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The Bald On Record Strategy

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Language
Wordcount: 5425 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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According to Brown and Levinson(1978: 74), bald on record strategy is a direct way of saying things, without any minimisation to the imposition, in a direct, clear, unambiguous and concise way, for example “Do X!”. Brown and Levinson (1987) claim that the primary reason for bald on record usage may be generally stated as whenever the speaker wants to do FTA with maximum efficiency more than s/he wants to satisfy hearer’s face, even to any degree, s/he will choose the bald on record strategy.

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There are different kinds of bald on record usage in different circumstances. This is because the speaker can have different motives for her/his wants to do the FTA with minimum efficiency. The motives fall into two classes; one is where the face threat is not minimised and therefore ignored or irrelevant, and the other is where in doing the FTA baldly on record, the speaker minimises face threats by implication. Brown and Levinson (1978: 100) give an example of bald on record strategy and say that direct imperatives are clear examples of bald on record usage. Imperatives are often softened with hedges or conventional politeness markers, e.g., “Please send us the offers”. Verb “do” is used with imperatives, like in “Do call us”. While what BL call bald on record strategies might simply involve the Gricean maxims, politeness strategies, in contrast, would involve violating the maxims in specific way.

Positive politeness

The positive politeness is usually seen in groups of friends, or where people of given social situation know each other fairly well. It usually tries to minimize the distance between them by expressing friendliness and solid interest in the hearer’s need to be expected (minimize FTA). Unlike negative politeness, positive politeness is not necessarily re-dressive of the particular face infringed by the FTA.

According to Brown and Levinson (1978: 106), positive politeness is redress directed to the addressee’s positive face, his/her perennial desire to the his/her wants or actions acquisitions, values resulting from them -should be thought of as desirable. Furthermore, they describe that the redress consists in partially satisfying that desire that one’s own wants or some of them are in some respects similar to the addressee’s wants. BL also note that unlike negative politeness, positive politeness is not necessarily redressive of the particular face want infringe by the FTA. In other words, in positive politeness, the sphere of redress is widened to the appreciation of alter’s wants in general or to the expression of similarity between ego’s and alter’s wants .

“. . .the linguistic realizations of positive politeness are in many respects simply representative of the normal linguistic behaviour between intimates, where interest and approval of each others personality, presuppositions indicating shared wants and shared knowledge, implicit claims to reciprocity of obligations or to reflexivity of wants, etc. Are routinely exchanged. Perhaps the only feature that distinguishes positive politeness redress from normal everyday intimate language behaviour is an element of exaggeration; this serves as a marker of the face-redress aspect of positive politeness expression by indicating that even S can’t with total sincerity say “I want your wants” he can at least sincerely indicate “I want your positive face to be satisfied

Brown and Levinson (1978: 106)

BL add the element of insincerity in exaggerated expressions of approval or interest is compensating for by the implication that the speaker sincerely wants positive face to be enhanced. This perspective of intimacy is interesting when considering articles in economic journals between authors and audiences are not usually very intimate and if they were, intimacy would be disregard while giving scientific claims. In this sense, it could be expected that not many strategies of positive politeness would be used or rarely used in the articles of economic journals. BL also explain that the association with intimate language usage gives the linguistic of positive politeness its redressive force. They claim that positive politeness utterances are used as kind of metaphorical extensions of intimacy, to imply common ground or sharing of wants to a limited extension of intimacy, and also to imply common ground or sharing of wants to a limited extent even between strangers who perceive themselves for the purposes of the interaction as somehow similar. This is true when considering economic articles; in fact, sometimes authors and audiences (esoteric) have similar knowledge in general or purpose in common.

