Jumat, 29 Januari 2010

Artikel Skripsi: Politeness Strategies

Politeness Strategies Used by Indonesian Chatters in Internet Relay Chat (IRC)

Ima Khalimatus Sa’diyah


ImageThe purpose of this study is to find out politeness strategies used by Indonesian chatters in the discourse of online environment specifically in IRC channels. This study investigates three downloaded data of written conversations or messages in the IRC. The data were collected by logging in into an IRC channel, which is #Caféislam, for approximately two hours and then copying the conversations or messages written by the Indonesian chatters in the channel into the computer hard disk. The written conversations or messages that are taken as data are only the one containing face-threatening act (FTA). The data are analyzed using Brown and Levinson’s theory of politeness strategy (1987). Based on Brown and Levinson’s model of politeness strategy (1987), the politeness strategies used in chat conversations to reduce the FTA are grouped into four main strategies: Bald on Record, Positive Politeness, Negative Politeness, and Off-the-Record. The results of the analysis show that bald on record strategy is most widely used by Indonesian chatters in IRC. It may happen due to the setting of the conversation that is the cyber world where the people communicate there may not really know each other and they may never meet in the ‘real’ world. It can be said that there is almost no boundary for everyone to say what they want to say.

Keywords: Internet Relay Chat (IRC), chatting in IRC, Indonesian chatters, politeness strategies, face-threatening act.


Human is social creature that has the need to communicate with others. Communication is defined as a process by which we assign and convey meanings in an attempt to create shared understanding, both the speaker and hearer should hold to general rules or principles and thereby use certain strategies. An often used strategy to achieve this is politeness (Renkema, 1993).

Leech (1983) defines politeness as “a form of behavior that establishes and maintains comity”, that is, “the ability of participants in a social interaction to engage in interaction in an atmosphere of relative harmony”. Brown and Levinson (1987) suggest politeness as a compensation action taken to counter-balance the disruptive effect of face-threatening acts (FTAs). Further, they describe Face Threatening Acts as “acts that infringe on the hearer’s need to maintain his/her self-esteem and be respected” (Brown and Levinson, 1987).

According to Brown and Levinson, politeness strategies are developed in order to save the hearer’s “face”. Face refers to a speaker’s sense of linguistic and social identity, which is defined as “the public self-image that every member (of the society) wants to claim for himself” (Brown and Levinson, 1987).

However, this linguistic aspect occurs in the verbal communication of the real conversation not only in the real world but also in the cyber world. Nowadays, since technology has developed very rapidly, people can communicate with others using many kinds of media. One of the technologies used by quite a few people in the world is the internet. The internet is a system that has revolutionized visual, oral, written communications and methods of commerce by allowing various computer networks around the world to interconnect, sometimes referred as a “network of networks” (Abdillah, 2005). Therefore, it is possible for people to communicate visually, orally, and in written form by using Personal Computer and Internet modem.

To communicate in the written form via the internet, people can use the facilities which are called e-mail and chat. Chat or chatting via the internet is a real-time communication between two users via computer and the users are popularly-known as “chatters”. Once a chat has been initiated, either user can enter text by typing on the keyboard and the entered text will appear on the other user's monitor. Most networks and online services offer a chat feature. One of the common and popular internet facilities for chatting is the IRC (Internet Relay Chat).

IRC is one of the internet free facilities which can be accessed by many internet chatters, even newbies. On-line chat-channels in IRC have become a popular environment for meeting new people and for general conversations. These chat-channels are comparable to “real-life” situations where participants interact at the same time and often in the same spatial environment. The same conversational rules are adhered to both in chat-channel conversations and in face-to-face interaction. However, some specific features of chat-channel conversation, such as the politeness strategies, might be different from those we meet outside the cyberspace.

Some researchers have studied about the IRC community, but only Ahti and Lähtevänoja (2002) from University of Helsinki, Finland, talked about the politeness strategies used there. Yet, they only talked about the politeness in opening sequences in Finnish and Finland-Swedish chat conversations.

