Mutual Face-Maintaining Acts: An Analysis of Talks Between NBA Referees and Players/Coaches

Document Type : Research Article


National Sun Yat-sen University, Department of Foreign Languages and Literature, Taiwan



By adopting Goffman’s conception of face, this study develops the notion of a mutual face-maintaining act (MFMA), with a view to striking a balance between avoiding the risk of making an overgeneralization about politeness and attempting to offer a perspective applicable to real-life interactions. Drawing on a type of sport conversation—talks between NBA referees and players/coaches—this paper elucidates the notion of an MFMA, demonstrating that it is more applicable to current sports data than Brown and Levinson’s Politeness Theory and that it can be a feasible concept for interpreting politeness phenomena. The finding suggests that speakers whose social duty and objective is primarily to reach communicative concord in conversational contexts that involve potential tension and conflict may be more inclined to produce utterances by performing MFMAs.