BL also point out that the positive politeness techniques are usable not only for FTA redress but in general as a kind of accelerator, where S, in using them, indicates he wants to come closer to H or audiences. In addition, BL divide positive politeness into three strategies, namely claiming the common ground, conveying that sender and receiver are co-operators and fulfilling receiver’s want. Negative Politeness

When Brown and Levinson define negative politeness, they say that it is a redressive action addressed to the addressee’s negative face, that is the addressee’s wants to have freedom of action unhindered and addressee’s attention unimpeded. They also point out that negative politeness is the heart of respective behaviour, just as positive politeness is the kernel of “familiar” and “joking” behaviour. Negative politeness corresponds to the rituals of avoidance. Where positive politeness is free-ranging, negative politeness is specific and focused; it performs the function of minimizing the particular imposition that the FTA gives unavoidable effects. Furthermore, BL also stress the difference among them, that negative politeness is the kind of politeness used between acquaintances whereas positive politeness is used between closer friends.

Negative politeness is the most elaborate and the most conventionalized set of linguistic strategies for FTA redress; it fills the etiquette books although positive politeness also gets some attention. Furthermore, according to BL (1987: 135), the linguistic realization of negative politeness, conventional indirectness, hedges on illocutionary force, polite pessimism, and the emphasis on hearer’s relative power are very familiar and need no introduction. In addition, BL say that the negative politeness outputs in all forms are used in general for social “distancing”. Therefore, they are likely to be used whenever a speaker or a sender wants to put a social brake on the course of interaction. There are five main categories as the linguistic realization of negative politeness by BL, namely communicating sender’s want not to impinge the receiver, not coercing receiver, not presuming/assuming, being (conventionally in) direct and redressing receiver’s wants. Off Record

Brown and Levinsons (1978:216) define off record strategy as a communicative act which is done in such a way that is not possible to attribute one clear communicative intention to the act. In this case, the actor leaves her/himself an “out” by providing her/himself with a number of defensible interpretations. S/he cannot be held to have committed her/himself to just one particular interpretation of her/his act. In other words, BL claim, the actor leaves it up to the addressee to decide how to interpret the act.

Off record utterances are essential in indirect use of language. One says something that is rather general. In this case, the hearer must make some inference to recover what was intended. For example, if somebody says “It is hot in here”, the hidden meaning of the utterance can be a request to open the window or to switch on the air conditioner.

Furthermore, BL (1978: 230-232), list inviting conversational implicatures as one of the main strategies of off record-ness, and its subcategories are giving hints, giving association clues, presupposing, understating, overstating, using tautologies, using contradictions, being ironic, using metaphors, and using rhetorical question. The other main strategy of going off record is being vague or ambiguous, and its subcategories are being ambiguous, being vague, over-generalising, displacing hearer and being incomplete.

Politeness In Scientific articles

This section aims to present an overview of recent trends in the research of academic writing. One particular area of on-going research is the use of politeness in scientific articles such as economic issues written by economic scholars in academic journal.

Myers (1989) discovers that politeness strategies are used explicitly in scientific research article, for instance, to make claims and avoid FTAs. In his study “The Pragmatic of Politeness in Scientific Articles”, Myers mentions that he adopted politeness strategies proposed by Brown and Levinson (1987) in their book “Politeness; Some Universal in language Usage’.

Brown and Levinson (1987) have developed a theory of politeness to explain the nature of politeness phenomena in language. According to them, it is possible to define generic types of politeness strategies to explain and predict the adoption of politeness in oral or written discourse. As already mentioned in the previous explanation, this theory is based on the work of Goffmann (1967) and it states that people who want to be polite assess the degree of ‘face’ threat that their discourse will cause in others.

BL outline a whole hierarchy of politeness strategies and argue that cultures can be compared in terms of which categories of redress preferred. Most of the claims in the corpus of scientific articles illustrate either positive or negative politeness strategies. But there are instances that illustrate the other choices open to BL’s Model of person; doing FTA without redress, baldly; doing it off record; indirectly; and deciding not to do it at all.