Since there is no study about the politeness strategies used by Indonesian chatters, in this present study, the researcher tries to explain the politeness strategies used by Indonesian chatters in IRC channel discussion through observation and analysis.

Literature Review


Politeness is an aspect of pragmatics in that its use in language is determined by an external context. This external context is the context of communication, which is determined by the social status of the participants: politeness is a system used by the speaker in order to keep up to the addressee’s expectations. According to Grundy’s account (Grundy 1995: 135) we are told that the determiners of the need to use politeness strategies are three: distance, power and imposition. Imposition covers every action (by this we also mean speech acts) which threatens the addressee’s autonomy and freedom of action and usually is conveyed in the form of an order; power is evaluated in terms of numerous factors such as position in society and age; distance implies the evaluation of the other’s place in the world, degree of familiarity and/or solidarity towards the addressee.

An important source of inspiration in the study of politeness phenomena is the work done by Ervin Goffman (1955). Goffman, a psychologist, wanted social interaction, including verbal communication, to be studied from the perspective that a participant are striving for stability in their relationship with others. He claimed that every participant in the social process has the need to be appreciated by others and the need not to be interfered with. Goffman also introduced the concept of “face”, which later became an inspiration for further study by Brown and Levinson.

Politeness Strategy

According to Brown and Levinson (1987), politeness strategies are developed to save the hearer’s face. Face refers to the respect that an individual has for him or herself, and maintaining that “self-esteem” in public or in private situations. Their notions of ‘face is derived from that of Goffman (1967, as cited in Brown and Levinson 1987) and from the English folk term, which is related to notions of being embarrassed or humiliated, or ‘losing face’. Brown and Levinson stated that there are two types of face in an interaction:

  1. Negative face: the want of every ‘competent adult member’ that his actions can be unimpeded by others.
  2. Positive face: the want of every member that his wants be desirable to at least some others.

Face Threatening Acts

According to Brown and Levinson, Face Threatening Acts (FTA's) are acts that infringe on the hearers' need to maintain his/her self esteem. If we do or are about threaten someone’s positive or negative face, but do not mean it, we need to minimize it by applying politeness strategies that are Bald on Record, Positive Politeness, Negative Politeness, and Off-the-Record (as suggested by Brown and Levinson, 1987).

Strategies for doing FTA

The possible strategies for doing the FTA are shown below:


Fig 2.1 Possible strategies for doing FTAs

Bald on Record Strategy

In the bald on record strategy, the speaker does nothing to minimize threats to the hearer’s face. The prime reason for its usage is that whenever a speaker (S) wants to do the FTA with maximum efficiency more than he wants to satisfy the hearer’s (H’s) face, even to any degree, he will chose bald on record strategy (Brown and Levinson, 1987: 95). There are, however, different kinds of bald on record usage in different circumstances, because S can have different motives for his want to do the FTA with maximum efficiency. It is divided into two classes:

1. Cases of non-minimization of the face threat.

This is where maximum efficiency is very important, and this is mutually known to both H and S, no face redress necessary. The situations are presented as follows:

a. In cases of great urgency or desperation.

b. Cases of channel noise, or where communication difficulties exploit pressure to speak with maximum efficiency such as in calling across a distance.

c. Task-oriented, in this kind of interaction face redress will be irrelevant.

d. S’s want to satisfy H’s face is small, either because S is powerful and does not fear retribution or non-cooperation from H.

e. S wants to be rude without risk of offending, so S does not care about maintaining face.

f. Sympathetic advice or warnings.

g. Granting permission for something that H has requested.

