Date: Thu, 23 Oct 1997 10:47:40 CST From: Ellen Johnson Subject: sociolinguistic competence Whoa! Let's step back from our cultural defenses and look at politeness from a metalinguistic standpoint. Whether I view it as good or bad is linguistically irrelevant. The relevant matter is that we acquire language in a sociocultural setting and along with it the pragmatic conventions of that culture (at least most of us do!). Every culture has rules about greetings and leavetakings, conversational maxims about how much or how little to talk, etc. As a linguist, I am interested in how these vary, but I try to refrain from using terms like "rude" and "deceitful" just as I don't talk about people using "poor" or "substandard" English. One point of interest is how these rules change over time, but we need some empirical evidence before we start making claims like "people aren't polite anymore". Some of this reminds me of a discussion on linguistic competence vs. fluency (i.e. rhetorical skill). We all make performance errors in violating politeness norms, but what of the individual who seems not to have acquired them, or who purposely flaunts them? Is sociolinguistic competence really analogous to linguistic competence? Ellen ellen.johnson[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]