The Model Person also has a rational faculty for choosing the course of action that will give the highest pay-off with the least loss of face, evaluating three variables; the social distances (D); the relative difference in power between the speaker and hearer (P); and the rank of imposition (R). Myers (1989: 3) in his articles still uses the Brown and Levinson model to help understand the interaction between writers and readers in written text, and particularly in scientific texts, so it meant that these three basic variables are affective to help this study understand the interactions of politeness between writers and readers in written text.

In the realm of written communication, the influence of the above factors to politeness has been assessed by Chiappini and Harris 1996; Holtgraves and Yang 1990; and Pilegaard 1997. Although it has been said that specific factors like power, social distance or status influence the adoption of strategies, it is difficult to provide definite conclusions. But it could be said that politeness in written communication such as in economic journal, like others academic field has been generally concluded as a strategy used to create and maintain a friendly atmosphere for relations, to close distance between speakers and hearers and to mitigate the impact of impositions.

Greg Myers published his article “The Pragmatics of Politeness in Scientific Articles” in 1989. By using the model of the politeness principle, Myers (1989) pioneers the application of Brown and Levinsons’s (1987) politeness strategies onto written text, and he discovers the existence of politeness in scientific articles.

This study attempts to follow what Myers had done in the previous study when he explores and analyzes the research article, by choosing to study economic journals that are quite similar to the corpus in Myers’s study. The reason is because an economic journal consists of interactions among economists in which the maintenance of face is crucial. We could see economists building alliances that define what knowledge is as the statement of the individual becomes a fact when it is accepted and used by consensus of the community. In these interactions, certain FTAs are unavoidable and must be redressed with various politeness devices. Moreover, every economist report in the economic issues states a claim, in other words, it makes statement that is to be taken as the article’s contribution to knowledge. Most reports, in stating a claim, deny or supersede the claims of others.

As stated earlier, this study tries to examine the politeness strategies in the economic text. Myers (1989) investigates the use of politeness in scientific text which closely related with this study. Myers (1983: 3) justifies his reasons for studying politeness strategies in scientific articles. The first reason is scientific article containing the “norms of scientific culture”, which include the use of passives, nominalization, hedges, and acknowledgement. Secondly, it is because he considers scientific writing as a hard case. If this type of writing contains politeness strategies, then their presence in other genres can be expected. The next reason is that every scientific reports states a claim, an FTA is performed. It would be interesting to see how writers of scientific writing employ politeness strategies to stake a claim. Myers (1983) also discovers that politeness strategies are used explicitly in scientific articles. Below are the strategies employed by the writers/authors commonly found in the scientific papers. Positive Politeness and Solidarity

In Brown and Levinson (1987), the hierarchy of positive politeness is directed at showing the speaker concerns with hearer’s concern. Similarly, Myers in his article illustrate the situation:

That in scientific writing the range possible references to the readers’ wants is severely restricted: one cannot for instance, make any remark praising the general talents of a researcher, or remind the readers of a readers past success. But there are positive politeness devices for showing the writer acceptance of the wants of rival researcher, or of the scientific community as whole. (Myers: 1989)

In his article, he also points out that the researchers show their solidarity with the community by showing “identification with common goals”. For instance, when a researcher expresses disappointment, it does not mean that it is a display of personal feelings. Instead, it is an expression of despair for the loss of the opportunity to contribute towards the community. In another example, when an author or a researcher expresses his pleasure or sheer delight, it is not a celebration of personal achievement; it is meant to indicate how glad the author is that “the findings fit with the larger goals of the scientific community.

Myers (1989) finds that strategic use of pronoun is to stress solidarity, as imposition is made and the use of modifiers to assume common ground, the use of emotional response to indicate solidarity and such unscientific-seeming devices as joking and giving gifts, and also the use of citations are normally used to show solidarity.

