This paper proposes a Goffman-inspired framework for capturing lawyers’ facework activities. Goffman's (1967:14) three levels of face threat – intentional, incidental and accidental – differ according to the extent to which the S[peaker] is seen to be engaging in:
“malicious and spiteful” face damage; 2.
activities where face damage may be an “unplanned by-product” of an interchange (which S is nevertheless prepared to undertake); 3.
activities where face damage is completely unintended on S's part, such that S “would have attempted to avoid” such activities had s/he “foreseen” the potentially “offensive consequences”.
Current (linguistic) impoliteness models tend to draw on Goffman's intentional level to explain impoliteness in conflictive text-types which include the courtroom (i.e. 1). This paper argues, in contrast, that a cross-examining lawyer's (facework) strategy will fall somewhere between Goffman's intentional and incidental level, in the main (i.e. 1 and 2). A new zone is thus proposed – that of strategic ambivalence – which is situated (so as to allow for movement) between Goffman's (1967) intentional and incidental levels. The three levels, in turn, become a facework aggravation scale/continuum. Intention, here, is used in a pragmatic – specifically, a discursive – sense as opposed to a philosophical or legal sense.
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