Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


School of Communication

First Advisor

Aimee E. Miller-Ott


Over the last few decades more and more cultural attention has been paid to intimate partner violence, especially emotional abuse. Follingstad, Rutledge, Berg, Hause, and Polek (1990) established that emotional abuse fell into six distinct categories, however, little attention had been paid to how abusers can utilize polite communication to hurt their partner. Equally, Brown and Levinson’s politeness theory (1987) had never been applied to problematic communication (Austin, 1990). This study aimed to understand how polite communication can be used as a form of emotional abuse. In-depth, semi structured interviews were conducted with 20 participants who self-identified as having been in a former romantic relationship with a partner who hurt their feelings, made them feel bad about themselves, or manipulated them. The utterances were categorized according to Brown and Levinson’s (1987) politeness theory and Austin’s (1990) face attack acts model of politeness. The utterances used by both abusers and their victims were then analyzed using thematic analysis. Abusers used all six of Austin’s face attack act strategies, and victims responded using three of Brown and Levinson’s four politeness strategies. Each strategy resulted in themes that abusers would utilize to hurt their partner. Implications of the study, limitations, and future research are then discussed.


Imported from ProQuest Alvarez_ilstu_0092N_11656.pdf


Page Count


Included in

Communication Commons