Towards Congeniality: The Place of Politeness in Asynchronous Online Discussion

By Terry Locke and Nicola Daly.

Published by The Learner Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Nonverbal communication plays a significant role in the establishment and maintenance of interpersonal relationships (Argyle, 1986). Yet in university papers delivered in an online mode, students meet each other and establish relationships in online discussions which are typically viewed as lacking in non-verbal communication channels. This paper reports on strategies used by students in a successful online masters paper, analysed in terms of Brown and Levinson’s politeness theory (1987). We suggest that the positive politeness strategies employed by participants had a role to play in the success of the paper since they helped create a congenial space in which participants felt encouraged and supported to give opinions, ask questions and share doubts and disagreements. We further show that in the absence of face-to-face, nonverbal channels, student participants made extensive and significant use of emoticons, frequently as kinesic signals adjacent to and related to verbal politeness strategies. This latter finding highlights the importance of nonverbal elements in exchanges (including cross-cultural exchanges) characterized by verbal politeness strategies.

Keywords: Politeness, Congeniality, Asynchronous Online Discussion, Elearning, Bulletin Board, Rhetorical Space, Emoticons

The International Journal of Learning, Volume 13, Issue 12, pp.121-134. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 969.747KB).

Assoc Prof Terry Locke

Chairperson, School of Education, University of Waikato, New Zealand

Terry Locke is Chairperson of the Arts and Language Education Department of the School of Education at Waikato University. His research interests include curriculum and assessment design in relation to English and literacy, teacher professionalism and the literacy/technology nexus and its implications for education. He is currently engaged in a major research project on the teaching of literature in multicultural classrooms.

Dr Nicola Daly

Lecturer, School of Education, University of Waikato, New Zealand

Dr Nicola Daly is a lecturer in the Arts and Language Education Department of the School of Education at the University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Her research interests include gender differences in language use, intonation patterns in New Zealand English, pragmatics in workplace settings and politeness in elearning discourse.


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