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Politeness is an elusive concept, especially if it is traced diachronically across time. A distinction is made between first-order politeness (everyday conceptualisations) and second-order politeness (scholarly definitions), and this distinction is set in relation to emic (i.e. language specific) and etic (i.e. language independent, universal) approaches to politeness. The three waves of politeness research are briefly introduced. First, the traditional approach based mainly on the work by Brown and Levinson; second, the discursive approach, which largely rejected the traditional approach; and third, the frame-based and interactional approach, which led to a rapprochement of the earlier waves. Finally, an outline of the entire book is given.
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