Intercultural Politeness and Impoliteness: A Case of Iranian Students with Malaysian Professors

Document Type : Research Article


University of Bayreuth, Germany



Evaluations of polite, impolite and over-polite linguistic and nonlinguistic behaviors depend largely on the socio-cultural attributes of a society and the individuals’ schemata, which are rooted in the communicators’ previous experiences. In intercultural settings, communication represents a complicated picture due to the participants’ different socio-cultural backgrounds and their unshared cultural schemata. Adopting the discursive approach to (im)politeness and employing ethnographic methods, this study identifies some significant sources of (im)politeness-related miscommunication between 10 Malaysian university lecturers/professors and 15 Iranian students. The findings suggest that different socio-cultural behaviors as well as some aspects of professional practices are the sources of misunderstanding and have potential for either impolite or over-polite judgments. Findings are discussed in light of the practical and theoretical implications for intercultural politeness and impoliteness.