What was Robin Lakoff's basic argument?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Lakoff is famous in the field of sociolinguistics for two reasons. She firstly examined how speech was different between men and women, arguing that women's speech can be identified and differentiated from the speech of men through a number of different qualities, including the way in which they use what she phrases as "super-polite" forms such as "Would you mind...?" and also so-called "empty adjectives," such as "divine" or "gorgeous." Other aspects that she identified as being particularly related to the language that women use are politeness and also making statements as an indirect form of asking for something.

Secondly, she also developed the "Politeness Principle," in which she came up with three maxims that are normally to be found in any interaction between humans. These are:

1) Don't impose

2) Give options to the receiver on how to respond

3) Make the receiver feel good.

She argued that these three maxims are vitally important if the interaction is to be considered good. If a speaker does not follow these maxims, they are, in her opinion, "flouting the maxims" and interacting impolitely.


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