Document Type : Original Article


University of Ghana, Ghana


This paper highlights the folk perception of impoliteness among Ghanaians in view of Watts’ (2003) notion of first order impoliteness. The study showed that impoliteness is not just an opposite of politeness, but the manifestation of non-cooperation, disapproval, and mutual antipathy through certain communicative behaviours that signal disrespect. These communicative behaviours include ‘interrupting others’, the use of ‘invectives’ and the use of ‘offensive non-verbal forms of communication (NVCs)’. The use of these impolite communicative behaviours destabilizes interpersonal relationships and shows that a speaker is communicatively incompetent. The study also proposed the ‘pardonability scale of impoliteness’. This scale showed that among Ghanaians, the use of invectives is the most offensive and least pardonable impolite communicative behaviour while the use of offensive NVCs is the least offensive and most pardonable impolite communicative behaviour. It was also noted that the degree of offensiveness or pardonability in the order of the arrangement displayed on the scale, is not strictly tied to all speech events.