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Tue, 1st Sep. 2015, 16:10
Travels in North Korea, Part 3

In this series of posts, I document my travels to North Korea (formally, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, or DPRK) as a tourist in August 2015.

The first thing I ever remember reading about North Korea, and what really sparked my interest in the country, was a Straight Dope column from 21 July 2000. Titled "Is the world's tallest building in North Korea?", it described the absurdity of building the world's tallest hotel in what is surely the world's most isolated and least visited country:

At 300 meters (985 feet), the Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang — there's a phrase to make your jaw sore — never came close to being the world's tallest building. But it would have been the world's tallest hotel, except for two problems: it was never completed, and even if it had been, somebody's built a taller hotel elsewhere. Always the way in the "world's tallest" sweepstakes.

The North Koreans began constructing the pyramid-shaped Ryugyong in 1987, reportedly aiming for 105 stories to beat out a structure the South Koreans were building in Singapore (not Kuala Lumpur). With 3,000 rooms and an estimated cost of $750 million, the thing was strictly an ego trip for North Korea's rulers — Pyongyang's few existing hotels were, and are, virtually empty. In 1991, some time after the Ryugyong had been topped out, work halted for unknown reasons, though "out of money" would be a good guess. The 3.9-millon-square-foot concrete structure is lit up at night, at least in propaganda pictures, but is thought to be crumbling.

Today, twenty-eight years after the Ryugyong Hotel was started, it remains under construction, though it's no longer the derelict concrete shell Cecil Adams described. In 2011 the exterior was finally decked in shiny blue glass, transforming the structure from a cavernous monstrosity to a very modern, very attractive structure. It completely dominates Pyongyang's skyline, being visible from almost everywhere in the city, but throughout our tour our guides never once named or referred to it. This seemed to me part of a pathological perfectionism pervading every aspect of North Korean society: anything flawed, inadequate, or incomplete was rarely acknowledged and never freely discussed. Which isn't to say that North Koreans believe their country to be perfect, but they are so fiercely proud of what it does have that they do not appreciate foreigners gawking at its many faults and shortcomings.

It was Saturday evening, the first night of our tour, and our bus was wending its way through the streets of Pyongyang en route to our hotel. Our attempts to steal furtive glimpses of the elusive Ryogyong Hotel gave way to a rapt fascination with the city itself. Pyongyang is at once eerily familiar and so unlike any other city on earth. The architecture is modern, in the sense that everything dates from the 1950s onward. In common with countries of the former Eastern Bloc, residential housing here is a mix of low-rise Soviet-era buildings and ultra-modern high-rise apartments. The older buildings are spartan but not at all shabby; most of them have shops or offices on the ground floor. Conspicuously absent, at least from the main boulevards, are the soulless, prefabricated panel buildings typical of Soviet satellite states. Every so often we would pass a stunningly beautiful work of architecture—here a triumphal arch, there a grandiose theatre, then a futuristic-looking stadium. Many otherwise unremarkable buildings featured large portraits of the two Kims, or revolutionary propaganda slogans in bold white brushstrokes on huge red banners.

Unlike the desolate intercity highways, the city roads in central Pyongyang have plenty of motorized traffic. Vehicle ownership is conveniently marked by the colour of the licence plates: white for state-owned vehicles, black for military, and orange for the odd private car. Taxis are commonplace, and seemingly always occupied by well-to-do young ladies. The sidewalks are full of people walking or biking home from work, swarming into the Metro stations, or forming impossibly long queues for the trolley buses. (The work week in the nominally socialist DPRK is six days long, with only Sundays off.) Traffic at major intersections is regulated not only by the usual electric lights, but also traffic wardens rhythmically gesturing in their impeccable blue and white uniforms.

