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An English saying goes "Sorry is the

hardest word". This is not because it

is hard to pronounce or spell, but
because you have to admit that you
have done something wrong.
Speech Act ---Apologies

Petrilă Alina Andreea

LEPC I, 2018
An apology varies across cultures, and
therefore it is even impossible to use one and the
same apology to study the way apologies are
produced in different cultures. But, we can try to
define an apology.

It can be, either a regretful acknowledgement of an

offence or failure,
‘we owe you an apology’
‘my apologies for the delay’ ,
or a formal expression of regret at being unable to
attend a meeting or social function,
‘Robert can't come and sends his apologies’.
Reasons for using apologies
 To say that they are sorry

 To explain why the offense happened

 To make a repair for the offense and maintain a good

relationship with the addressee

 Considering the speech act of apology, it is a face

saving act for the hearer and face threatening act for
the speaker
Five possible strategies for making an apology

1. An expression of an apology.
2. Acknowledgement of responsibility.
3. An explanation or account.
4. An offer of repair.
5. A promise of non-recurrence.
An expression of an
A speaker uses a formula of an apology which
consists of several sub-formulas such as:
a. An expression of regret, e.g., “I’m sorry.
b. An offer of apology, e.g., “I apologize.”
c. A request for forgiveness, e.g., “Excuse me.”
 Intensifier---- “really”, “very”
"I'm really very sorry.“
 Interjection---- “Oh!”, “Oops”
Acknowledge of responsibility
 The offender recognizes his/her fault in causing the offence.

 It is non-language specific and the strategy is chosen when an

offender admits his/her responsibility for the offense.
Here, four sub-formulas are distinguished:
 a. Accepting the blame, e.g., “It’s my fault.”
 b. Expressing self-deficiency, e.g., “I was confused.” or “I
wasn't thinking.” or “I didn’t see you.”
 c. Recognizing the other person as deserving an apology,
e.g., “You’re right!”
 d. Expressing a lack of intent, e.g., “I didn’t mean to.”
An explanation or
 The speaker describes the situation which caused him/her to commit the offense.
 Explanation is used by the speaker as an indirect way of apologizing.
“The bus was late.”
“My clock doesn’t work.”
The degree of an apology depends mainly on the environment.
In some cultures, if a speaker is late and explains him/herself as
“The bus was late”, this excuse would be accepted as an apology (if
transportation is rarely on time) but in others it would not (if
transportation runs as scheduled).
Thus, the degree of apology is situation and culture specific.
An offer of repair

 The apologizer makes a bid to carry out an action or

provide payment for some kind of damage resulting
from his/ her infraction.
“How can I make it up to you- why don’t I buy you
lunch on Friday?”
“Would you be willing to reschedule the meeting?”
A promise of non-recurrence

 The apologizer commits him/herself to not having the

offense happen again.

“It won’t happen again!”

“I will never be late again!”
Factors that may affect how we
would deliver an apology :
 The familiarity with the person being apologized
 The intensity of the act
 The relative authority that each of the ones involved has
 The relative ages
 The sex of the people involved
 The place where the exchange takes place
Case study 1: Bill Clinton apologizes for having an affair

"Indeed I did have a relationship with Miss Lewinsky that was

not appropriate. In fact, it was wrong ... I misled people, including even
my wife. I deeply regret that.“

On August 17, 1998, President Bill Clinton stood in the White House
pressroom and apologized to the American people for having an affair
with a White House intern, Monica Lewinsky. When the affair first
became public, Bill Clinton denied having a sexual relationship with Ms.
Lewinsky even though she offered circumstantial evidence to a Senate
investigating committee.
This apology most likely saved his presidency. His apology was
emotional and appeared sincere. He was able to connect with Americans,
while at the same time admitting he was wrong and asking for
Case study 2
One example of a typical corporate non-apology apology
involves Delta Airlines. During the 2014 World Cup competition in
Brazil, Delta Airlines posted a message on Twitter congratulating the
United States soccer team for their defeat over Ghana. In their
message, they posted a picture of the Statue of Liberty with number 2
super-imposed over it and another picture of a giraffe with number 1
super-imposed over it. These graphics symbolized both the country
and the score of the game. The problem with this is that giraffes are
not to be found in Ghana (Mendoza, 2014).
Critics found the Twitter post to be “ignorant and offensive,”
and some even considered the post racist. Delta Airlines felt they had
to apologize the next day on their website saying the “tweet was both
inaccurate and inappropriate” and that the company was “reviewing its
procedures to ensure that future images and posts reflect both our
values and our global focus”.

Bill Clinton apologizing for his affair with Monica Lewinsky. (2008, August 2).
Retrieved October 11, 2014, from You

Delta Air Lines Apologizes for Giraffe Gaffe. (18, June 2014). Retrieved October
12, 2014, from NBC News: