Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts





First Advisor

Linda Shenk


Politeness theory, proposed by linguists Penelope Brown and Stephen Levinson, posits that power (P), social distance (D), and riskiness (R) of a face-threatening act (FTA) are universally key factors in determining politeness strategies in conversation between two individuals. However, politeness can be used as a form of manipulation, masking the speaker’s true intentions. By using abuse as the underlying intention, I test this claim by analyzing Woody Allen’s Match Point. This film is used because: (1) there are no obvious signs of abuse before a major act of physical violence; (2) an adulterous relationship provides ample manipulative speech; (3) both women represent different social classes convenient for analyzing politeness strategies; and (4) some scenes give access into the Speakers inner thoughts that is needed in some aspects of politeness theory. I analyze both relationships separately to examine the abusive and politeness strategies between the male (abusive) Speaker and the female (abused) Hearer. In this thesis and other research, manipulation represents a subtle form of abuse.

Analyzing the politeness strategies of subtle manipulation, exposes the thought process behind the Speaker’s abuse. The Speaker changes his form of abuse depending on similar factors outlined by politeness theory, i.e., power, social distance, and riskiness. In the relationship with his wife, the risk and social distance are much higher, but he maintains the power in the relationship (with manipulative efforts). In the relationship with the mistress, the power is a constant struggle, although social distance and riskiness are less important. Since the Speaker is operating in two different politeness environments, the differences in strategies become evident. The Speaker is drawn to higher-level strategies of politeness with his wife because two of the three determining factors are at higher levels. In contrast, the speaker uses lower level strategies with the mistress because only one determining factor is at a higher level. However, since the one higher factor is power, there is a higher level of abuse with the mistress than with the wife. This thesis examines the correlation between the determining factors for politeness choices and abusive strategies in Match Point to reveal the subtle signs of abuse that were always present.

Copyright Owner

Stacy Petersen



File Format


File Size

96 pages