[The elusive Ryogyong Hotel] [Kim Il Sung Stadium] [Pyongyang Station] [Typical street in central Pyongyang]
The elusive Ryogyong Hotel Kim Il Sung Stadium Pyongyang Station Typical street in central Pyongyang
[Kim Il Sung mural] [Traffic warden] [Propaganda posters] [Mangyongdae Children"s Palace]
Kim Il Sung mural Traffic warden Propaganda posters Mangyongdae Children's Palace

Before long we had turned onto the bridge that would take us to our destination, the 47-storey Yanggakdo International Hotel. It's well known that tourists in the DPRK are forbidden from leaving their hotels unless accompanied by their guides; the Yanggakdo enforces this rule geographically by virtue of being situated on a small island in the middle of the Taedong River. The hotel's isolation is mitigated somewhat by its entertainment offerings, which include several gift shops, a casino, a massage parlour, a brew pub, a café, a bowling alley, a swimming pool, a billiards hall, a karaoke bar, a ping pong parlour, and a revolving rooftop restaurant. Sarah, our British tour manager, encouraged us to think of the place as "the Alcatraz of fun".

Our bus pulled to a stop outside the hotel, and we grabbed our bags and shuffled into the lobby to collect our room keys. Sarah reminded us that the power in Pyongyang was unreliable and in short supply, and announced that hot water would be available for only for short set periods in the evenings and mornings. Our entire group was installed in rooms near the very top of the hotel, affording us excellent views of the city. Though it was a bit hazy that first day, from the hallway windows we could already pick out a number of landmarks we'd soon be visiting close up—the Tower of the Juche Idea, Kim Il Sung Square, the Grand People's Study House—as well as a number that would remain off-limits, such as the Ryugyong, the Yanggakdo Stadium, and the golden-domed Russian Orthodox church.

We had an hour or two to rest and unpack before meeting for dinner in one of the half dozen downstairs restaurants. My suite looked nice enough in the fading daylight. I had two twin beds separated by an end table with an ancient-looking panel controlling the lights, alarm clock, and radio. Except for a couple of the lights, none of the controls worked. Beside one bed was an attractive wooden clothes rack, a table and armchair, and an empty refrigerator which ran so noisily that I immediately unplugged it. The bathroom was of standard European design, the bathtub and toilet bearing tissue-paper banners proudly announcing that they'd been sanitized for my use. The counter top near the basin was well stocked with toiletries, though unfortunately labelled only in Korean.

[Yanggakdo International Hotel] [My hotel suite] [View over Pyongyang] [Look who"s on TV!]
Yanggakdo International Hotel My hotel suite View over Pyongyang Look who's on TV!

Opposite the bed was a modern flatscreen TV whose only offering was the state-run Korean Central Television (KCTV). When I switched it on, I was greeted by a close-up of Kim Jong Un's grinning mug peeking out from under a straw hat. The camera pulled back to reveal him seated at a fancy wooden desk on an outdoor platform overlooking a coastal airfield. The chubby leader laughed and cheered as he watched military planes and helicopters take off and drop a seemingly endless supply of bombs on a nearby island. It was like watching a kid play with toy soldiers, except these were not toys.

It took me a few minutes to grapple with what it was I was watching. In the West, North Korea is widely seen as being run by a volatile and oppressive tinpot dictator, and the TV's grinning, trigger-happy Kim wasn't doing much to disabuse me of this notion. Why was North Korean state media seemingly playing into this Western caricature? After thinking about it for a while, I realized where I was mistaken: KCTV doesn't produce its programming with a foreign audience it mind; it is made solely for consumption by the local populace. Like any other country and government, the DPRK has constructed a standardized narrative to justify its existence, and the role of the media is to produce entertainment and news reporting consistent with that narrative. The DPRK's narrative goes something like this:

For decades, the Korean people suffered under a brutal Japanese occupation, until the heroic Kim Il Sung single-handedly liberated the country in 1945. However, Korea soon came under a new occupation, this time by the imperialist Americans. Kim once again rose to the challenge, and by 1953 he had victoriously repulsed the Yankee invaders from the northern half of the country. For his singular feats against seemingly impossible odds, the Korean people enthroned Kim Il Sung as the country's rightful and eternal leader.

Today, despite its people's yearning for reunification, south Korea remains occupied by the American army and illegally administered by their puppet government. But their war of aggression is not over. No peace treaty was ever signed, and the Americans remain intent on conquering all of Korea. They are prevented from doing so only by the might of the Korean People's Army, as constituted by the infallible Kim Il Sung, and now entrusted into the command of the great successor Kim Jong Un. The free people of northern Korea must remain ever vigilant, ever ready to defend themselves against encroachment and domination by the forces of capitalist imperialism.

