• Spain

    Spain, officially the Kingdom of Spain (Spanish: España, Reino de España), is a country located in Southern Europe, with two small exclaves in North Africa (both bordering Morocco). Spain is a democracy which is organized as a parliamentary monarchy. It is a developed country with the eighth-largest economy in the world. It is the larger of two sovereign states that make up the Iberian Peninsula - the other is Portugal.

    The pragmatics of Peninsular Spanish includes the relationship between politeness and speech acts from a few regions (i.e., Salamanca, Valencia, and Madrid). Analyses have treated speech acts and politeness in face-to-face interactions as well as publicized speech on television.

    The table below provides an overview of studies that have examined one aspect of pragmatics across regions of Spain. This review is by no means comprehensive. Information on service encounters and forms of address will be provided under ‘Service Encounters’ and ‘Forms of Address’ (see Topics in Pragmatics in this website).

    Pragmatic Variation by Region in Spain


    Pragmatic Target


    Method of Data Collection

    Main Results

    Hernández-Flores (1999)



    Spontaneous conversations

    The politeness strategies observed in this study distinguish themselves from Brown & Levinson’s (1987) theory of politeness, which focuses on the individuality of people through negative and positive face (i.e., the freedom from imposition and the desire to be accepted by others, respectively) instead of a community-based approach. While advice may be a face-threatening act under this ideology, advice is common in Spanish colloquial interactions. Hernández-Flores (1999) observed patterns of self-affirmation and confianza, which enhance the relationship between interactants. In other words, self-affirmation is the wish to be seen as self-aware of their positive qualities whereas confianza is the degree to which interactants feel they can speak openly.

    Lorenzo Dus (2001)

    Compliments and responses


    Discourse Completion Task

    This is a contrastive study that examines Peninsular Spanish and British English. Spanish males upgraded their compliments ironically (e.g., Es que conmigo se rompió el molde) and frequently took compliments as flirtatious advances (e.g., Sólo cuando te miran). In contrast, British males avoided responses that were self-congratulatory, which could cause pragmatic failure in cross-cultural communication.

    Maíz Arévalo (2012)

    Compliments and responses


    Natural discourse

    This study analyzed the motivations of using an implicit compliment instead of an explicit one. Participants preferred implicit compliments where the relationship between interlocutors was distant and the risk of face threat was heightened when complimenting another’s personal qualities, achievements or appearance. Overall, the Spanish speakers explicitly and implicitly complimented appearance more often than abilities in comparison with English speakers in previous studies.

    Hernández Flores (2004)




    In Peninsular Spanish there are three politeness functions: mitigation, reparation, and enhancement. Interlocutors use mitigation where face risk is anticipated whereas enhancement amplifies positive politeness strategies where there is no risk to face. Lastly, reparation is a resources for recovering from a face offense that has already been committed. With these additions to politeness theory, she hypothesizes that face negotiation is the act of balancing both the speaker’s and the hearer’s face.

    Briz Gómez (2004)


    Varieties of Spain


    This study differentiates between coded politeness and interpreted politeness in order to operationalize how a speech event that is typically extremely impolite can be perceived in certain contexts. Coded politeness refers to the linguistic form of conventional politeness whereas interpreted politeness is the politeness judgement made in light of the speech event’s context. In this sense, cross-cultural differences such as confianza and solidarity-building are explicated by the speech act’s cultural context.

    Lorenzo-Dus (2007)


    Valencian Spanish on Carta Blanca

    Institutional discourse

    This study studies impoliteness in the context of televised debates conducted in Valencia and Peninsular Spanish on Carta Blanca. Though debates are inherently face-threatening through their functions as a platform for disagreement, many speakers did not perform inherently face-threatening acts frequently. Indeed, the acts that were perceived as impolite were acts that threatened their private face instead of their position in the debate (e.g., pue sí pero cuando te oyes un señor como ése que no te deja hablar y ya te pones de mala).

    Haverkate (2004)


    Varieties of Spain


    Peninsular Spanish is a variety that is more oriented to positive politeness in comparison with British English and Dutch. In essence, Spaniards value solidarity in assertive, directive, and expressive speech acts. This is evidenced by the use of irony, repetition of an interlocutor’s words, and non-mitigated imperatives. These practices assume a lack of imposition in the realization of face-threatening acts and they confirm mutual understanding during and interaction.



    Briz Gómez, A. (2004). Cortesía verbal codificada y cortesía verbal interpretada en la conversación. In D. Bravo & A. Briz (Eds.), Pragmática sociocultural: Estudios sobre el discurso de cortesía en español (pp. 67-93). Barcelona: Ariel.

    Haverkate, H. (2004). El análisis de la cortesía comunicativa: categorización pragmalingüística de la cultura española. In D. Bravo & A. Briz (Eds.), Pragmática sociocultural: estudios sobre el discurso de cortesía en español (54-65). Barcelona: Ariel Lingüística.

    Hernández Flores, N. (2004). Politeness as face enhancement: An analysis of Spanish conversations between Friends and family. In R. Márquez Reiter & M. E. Placencia (Eds.), Current trends in the pragmatics of Spanish (265-284). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

    Hernández Toribio, I. (2011). Los ‘cumplidos’ como estrategias de persuasión emocional en la publicidad española y argentina. In García, C. & Placencia (Eds.), Estudios de variación pragmática en español, (pp. 113-140). Editorial Dunken: Buenos Aires.

    Hernández-Flores, N. (1999). Politeness Ideology in Spanish Colloquial Conversation: The Case of Advice. Pragmatics, 9(1), 37-49.

    Lorenzo Dus, N. (2001). Compliment responses among British and Spanish university students: A contrastive study. Journal of Pragmatics, 33. 107-127.

    Lorenzo-Dus, N. (2007). (Im)politeness and the Spanish Media: The Case of Audience Participation Debates. In Placencia & García (Eds.), Research on Politeness in the Spanish-Speaking World (pp. 145-166). Lawrence Erlbaum Associates: Mahwah, New Jersey.

    Maiz Arevalo, C. (2012). “Was that a compliment?” Implicit compliments in English and Spanish.