Lay notions of politeness as the research basis for a sociolinguistic approach to politeness change
In recent politeness research compared to the theories of politeness based on the concept of Levinson/Brown sociolinguistic approaches focusing on lay notions of politeness gain in importance. This article is about the importance of lay notions of politeness and of the lay term ‘politeness’ for research on politeness change in pragmalinguistics and sociolinguistics. It is therefore crucial to distinguish lay term and linguistic term as Eelen pointed out in 2001 in his work titled “Critique of Politeness Theories.” Furthermore, I concentrate on native German speakers’ perceptions of the term and the concept ‘politeness.’ German lay connotations of the term ‘politeness,’ i.e. ‘Höflichkeit’ show a wide choice of socio-historically evolved aspects of politeness as a system of social graces. In a way, the lay term ‘politeness’ can be considered a time lapse throughout centuries and different social systems in Germany. So, in analysing speakers’ perceptions of the term, linguists will be able to observe recent processes of politeness change. Last but not least, politeness change indicates social change.