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Diplomatic niceties and politeness of politicians

Published: 12 July 2019 at 14:00

Lord Ashcroft Building in Cambridge

12th International Conference on (Im)politeness will be held in Cambridge

A conference looking at the rise of impoliteness, including the language used by politicians and diplomats, will take place in Cambridge next week.

The 12th International Conference on (Im)politeness – shorthand used by linguistic researchers who examine both politeness and impoliteness – will be held at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) from 17-19 July.

Amongst the 120 delegates will be Zohar Kampf, from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who will present his work “Flattery helps”: Amicable communication between diplomats and state leaders which looks at strategies deployed by state representatives in private interactions.

Pablo Álvarez Alonso from the University of Vigo will discuss the language used during the Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump 2016 presidential debates, while Somaye Akbari from the University of Bayreuth will present Impoliteness in Iranian televised presidential debates.

The (Im)polite interventions of speakers of Polish and British Parliaments will be examined by Władysław Chłopicki (Jagiellonian University) and Dorota Brzozowska (Opole University). Their research has focused on “coercive and entertaining impoliteness”, with an analysis of humorous intention.

And British academics Peter Bull and Maurice Waddle will present their research, “Let me now answer, very directly, Marie’s question”: The impact of quoting members of the public in Prime Minister’s Questions. This found that Jeremy Corbyn’s use of public questions reduced the number of personal attacks by then Prime Minster David Cameron during their weekly debate in the House of Commons.

Conference organiser Dr Vahid Parvaresh, Senior Lecturer in Linguistics at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), said:

“The overall study of impoliteness and language aggression has gained unprecedented momentum in recent years, probably due to the explosion of social media such as Twitter and Instagram. 

“Social media has given people an unprecedented outlet to express themselves, which is incredibly positive. But at the same time, social media has seen the rise of incompatibility, conflict, aggression, and even harassment. 

“This is particularly evident in the language of politics, in which the traditional boundaries between politicians and people have collapsed, paving the way for a more polarised and aggressive use of language, both online and in the real world.

“A recent case in point would be Donald Trump’s aggressive tweets about British ambassador Sir Kim Darroch, in which he called him a ‘wacky Ambassador’ and a ‘very stupid guy’. This isn’t the language traditionally used by world leaders and its effect is that it slowly begins to normalise this kind of impoliteness.”