2. Cases of FTA-oriented bald on record usage.

The use of this strategy is oriented to face. In other words, it is used where face involves mutual orientation, so that each participant attempts to foresee what the other participant is attempting to foresee. For in certain circumstances it is reasonable for S to assume that H will be especially worried with H’s potential violation or S’s maintaining. There are three functional categories or areas where we expect the pre-emptive invitations to occur in all languages (which are potential to FTA):

a. Welcoming

b. Farewell

c. Offers

Positive Politeness Strategy

The positive politeness strategy is usually seen in groups of friends, or where people in the 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 respected (minimize the FTA). The only feature that distinguishes positive politeness compensation from normal everyday intimate language behavior is an element of exaggeration.

There are fifteen sub-strategies that are used in positive politeness strategies:

1. Notice, attend to H (his interests, wants, needs, goods).

2. Exaggerate (interest approval, sympathy with H)

3. Intensify interest to H

4. Use in-group identity markers

5. Seek agreement

6. Avoid disagreement

7. Presuppose/raise/assert common ground

8. Jokes

9. Assert or presuppose S’s knowledge of and concern for H’s wants.

10. Offer, promise.

11. Be optimistic

12. Include both S and H in the activity

13. Give (or ask for) reasons

14. Assume or assert reciprocity

15. Give gifts to H (goods, sympathy, understanding, cooperation)

Negative Politeness Strategy

Negative politeness is defined as “a redressive action addressed to the addressee’s negative face: his want to have his freedom of action unobstructed and his attention unrestricted” (Brown and Levinson, 1987). Negative politeness strategy recognizes the hearer’s face, but it also recognizes that the speaker is in some way forcing on them. Some of the sub-strategies of negative politeness are:

1. Be conventionally indirect.

2. Question, hedge.

3. Be pessimistic.

4. Minimize imposition

5. Give difference

6. Apologize

7. Impersonalize S and H

8. State the FTA as general rule

9. Nominalize

10. Go on record as incurring debt, or as not indebting H.

Off-the-record Strategy

According to Brown and Levinson (1987), a communicative act is done off-record if it is done in such a way that it is not possible to attribute only one clear communicative intention to the act. Thus, if a speaker wants to do an FTA, but wants to avoid the responsibility for doing it, he can do it off-record and leave it up the addressee to decide how to interpret it.

Some sub-strategies of off-record:

1. Give hints

2. Give association clues

3. Presuppose

4. Understate

5. Overstate

6. Tautologies

7. Contradictions

8. Be ironic

9. Use metaphors

10. Use rhetorical questions

11. Be ambiguous

12. Be vague

13. Over-generalize

14. Displace H

15. Be incomplete, use ellipsis

Research questions

  1. What types of politeness strategies are used by Indonesian chatters in the IRC?
  2. How do Indonesian chatters use politeness strategies in the IRC?


The research design of this study was descriptive qualitative. The researcher tried to report and describe the data or the information as the way the things are; therefore the researcher did not change any content of the information for the sake of the ingenuity of the data required. The technique used, as in most descriptive research, was the observation technique, since it could exactly describe how IRC chatters responded directly to other IRC chatters in the channel. All messages sent by the researcher were not considered as part of the data because Fraenkell and Wallen (1993, in Abdillah 2005) state that in observing the activities of a certain group, the researcher is not a participant.

Since this research was descriptive qualitative, the main instrument of this research was the researcher herself as the key human-instrument. An additional instrument used was a table, which was needed to systematize the phenomena found from the criteria that had been determined.

Below is the example of the table used in the study:

Table 1 : Data



Interlocutors & Dialogs

Chosen Strategy


2.2 POS

banyak banget pelanggaran dan pelecehan terhadap laki2

yang melecehkan itu perempuan dan laki2 juga

jadi kita perlu komisi nasional yang melindungi kaum laki2


Positive (give gift)


After connected to the internet, the researcher opened an IRC window and selected the channel the researcher wanted to join. The researcher joined the channel for approximately two hours from around 7 p.m. until 9 p.m. The researcher chose that time because it was a kind of ‘rush hour’ in the internet chat channels. It may happen since it was the time to rest or relax for Indonesian people. After approximately two hours, the researcher logged out from the channel, then wrote the date of each IRC connection and downloaded all the written conversations in the Internet Relay Chat channel (mIRC Caféislam) into the researcher’s hard disk. Next, the researcher printed out the written conversations and started to identify the messages which contained FTA then marked them. These marked messages became the data.

