Iranian women's negative face in the construction of their identity

Amer Gheitury, Mostafa Hasrati

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


A main feature of recent scholarly work on language is its focus on identity, or the self, as a social construct, or more particularly as a discursive product (Fairclough, 1992; Ivanic, 1998). One way of viewing the self as a social construct is through the notion ‘face’, i.e. “the positive social value a person effectively claims for himself (sic) by the line others assume he (sic) has taken during a particular contact” (Goffman, 1967: 5). Building upon Goffman’s notion of ‘face’ as a social construct and the Brown and Levinson’s (1987) politeness theory and particularly their claim to universality of ‘face’, the present study is an endeavour to investigate the ways in which Iranian women’s identity, or ‘face’ wants, affect their linguistic interaction with the members of the opposite sex. This study was conducted in a case study format and the data thus obtained were analysed using QSR.NUDIST software. The subjects were seven women working at Iranian governmental offices whose daily interactions with their male and female customers were observed over a two week period. Eleven follow up interviews were conducted with the participants. The results indicate that Iranian women show a systematic awareness of the significance of their face wants in constructing their identity as ‘Iranian women’. Nevertheless, this negative face is not entirely socially motivated and is not likely to be explicable in accord with Brown and Levinson’s politeness theory which is often postulated to be universal.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-58
JournalJournal of Teaching English Language and Literature Society of Iran
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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