Use of "Please" in American and New Zealand English

Shie Sato*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


This paper examines the most prominent lexical item for expressing politeness in English, 'please', based on spoken data drawn from American and New Zealand English. A total of 200 tokens of 'please' are analyzed in terms of their grammatical distribution and interactional functions within a discourse, with a particular emphasis on their positional variations within turn-constructional units (TCU). By focusing on the degrees of politeness expressed by 'please' and its directive force, the study aims to present some systematic functional equivalences observed at initial, medial, and final positions. The results indicate that the initial position is associated with the directive acts of demands and pleas, where the speaker's individuality can be openly expressed. The use of 'please' in medial position shows the widest functional variability among all positional variants and can be identified with conventional polite requests as well as commands. Final position is reserved for task-based requests in which the speaker's restricted behaviour as a social individual is exhibited. The study confirms the importance of an integrated perspective of sentential grammar and interaction, and proposes the necessity of establishing an analytic scheme, which takes the concept of 'position' into account when examining a linguistic item in naturally occurring contexts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1249-1278
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2008 Jul
Externally publishedYes


  • Directives
  • Politeness
  • Positions
  • Requests
  • Speech Acts

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence


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