Politeness and Impoliteness conference runs through August 31

by The College of Education  /   Aug 30, 2012

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The conference "Experimental and Empirical Approaches to Politeness and Impoliteness" opened on August 29 and will run through August 31. The conference, an international and interdisciplinary event dedicated to how perceptions of politeness and impoliteness are shaped through language and affect the utterance interpretation process, is the first of its kind in the U.S.

The event is also known as "LIAR 3," with two previous conferences held in Europe. (LIAR is an acronym for Linguistic Impoliteness and Rudeness.)

Opening remarks were given by Ruth Watkins, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; Mary Kalantzis, Dean of the College of Education; and James Yoon, Head of the Department of Linguistics.

Both deans welcomed everyone in attendance, and thanked all individuals involved in planning the event, including Marina Terkourafi, who chaired the organizing committee, as well as Linguistics department head James Yoon. Both deans touched on the importance of the topic and the significance of advancing thinking in the area of politeness, impoliteness, and the intersection of linguistics or psycho- or sociolinguistics theory and social cognition.

Education Dean Mary Kalantzis, who has a background in linguistics, remarked about how the conference won an NSF award, and in doing so, has received national recognition for its quality and prominence. She explained how the College of Education did not hesitate in backing the conference, saying, "I can't tell you how delighted I am that this is a realization of true interdisciplinarity and true collaboration."

In thanking conference organizers and speakers, Kalantzis said that we must "be more complex in the way that we engage – and it's your research and your understanding that will help us do that." She added that a key problem across all levels on campus is "the question of style of communication, because that trips you up even more than budgets… we have to be careful not to use style and communication problems as the first kind of judgment or dismissal."

Addressing instances of impoliteness, LAS Dean Watkins said, "I often wonder if the intent was really as impolite as it may seem. It might be or it might not be. And certainly for individuals with less-than-typical language abilities, I think the issues of language confidence certainly places individuals at risk for being perceived as impolite or rude when in fact there were issues of (language) confidence rather than intent."

Pragmatics-related publications include the journal "International Review of Pragmatics" and companion book series "Empirical Foundations of Theoretical Pragmatics." A book display, which features publishers Brill, Cambridge University Press, and John Benjamins, is open for the duration of the conference.

The six plenary talks will be available as live video streams through a Plenary Stream link; a program lists all talks and times (all times Central).

The closing roundtable is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. on Friday, August 31, and is sponsored by the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities.

Linguistics Assistant Professor Marina Terkourafi served as chair of the conference's Organizing Committee; Educational Psychology Associate Professor Kiel Christianson served as a member of the committee.

Experimental and Empirical Approaches to Politeness and Impoliteness is supported by a competitive conference grant by the National Science Foundation. Click here to see a list of sponsors, which includes the College of Education.