(Im)politeness and disagreement in two Hong Kong internet discussion forums

Cynthia Lee, Wai Lan Winnie Shum

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

48 Citations (Scopus)


The study of politeness and disagreement in computer-mediated communication (CMC) is a bourgeoning area of study in pragmatics. Adopting the discursive and interactional approaches, this paper investigates the issue in two Hong Kong Internet discussion forums based on the forum interlocutors’ disagreement strategies. Lay participants (i.e., forum browsers) were also invited to rate the identified disagreement strategies in the parameters of politeness, appropriateness and positively/negatively marked behavior on a 5-point Likert scale. The correlations among the three parameters were analyzed statistically. A follow-up interview was administered to better understand the relationship between disagreement and the three parameters of relational work.

Eleven types of disagreement strategies were identified. Most strategies were direct and unmitigated but generally perceived as politic, appropriate, and not negatively marked by lay participants. The three parameters were found to be correlated statistically, and some shared criteria between them were discovered from the interview data. In addition, each Internet forum is a unique community characterized by distinctive features. The identified disagreement strategies have yielded some support for the applicability of the discursive and interactional approaches to the analysis of politeness and disagreement in CMC; the statistical analysis and lay participants’ judgment and rating have shed some light on the complicated relational work in performing the speech act.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)52
Number of pages83
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • (Im)politeness; Disagreement; CMC; Online forum; Hong Kong


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