One way of making criticism while minimizing the FTA is for the writers to use pronoun that include themselves in the criticism. Besides the use of we that means the writers, there is we that means the discipline as a whole. The use of the first person plural pronoun lessens the impact of the claim or criticism made (Myers 1998:7). When an author uses we, it shows solidarity with others, such as research partner(s) or supervisor(s)

Joking would seem to be an unlikely politeness strategy in scientific text, and indeed there is not much room for humour in it. But jokes are useful for scientists, linguists, economists or other academic communities, in establishing a sense of shared knowledge or assumptions. This sense can emerge in two features of scientific articles, namely new terms and titles, and they may serve to mitigate the FTA of claim. BL list the giving of gifts as one of their positive politeness strategies. The concerned device in the analysis of writing is the gift of credit, especially in the disposition of citations. It may seem odd that the choice of who to cite and who not to cite could be matter of strategy. One special case of this of giving credit is the acknowledgement of simultaneous, independent claims. Historically, priority disputes have been major causes of tension within the scientific community. Furthermore, authors can show their solidarity with the community more subtly by exhibiting response that assumed shared knowledge. Myers (1989) in his paper finds an indication of emotional response to results, or desire for certain results.

In scientific writing such as economic journals, a pattern of citations is used to show solidarity with the scientific community. Authors used this strategy to show the referee or the editorial board that their work is in agreement with the previous studies and it is supported by these studies. Also, by citing the findings of the established members of the academic community, they hoped that their suggestions would be more convincing.

Based on the explanations above, those basic concepts of the positives politeness in scientific articles have not changed much compared to the basic concepts proposed by BL, that the communication is framed so that all parties maintain a positive face. “Positive politeness is an effort to make up for a threat to the desired self-image” or it usually tries to minimize the distance between them by expressing friendliness and solid interest in the hearer’s need to be respected. Positive politeness devices are used to mitigate both claims and denials of claims.

Negative Politeness and Hedging

Using the model of the politeness principle, Myers (1989) pioneers the application of Brown and Levinsons’s (1987) politeness strategies onto written text. Brown and Levinsons (1987) propose that negative politeness is the strategies assuring the readers that the writers do not intend to infringe on their wants, their freedom to act. Most of the features that are considered just conventional in scientific text-hedging, impersonal construction. The assertion of general rules, can be reinterpreted as negative politeness devices (Myers. 1989:12).

Hedging can be described as a strategy by which speakers mitigate and soften the force of their utterances (Nikula, 1997). Hedging is politeness strategy where it marks a claim, or any other statement, as being provisional, pending acceptance in the literature and by the community, in other words, its acceptance by the readers.

Hedging, which is a negative politeness strategy, considers to be a tool of scientific practice and a discursive strategy in academic and professional writing. It is a classic strategy in making claims and communicating ideology. Lakoff (1972) who defines this concepts explain hedging as “words whose jobs is to make things fuzzy or less fuzzy”.

Many researchers agree that hedging is useful. Skelton (1988:38) for instance, cannot see how language can function without hedging, as “language without hedging is language without life”. Salager-Meyer (1998:296) mentions that this linguistic manoeuvring has indeed contributed towards a richer and deeper understanding of the device. Myers (1989) discovers the use of hedging was reserved for representation when there was uncertainty, as in the following example.

E.g.1 . . . Perhaps most appropriately called precursor mRNA (Messenger Roboneuclid Acid) . . .

(Source Myers 1992: 11)

Myers also mentions that hedging in textbooks are used to indicate “remaining uncertainty”, for example:

E.g. 2: . . . they appear never to leave the nucleus . . .

(Source Myers 1992: 11)

A research by Darian also claims that “hedges are probably the clearest indicators of hypotheses” since hypotheses by its very nature are tentative. He finds in his research that, four out of eight patterns of hypotheses are found to contain hedges. Multiple hedges are also found and the most frequently used normally come in twos, although threes and fours are also found in the corpus.

