Are Russians Impolite? Reasons for Such Stereotyping and a Look Into Russian Politeness in Comparison with English.

Topics: Russia, Culture, Cross-cultural communication Pages: 11 (3830 words) Published: March 18, 2011
Are Russians Impolite? Reasons for Such Stereotyping and a Look into Russian Politeness in Comparison with English.

Despite the fact that the phenomenon of politeness is widespread in the entire world, after looking into different cultures it is possible to notice that in each one it reveals itself in various ways; it can have a small number of differences or it may differ starting from the basics. This is determined by a range of cultural specifications, customs, and way of life (Wierzbicka 2003). The essence of politeness is usually lies much deeper than in speaking syntax and language structure. An ignorance of given actions can result in misunderstanding and cultural stereotyping, which is highly dangerous to communication (Leech 1983). Therefore given topic was chosen. There was a chance for me of getting to know a few different cultures, among them Russian and English. I was born and grew up in Lithuania, and due to certain historical facts (USSR occupation till 1990) part of our culture and communication elements were influenced by Russia, I also had a chance of meeting and communicating with a number Russian people, and because during my childhood TV was broadcasting only Russian channels, films and TV shows, I got acquainted with its cultural specifications. After coming to UK for the first time, a few years ago a contrast between these two cultural communication features was experienced; an impression that English people are really very polite was made, and that compared to them Russian people are relatively rude. However, after spending more time in England more differences were discovered, not only in communicational but in cultural terms as well, which define communication impulses. And even though English language seems to be very warm and polite, its indirectness serves as a barrier that allows to keep distance from the others; meanwhile, despite the fact that at first sight Russian directness may seem offensive, after getting to know it better one realises that this is a way of expressing friendliness and hospitality. This vast contrast between English and Russian cultures is going to be great for stereotype analysis, and a study on Russian impoliteness and English exceeded politeness reasons. One of the biggest differences between Russian and English politeness syntax is the use of directness and indirectness (Larina 2008). Thus the analysis will be based on Brown and Levinson politeness theory, it will be attempted to find out what cultural and social values decide negative politeness differences. Works of different authors will be studied based on English and Russian politeness and culture.

In her book “Cross-cultural Pragmatics” Anna Wierbicka (2003) defines key values and characteristics of Russian culture, based on various analyzed cultural factors, Russian literature releases as well as an observation of everyday communication and behaviour. Let us take a look at the central ones. Russian people are more likely to express their emotions, show how they really feel, no matter if it is bad or good, and the fact that others can tell how one feels is perceived as a good feature. Relations for them are more important than material aspects, this can be sensed in their language, an often use of words like “dusha” (a soul), demonstrates an importance of their inner world; they have words as “udivliat’sa” “vanload’sa” “radovat’sa” that stand for emotional conditions - be surprised, be worried, be happy (Bergelson 2003). Another aspect in which Russians stand out is that they have a lot of diminutive, in a pleasant way, forms of names; and as opposed to English culture where most of them are kids’ names (Tommy, Timmy) a lot more than that not depending on one’s age or gender (Lenochka, Volodenka) this way diminishing social distance, demonstrating importance and closeness and showing feelings and emotions between communicators (Bergelson 2003). Due to the fact that one of their central characteristics is...

References: 0. Maria Sifianou (1992) Politeness Phenomena in Enlish and Greece: a Cross-cultural Perspective. Oxford: Clarendon.
0. Miriam Meyerhoff (2006) Introducing Sociolinguistics. New Yourk: Routledge
0. Greet Hofstede (1994) Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind: Intercultural Cooperation and its Importance for Survival. London: HarperCollins.
0. Harry Triandis (1995) Individualism & Collectivism. Oxford: Westview Press.
0. Jeremy Paxman (1998) The English: a Portrait of a People. London: Penguin.
0. Penelope Brown and Stephen C. Levinson (1987) Politeness : some universals in language usage. Cambridge : Cambridge University Press
0. Ralph Fasold (1989). The Sociolinguistics of Language. Oxford: Blackwell.David
0. Ronald Wardhaugh (1992) Sociolinguistics. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers
0. Renate Rathmayr (2008) Intercultural Aspects of New Russian Politenes. WU Online Papers in International Business Communication available at last accessed 15-12-08
0. Tatiana Larina (2005) Cultural Values and Negative Politeness in English and Russian. Respectus Philologicus (Respectus Philologicus), issue: 8(13) available online at last accessed 15-12-08
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