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Requests and (im)politeness in spoken French in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire

Research project
Active research
Project owner
Department of Languages and Literatures

Short description

Our way of being polite is often manifested in requests, i.e. when we ask someone to do something for us. Thus, the languages of the world offer many different indirect formulations to apply when a naked imperative, e.g. "give me a glass of water!" feels too threatening. Then the speaker might use "can I get ...?", "I want ...", or some other indirect utterance.

Previous research shows that the choice of request formulation is very context-bound, but also that speakers in different places in the western world many times choose to put this speech act in an indirect way. However, spoken requests in Abidjan is an almost unexplored research area. Therefore, the research project examines request behaviour in service interactions in this West African metropolis. All studied interactions are in French, Abidjan's most important lingua franca.