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Bald on Record

It can be said that politeness in written communication has been generally seen as a strategy used to create and maintain a friendly atmosphere for relations, to close distance between speakers and hearers and to mitigate the impact of impositions. Brown and Levinson (1987) have developed a theory of politeness to explain the nature of politeness phenomena in language. “S wants to do the FTA with maximum efficiency more than he wants to satisfy H’s face…” (BL. 1978: 95)”

In scientific articles, Myers (1998) finds a parallel situation happened when the imposition on the reader is so small it can be ignored, or where the demands for efficiency are so great that they override the demands of politeness. Although it seems more polite when author(s) of the journal use this device, however, according to Myers (1989:21), the choice to use bald on record is made when writers feel that sometimes demands for efficiency may “override the demands of politeness”. In general, the authors made the choice to baldly state their claims with the purpose to be efficient and clear.

Off Record

In scientific texts such as economic journals, one might not expect to find any example off “off record” strategy because it is very rare and this kind of strategy is made only by implications, not in literal sense of the statement The purpose of this strategy is to record claim and an explicit statement is usually required to establish priority. But claim can be made in this indirect way only in unusual circumstances in which careful attention to the article is guaranteed, so that there is no implication.

If in the text of the journals we found phrasing which assume that the writers and the audiences share the same power as an obvious implication with no need to claim priority by using a “coy” and echoic word or a word inside quotation, it can be considered as off record claim. Generally, off record means that the speakers are removing themselves from any imposition whatsoever (Myers, 1989).

The Author-Audiences relationship in scientific text

Hunt (1995: 33) mentions in his paper that “a good piece of writing creates a clear picture of an audience, a writer and a relationship between them”. Therefore, a good writing could possess a general knowledge of the different types of audience.

In scientific texts such as journals as part of academic writing, the role of readers/audiences is crucial to the development of arguments made by writers. Myers (1989: 4) defines two groups of who the “real” audience of scientific articles is. He concludes that there are two groups immediate to the community, to whom a research report is supposed to be present: Exoteric, or wider scientific community, to whom a research report is supposed to be addressed, and the Esoteric, or “immediate audience of individual researchers doing the same works, who in a sense, “overhear”.

The second group of immediate audience are the ones, according to Myers, who “overhear” this distinction between the two groups is important, as he says:

The distinction is important because politeness involves displaying to the exoteric group proper respect for the face of members of the esoteric group…In other hand writer of scientific article, were writes in two roles; firstly as writer whose voice is in the text, and as researcher describing the work carried out (1989: 3-4).

As mentioned by Myers above, there are two different authors in scientific texts. The first type is the voice we take as speaking and the second type is the researcher whose work is described to give a clear description about that. Good writers are those who constantly keep the image of readers to always be present “as necessary partner in the act of writing. Finally, the author(s) “meet” their audience when a piece of written work is read.

The writers’ stance refer to the way they position themselves rhetorically when they communicate with their audience, that is, the readers. The image they project as writers are the result of the stance they take and the total impression that readers get from reading. The following elements help to determine the image projected by writers:

Writing Style




Spacing of text

Visual used

(Mayberry and Golden, 1990:7)

The above elements are related to the language, format and supports used by writers. Apart from these elements, writers improve their character by demonstrating that they made conscientious efforts to refer to the best authorities before presenting their arguments (Rotenberg, 1991: 15-16). Furthermore, they may identify themselves with the audience and share similar view. They would have also taken into consideration the interest and needs of others besides their own (Gong and Dragga, 1995: 404).

In the process of writing journals such as economics, writers act as their own internal readers while the editorial board judge the appropriate language and arguments for a particular audience. Winkler and McCuen (1994: 7) define this ability as the “basic aim of any instruction in rhetoric”, in which writers are trained to developed a sixth sense in choosing the most appropriate and effective way to address a target audience. An ideal internal reader cum editor is one who is able to tailor a written text in format that the intended audience is “willing to hear out” (Winkler and McCuen, 1994:9).

