students, 20 girls and 20 boys. The contents of the questionnaire are as follows:

1.Lost your ID card, you went to the police station to handle the things.



You: Id come next time.

2.It is Tuesday and the professor asks for your first draft.



Professor: This is the last date.

Respondents are required to write down their first reaction.

Instrument and rationale

Questionnaire is the instrument employed in the study. By looking into the students reaction, first-hand data was obtained.

Multidimensional analysis was used to see politeness strategies reflected on the respondents answers.

Data analysis

The survey involves police-people relationship and teacher-student relationship, in both of which the participants power strength are imbalanced: social distance of the first one is larger than the second.

In the first situation, all girls used address forms or greetings; by comparison, 80 percent of boys used address forms or greetings and 20 percent used zero address terms. In the second situation the professors power is higher than that of students; therefore, in professors line, only 30 percent used address terms, and 70 percent used zero address forms.

When social distance and power strength of two interactional sides are in a larger difference, weaker side is inclined to use polite strategies to assure the negative face of the stronger side.

Thus it can be seen that peoples power strength affects their speech strategies when interacting with each other.

Here is a sample of a students answer in situation one:


The response to situation one belongs to the speech act of request. The strategies used in the sample include greetings, apologies, and euphemism, indicating a higher level of politeness for the requester in a disadvantaged position.

In situation two, however, the professors power is larger than the student, so the requesters speech strategies show a lower level of politeness. In fact, 94 percent of students in situation one employed euphemistic expressions, whereas 70 percent in situation two used the same strategies.

By greetings, apologies, euphemism, etc., speakers express their politeness.


From the above, it is obvious that peoples power strength influence speech strategies of both hearers and speakers; speakers show their politeness using strategies like greetings, apologies, euphemisms, etc. Accordingly, further investigations are valuable and needed.


[1]Brown,P.& Levinson.Universals in language usage:politeness phenomenon[A].In EN.Goody(ed.)Questions and Politeness: Strategies in Social Interaction[C]:56-289 Cambridge:Cambridge University Press.1978.