Data Analysis

The researcher used document analysis because the data here were in the form of written or visual material (IRC messages). Data analysis and data collection in qualitative study cannot be separated. While collecting the data, interpreting and analyzing them also took place. The researcher classified the data according to the FTA contained in it. In this case, it was about what kind of politeness strategy used by the chatters, whether they were bald on record, positive politeness, negative politeness, or off-record based on Brown and Levinson’s theory. These activities could not be separated from analyzing and interpreting the FTA. After that, the researcher described the data contained FTA which was found, and then it was explained. In obtaining the data, several dialogs with quite similar patterns were taken, identified, and analyzed to determine whether they had the same patterns or not. The last, the researcher summarized and concluded the discussion of the findings.

Findings and Discussion

The findings show that the politeness strategies mostly used by Indonesian chatters in IRC is Bald on Record with 45 times of usage (41.28%), followed by Positive Politeness which was used 40 times (36.7%), Negative Politeness which was used 19 times (17.43%), and then Off-the-record which was used only 5 times (4.59%) as presented in Table 2 below:

Table 2: Distribution of the Types of Politeness Strategy


Politeness Strategies


Percentage (%)


Bald on Record




Positive Politeness




Negative Politeness










Below in table 3, is the frequency of each variation of bald on-record strategy used by Indonesian chatters in IRC:

Table 3: Distribution of the Variation of Bald on Record Strategy



Percentage (%)

Non Minimization of Face Threat




Case of Channel Noise






S wants to satisfy H’s face is small



S wants to be rude



Sympathetic advice/warning



Granting permission



Face Oriented










From the table above, it can be seen that in the chatting conversation, Indonesian chatters used many variation of bald on-record strategy. Sympathetic advice/warning is frequently used by the chatters (13 times). It may happen because the conversation is in the form of sharing where chatters tell a story about themselves or state their opinion about something.

The distribution of the variation of positive politeness strategy can be seen in Table 4.3 below:

Table 4: Distribution of the Variation of Positive Politeness Strategy



Percentage (%)

Notice, attend to H (his interests, wants, needs, goods)



Exaggerate (interest approval, sympathy with H)



Intensify interest to H



Use in-group identity markers

Address forms



In-group language or dialect



Contraction and Ellipsis



Seek Agreement



Avoid Disagreement



Presuppose/raise/assert common ground



Include both S and H in the activity



Give (or ask for) reason



Give gifts to H (goods, sympathy, understanding, cooperation)






As shown in Table 4.3, positive politeness strategy which is mostly applied by Indonesian chatters in IRC is by giving gift, either in the form of sympathy, undertanding, or cooperation. In line with Bald on record strategy, it may happen due to the form of the conversation that is sharing problems and ideas. In this case, S satisfies H’s positive face by giving gift, not only in the form of thing, but human-relation wants to be liked, admired, care about, understood, listened to, etc.

Below is the distribution of the variation of negative politeness strategy:

Table 5: Distribution of the Variation of Negative Politeness Strategy



Percentage (%)

Be conventionally indirect



Question, hedge



Minimize imposition






Impersonalize S and H






From the table above, it is clearly seen that negative politeness strategy is not much used by Indonesian chatters in IRC. The negative strategy mostly used by the chatters is by being indirect. It may happen due to the influence of Indonesian culture where Indonesian people tend to be indirect in saying something.

