Impoliteness in the context of the Greek crisis
: shifting blame in online political discussions

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


My PhD thesis is exploring Greek online political impoliteness, focusing on impoliteness strategies (both explicit and implicit) in the comments of Greek public Facebook and YouTube pages discussing the Greek socio-economic crisis, especially the developments of 2015 (July 2015 referendum and subsequent September elections). Although the crisis has been besetting the country since 2010, affecting Greeks’ everyday life and prompting division between voters with different political orientations, linguistic research has only recently turned to the use of impoliteness for blame attribution and legitimation of users’ political viewpoints (Angouri & Wodak, 2014, Constantinou, 2018). Moreover, despite the recent interest in online political debates (Lorenzo-Dus et al., 2011, Blitvich, 2010) and the emphasis on platform and medium affordances in the development of impoliteness, similar research on Greek political discussions in popular platforms such as Facebook and YouTube remains scarce.I approach the data through qualitative micro-analysis of the selected comments, grounded on Culpeper's (2011), Bousfield's (2008) and Taylor's (2016) impoliteness models. Based on Kwon and Gruzd’s (2017) distinction between public and interpersonal impoliteness, I investigate how users’ preferred impoliteness strategies (such as vocatives or threats) are differentiated when targeting interlocutors actively participating in the interaction or when directed against non-participating users (such as political figures and collectivised others). In addition, I examine the distinction between public and interpersonal impoliteness under the light of impoliteness involving linguistic creativity (such as onomastic and echoic puns), focusing on the reasons behind users’ investment in novel ways to target their opponents. Finally, I analyse how resistance to linguistic creativity (attachment to existing linguistic norms and criticism towards online language change) also fans impoliteness. My findings confirm the prevalence of on-record, explicit impoliteness strategies in online political debates (Blitvich, 2010), which assist the identification of culprits for the Greek politico-economic situation and suggest appropriate sanctions for failing national interests. Simultaneously, users invest in impoliteness (treated as justified based on the country’s dire circumstances) to present themselves as serving justice while also undermining their targets’ legitimacy. Additionally, results suggest that users enhance their authority in politics not only through standardised impoliteness or mock-politeness, but also through meta-linguistic impoliteness strategies (such as creative manipulation of pre-existing linguistic material and linguistic corrections) which question or uphold prevailing linguistic norms and negotiate linguistic and national ideologies. In all, users’ chosen impoliteness strategies serve multiple goals: venting of anger for the Greek political situation, negotiation of power among users, gaining support of the wider audience through elements of performativity, and, ultimately, reclaiming the Greek identity, threatened by the crisis, through impoliteness oriented towards “knowing participants” (Georgakopoulou, 2016).
Date of Award1 Jun 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorAlexandra Georgakopoulou-Nunes (Supervisor) & Eva Ogiermann (Supervisor)

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