When the North Korean people turn on their televisions and see the grinning Kim Jong Un supervising the air force training exercises, the ballistic missile test launches, and the endless parades of soldiers marching through the streets of Pyongyang, the intent isn't to make them feel dominated, subjugated, and scared into subservience. Rather, they are supposed to feel empowered and reassured that, despite the ever-present threat of invasion by the American imperialists, Kim Jong Un and his loyal Korean People's Army have everything under control. See how Marshall Kim confidently laughs and smiles? He's not at all afraid of those belligerent Americans and their opportunistic running dogs! Bear witness to the mighty military forces under his command! With Kim in charge, no foreign power dares impugn the sovereignty and safety of the Korean republic. It is the great Comrade Kim, and Comrade Kim alone, who guarantees the peace-loving people of the nation will never again come to harm.

(Continued in Part 4—coming soon.)

Sun, 23rd Aug. 2015, 22:51
Travels in North Korea, Part 2

In this series of posts, I document my travels to North Korea (formally, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, or DPRK) as a tourist in August 2015.

All together there were 17 people in my tour group, plus Sarah, the British tour manager from Koryo Tours; Mok Ran, Song Ii, and Chong Song, our three local guides; Mr. Chae, the bus driver; and Mr. Pak, the KITC cameraman who would record our every move (for the sole purpose of producing a souvenir DVD, we were assured). Our group came from all around the world: there were six Singaporean friends, a family of four Brisbanites, a married couple from Innsbruck, and five solo travelers from Europe, Asia, and North America.

The terminal at Pyongyang Airport had been completely rebuilt just a few weeks before our tour started, so contrary to my expectations of finding a country frozen in time, everything looked fresh and modern. It wasn't long, however, before we all got a glipse of more typical North Korean infrastructure: the bus trip from the airport into town took us down an impressively wide motorway almost entirely devoid of motorized traffic. Also absent were billboards or commercial advertising of any kind. There were, however, plenty of pedestrians and cyclists travelling in the lanes parallel to the main road.

As our big blue tour bus wound its way through the idyllic corn fields, our head tour guide, Mok Ran, activated the PA system and gave us all a warm welcome to the DPRK. Besides providing some general information and statistics on the country, she also set out some ground rules concerning the behaviour expected of us. These basically amounted to a long list of things we were not permitted to photograph:

  • no photos of military sites or personnel,
  • no close-ups of locals without first asking their permission,
  • no photos of construction sites,
  • no photos of anyone sleeping or resting,
  • no photos of anyone engaged in manual labour, and
  • no photos of excessively long queues at bus stops.

Above all, when visiting the country's many gigantic monuments to Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, we were exhorted to always photograph the entire statue, never framing the picture so as to cut off any part of the revered leaders. We were also told that any live person appearing in such a photo should be respectfully posed—imitating the statue's position or gesture is a big no-no.

Our first tour stop was the Fatherland Liberation War Martyr's Cemetery, a memorial to the veterans of the 1950–1953 Korean War. Though only two years old, it's built in the same imposing style as Berlin's Treptower Park and other Soviet memorials of the 1940s and '50s. We would come to see this style over and over again in our travels. In the USSR and Eastern Europe, this so-called "socialist realism" fell out of favour in the late 1960s; not so in the DPRK, where it apparently remains the only officially sanctioned style of monumental art.

Fatherland Liberation War Martyr"s Cemetery Fatherland Liberation War Martyr"s Cemetery Fatherland Liberation War Martyr"s Cemetery Fatherland Liberation War Martyr"s Cemetery

Our visit to the Cemetery had a form which would come to be familiar over the next few days: after getting off the bus, we were met by a custodian guide who would give a Korean-language introduction to the site, with one of our own three guides serving as a consecutive interpreter. One piece of information which was always included in such visits was some historical connection to Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il, or Kim Jong Un. Even for ancient or medieval sites that had no relationship whatsoever to the Kims, the custodians were very careful to validate their importance to us by listing the exact dates on which the Great Leader, Dear Leader, or Great Successor personally visited there to pay respects or provide on-the-spot guidance. In the case of the Fatherland Liberation War Martyr's Cemetery, for example, we were told that the entire memorial was the brainchild of Marshall Kim Jong Un, who oversaw its design, personally inspected it on 1 July 2013, and officially opened it on 25 July 2013.