In conclusion, readers or audiences play an important role in writers’ attempt to present a good piece of written discourse. The choice of language, the support used as well as the development of an argument rest on whom the writers are addressing whereas the success of a comprehensive argument is determined by the readers. Furthermore, this study also concludes that the writers need to be aware of who the intended audience are, and in the case, the readers. The outcome of this awareness is the selection of appropriate language and comprehensive strategies used to present their findings, claim or arguments.

Format of Academic Journal

The term “academic journal” applies to scholarly publications in all fields; this article discusses the aspects common to all academic field journals. Scientific journals and journals of the quantitative social sciences vary in form and function from journals of the humanities and qualitative social sciences. The function of a journal is to distribute knowledge.

Academic journal is a peer-reviewed periodical in which scholarship relating to a particular academic discipline is published. Academic journals serve as forums for the introduction and presentation for scrutiny of new research, and the critique of existing research. Content typically takes the form of articles presenting original research, article reviews and book reviews.

In academia, professional scholars typically make unsolicited submissions of their articles to academic journals. Upon receipt of a submitted article manuscript, the journal editor or editors determine whether to reject the submission outright or begin the process of peer-review. In the latter case, the submission becomes subject to anonymous peer-review by external scholars of the editor’s choosing. The editors use the reviewers’ opinions in determining whether to publish the article, return it to the author(s) for revision or to reject it. Even accepted articles are subjected to further, sometimes considerable, editing by journal’s editorial staff before they appear in printed or online media. Typically, because the process is lengthy, an accepted article will not be published and read by the audience immediately as the process might extend for several months after its initial submission.

The journal audience can be grouped into two main categories, which are before and after published. The first category is the primary audience, who is the editorial board. They do the first screening on mostly on the body and the language of the paper, not its content. The editorial board or the journal staff has to ensure that certain criteria or requirements are met before it is sent to the expert or consulting editors for peer-review. In general, the editorial board only checks the completeness of the requirement based on the guideline.

The other group of individuals is the peer-reviewers or consulting editors who act as “referees”, and they vary according to each journal’s editorial practice. Typically, they are no fewer than two and usually there are at least three external peer-reviewers for an article. As stated earlier, they are specialists in their field and it is their evaluation that will determine the outcome of the research. The main options suggested after consultation are:

Accepted with minor correction

Accepted with major correction


( Journal of Bernas’s Guideline)

Accepted with minor correction means that the paper successfully pass the assessment and qualified to be printed out, while the second option which is accepted with major correction means that the paper will be returned back to the author to be corrected as soon as possible and examine again by the consulting boards. The last option, which is rejected means that the paper is not qualified to be printed with particular reasons.

The second category of audience is the public. It can be categorized into three; the first category, general audience, is made up of people with different age groups, sex and ethnic origin who have a variety of tastes, interest, political affiliations and religious beliefs. The second category is defined as special audiences and it is grouped according to the type of reading materials that cater for specific topics. The third category is the specific audience, who may actually be one or few people intended as target audience of written texts, such as letters, memos or journal.

Similar categorization may be applied to the audiences of written text, that is the readers. Therefore, based on these categories, consulting editors or the “referees” may be identified as specific audience since they form the key readers of this genre.

2.5 Summary

In this chapter, the researcher started this section with explanation of discourse and discourse analysis as the approaches. This study concludes that, the term “discourse” analysis is a mammoth-like interpretation. Thus, it mainly refers to the linguistic of language usage in social context, specifically on the analysis of occurring connected speech or written discourse.

The next section in this chapter is the discussion of politeness theory which covers the concept of politeness itself and the claims for universality. Also, there are diverse criticism or modification of one of the elements of the model, focusing on Myers’s room of thinking in his study “Politeness in Scientific Text” (1989) adapted from Brown and Levinson’s theory in their book “Politeness, Some Universals in Language Usage” (1978). They have developed a theory of politeness to explain the nature of politeness phenomena in various languages. Furthermore, in the last part of this chapter, it discusses about author-audience relationship in scientific journal or to whom a research report is supposed to be presented.


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