A speaker uses off-record strategy when he/she wants to avoid the responsibility of doing an FTA. When a speaker uses off-record strategy, he/she leaves the FTA up the addressee to decide how to interpret it since here the speaker must say something in general (less information) or different from what he means (Brown and Levinson’ 1987: 211)

Table 6: Distribution of the Variation of Off-the-Record Strategy



Percentage (%)

Give association clues



Be vague






Use saying






A shown in Table 4.5, off-record strategy is very rarely used by Indonesian chatters in IRC. Yet, there is a new sub strategy found here, that is doing the off-record strategy by using ‘saying’. Although it is similar to the sub strategies ‘by using metaphors’ and ‘tautologies’, the findings do not match to both of the sub strategies.


From the findings, it is discovered that politeness strategies are also applied in computer-mediated communication, as presented by Indonesian chatters in the IRC. Politeness is used to maintain the social value of the community, including in virtual-community. The chatters use the strategy of politeness when they talk in the channel to reduce the FTA in saying something. The findings show that bald on record strategy is the most frequently used by Indonesian chatters in IRC. Most chatters use the strategy without considering other chatters’ feeling or face. It may happen due to the setting of the conversation that is the cyber world where the people communicate there may not really know each other and they may never meet in the ‘real’ world. This setting makes them able to say whatever they want to say without any risk to themselves. Still, the characteristics of Face Threatening Acts proposed by Brown and Levinson fit in some way. The efficiency, indifference, and disregard of others’ feeling have become the central consideration in choosing bald on record strategy.

Positive politeness is also quite widely used by Indonesian chatters in the IRC in order to show their respect and regard toward the other chatters. Generally, the chatters use the positive politeness strategy when they agree with other chatter’s opinion and willing to cooperate or when they want to minimize the FTA in disagreeing with others.

Negative politeness strategy is generally used by Indonesian chatters in IRC when they want to ask other chatters to do something and to show that the interlocutor recognizes the addressee’s want to have his freedom of action unobstructed. A rather different phenomenon from what happen in the ‘real’ world is that sometimes Indonesian chatters in IRC minimize the imposition of the FTA by writing smiley sign (e.g. :) or ^_^) or grinning expression (e.g. ‘hehehe’). It happens since the chatters in IRC cannot see each other’s face.

Off-the-record strategy of politeness is the least used by Indonesian chatters in IRC. In line with bald on record strategy, it may happen due to the setting of the conversation which is the virtual community where there is almost no boundary for everyone to say what they want to say. In the findings, there is a new sub strategy found, that is by using saying. It appears that Indonesian chatters in IRC prefer to use saying rather than other off-the-record strategy such as using tautologies or metaphors. It happens because the conversations are in the form of discussions and it is usual in Indonesia to counter somebody’s ‘attack’ or argument with saying.


In studying politeness strategy in pragmatics, students have to be aware of the distance and the social factors which influence the use of specified strategy of politeness. This research may also suggest that pragmatic students observe more pragmatic studies. It may stand up-to-date since they can always be done to any current communication media.

Lecturers of pragmatics can help to improve the students’ awareness about the difference between the strategies of politeness. Learning politeness strategy can also be done in various aspects of discourse, not only in the ‘real’ world but also in the virtual-community.

While, a future researcher can analyze the politeness strategy used by people in e-mails. Further, they can compare the politeness strategy used by men and women when they write e-mails and analyze the effect of the strategy used. It can be done since gender difference also influence the politeness applied.

Future researchers can also improve this research by conducting a similar research in the private message in IRC. Here, the future researchers can observe the politeness strategies used by the IRC chatters when they talk privately (e.g. what kind of politeness strategy which they select to answer a personal question). The future researchers even may compare the politeness strategy used by Indonesian and English chatters in the private message. It is since in each culture, people have different values in communicating; thus it will influence the politeness employed in the same context. Then, the future researchers can analyze the effects of the strategy (how the strategy is responded).

Pragmatics is a quite popular subject taken as thesis’ topic in English Department of State University of Malang. Yet, there is not much literature about pragmatics that is available in both faculty library and main library. It is hoped that in the future the university can provide more literature talking about this subject.


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