Panel IPrA 2023

Conference IPrA 2023, 9–14 July 2023, Brussels, Belgium

>>> Link for formal details and Submission <<<

Panel “(Im)politeness on written discussion websites: Relational work in Reddit-esque communication”


Daria Dayter (University of Tampere)
Thomas C. Messerli (University of Basel)


The study of computer-mediated communication (CMC) is commonly conceptualised in terms of three ‘waves’. In the first one, researchers approached CMC as an almost monolithic entity to be distinguished from other modes of language use (‘netspeak’). The second order development has taken us to an understanding of the role of individual genres and communication types in language online. Finally, the third wave has focused on contextually dependent discursively negotiated communicative practices that are negotiated by individuals and communities based, among other things, on the particular affordances they are given (e.g. Androutsopoulos 2006, Herring 2019).

Similarly, politeness theory has undergone a ‘discursive turn’. It took a step from the mitigation-focused theories to the concept of relational work and an understanding of interpersonal pragmatics whose norms determine not only marked, but also unmarked non-polite behaviour against which face-threatening, face-saving and face-enhancing action can be measured (e.g. Locher 2013).

Bringing together both the third wave of CMC and discursive politeness theory on the particular example of modern online forums, such as Reddit or 4Chan and similarly structured platforms like Quora or Hive, our panel wants to explore what relational work norms are being constructed by online communities in these online spaces. For instance, subreddits, the individual forums that constitute the Reddit platform, combine codified norms of behaviour with discursively negotiated patterns, with moderators as well as normal users serving as gatekeepers of politic (polite and non-polite) behaviour. 

We understand each of these sites as a communicative space with its own setting and particular participation structure, in which language use and more generally communication are situated practices that serve transactional as well as interpersonal purposes. 

Taking the subreddit r/ChangeMyView as an example, we can see, for instance, that original posters employ particular conversational moves to construct their own identities as approachable and persuasible, whereas commenters include the norms created or reinforced by the posts they respond to in the way they phrase their responses, which are all attempts at persuasion (Dayter & Messerli 2022). Within this context, impolite responses appear less likely to be received as successful attempts at persuasion than non-polite or impolite responses.

We invite to our panel other researchers focusing on Reddit and related communicative settings, including the members of the CopRe research network.

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Androutsopoulos, Jannis. (2006). Introduction: Sociolinguistics and computer-mediated communication: Introduction. Journal of Sociolinguistics, 10(4), 419–438.

Dayter, Daria, & Messerli, Thomas C. (2022). Persuasive language and features of formality on the r/ChangeMyView subreddit. Internet Pragmatics, 5(1), 165–195.

Herring, Susan C. (2019). The Coevolution of Computer-Mediated Communication and Computer-Mediated Discourse Analysis. In Patricia Bou-Franch & Pilar Garcés-Conejos Blitvich (Eds.), Analyzing Digital Discourse (pp. 25–67). Springer International Publishing.

Locher, Miriam A. (2013). Relational work and interpersonal pragmatics. Journal of Pragmatics, 58, 145–149.

>>> Submit your abstract <<<