Realizations and functions of impoliteness in discourse about language and identity in Croatian and Montenegrin media


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Peter Lang

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This chapter addresses realizations of impoliteness in written discourse thematizing language and identity in Croatian and Montenegrin media (online and print newspapers, and internet forums) in 2010 and 2011. The main participants in this discourse include well-known intellectuals, journalists, and editors. They all defend or attack a particular position in discussing, among other things, “how similar ‘our’ language (Croatian/Montenegrin) is to ‘their’ language” (Serbian), and “what makes this language (Croatian/Montenegrin) a distinctive and independent entity.” They clearly position themselves in relation to the other. In other words, they are engaged in identity work. Because their positioning of the self and the other involves negative identity-ascribing practices, our understanding of impoliteness is linked to the notion of identity. Moreover, we connect the concept of impoliteness with power and emotions. Contrary to our expectations, the participants in the media discourse analyzed in both countries frequently use offensive language both strategically and systematically while defending their particular positions. Taking into consideration parameters such as the role of participants in discourse, their social roles, the context and co-text, and activity types in which discourse participants were engaged at the various stages in a discourse, we identified various types and functions of impoliteness realizations. The types of these realizations predominantly include “subtle” impoliteness, such as inappropriate personal identity markers, and negative personal assertions, but taboo words are also occasionally found. Most of impoliteness realizations are highly context dependent. These realizations have several functions, the main ones being coercion through legitimizing one’s own standpoints and delegitimizing those of one’s opponents. Impoliteness appears in a network of intertextual relations and is not only connected to individuals’ identity construction, but also to that of groups. Groups are constructed as different communities of practice within the discipline of philology, but ultimately they point to political divisions—for example, in Montenegrin society, to the political division between pro-Serbian and pro-Montenegrin political orientations.




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