After the custodian's introduction, we were taken to the monument itself, where we were obliged to lay a bouquet of flowers and bow in respect for the fallen martyrs. We had been warned in advance of our trip that it would involve a lot of "respectful" bowing, particularly to images of the revered leaders. There is really no way of avoiding it short of not signing up for the tour in the first place—it was repeatedly stressed to us by Koryo Tours that whatever our personal feelings towards the Kims and their country, engaging in public displays of respect for them was a non-negotiable condition of the tour. So everyone swallowed their pride for a few seconds and bowed (some a bit more stiffly and shallowly than others), knowing that we could joke, grumble, and commiserate about it together afterwards.

Fatherland Liberation War Martyr"s Cemetery Fatherland Liberation War Martyr"s Cemetery Fatherland Liberation War Martyr"s Cemetery Fatherland Liberation War Martyr"s Cemetery

After the bowing, we had some time for a leisurely stroll around the cemetery grounds. This one has somewhere between 500 and 600 graves, each individually marked with a headstone showing the name, photograph, and personal details of its occupant—or intended occupant, since many of the gravesites have been reserved for still-living veterans. As is usual with North Korean monuments, there is a gigantic stone wall inscribed with a gilded quotation from Kim Il Sung. The one at the cemetery reads,

Heroic feats and undying exploits performed by the service personnel of the People's Army in the Fatherland Liberation War will always remain in the revolutionary history of our people in golden letters and they will be conveyed down through generations.
—Kim Il Sung

aptly illustrating why Kim, Sr. would never have cut it at Hallmark.

(Continued in Part 3.)

Sun, 16th Aug. 2015, 19:17
Travels in North Korea, Part 1

In this series of posts, I document my travels to North Korea (formally, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, or DPRK) as a tourist in August 2015.

Independent travel to North Korea is generally prohibited, and the country's main tour company, the state-run Korea International Travel Company (KITC), doesn't deal directly with the public. Western visitors must therefore book a guided tour through one of a half dozen or so tour agents operating outside the country. These foreign tour companies generally set the tour itineraries and arrange the visas, travel tickets, and accommodation, and while they may send a company representative to accompany the group, all the local guiding is done by KITC employees who are assigned to the group and remain with it at all times, even in the hotels.

I arranged my visit through Koryo Tours, a British-run company based in Beijing, and the oldest company specializing in DPRK travel. Their six-day Early August Tour 2015 coincided with the end of a scientific conference I was attending in Beijing, which made it an easy choice for me. Signing up for the tour was as simple as filling out an online form, wiring 50% of the tour fee as a deposit, and sending a copy of my passport and photograph for them to arrange the visa. (If there's no DPRK consulate near you, Koryo Tours obtains a visa on your behalf and gives it to you in Beijing, where the tour starts. In this case, the visa is issued on a separate piece of paper which is stamped on entry and taken away from you on exit. Whether this is an advantage or disadvantage depends on what you think of having evidence of travel to North Korea in your passport.)

My adventure started on the afternoon of 31 July, when I attended the mandatory tour briefing at the Koryo Tours office in Beijing. Here I met the rest of our group and our tour manager, Sarah. Sarah went over the tour rules and guidelines, which had been sent to us earlier by e-mail. This covered advice on basic Korean customs and how much money to bring, but also very strong warnings about the sort of behaviour that could land us, her company, and the local guides in very deep trouble—namely, journalism, proselytizing, and showing disrespect to the supreme leaders Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il, and Kim Jong Un. In fact, we all had to sign agreements confirming that we were not journalists and would not publish any photographs or articles about our trip in any mainstream media, and that we would not attempt to convert the local population, even by passive means such as leaving Bibles in hotel rooms.

[My DPRK visa (cover)] [My DPRK visa (inside)] [Checking in] [Our Air Koryo plane]
My DPRK visa (cover) My DPRK visa (inside) Checking in Our Air Koryo plane

The next morning at 10:00, we all met near the Koryo Tours office and climbed on the airport shuttle bus, where Sarah handed everyone their DPRK visas. We soon found ourselves stuck in heavy traffic, and some of us started to get nervous about missing our flight. "Don't worry, folks," Sarah reassured us. "Air Koryo's the kind of airline that would gladly hold the flight for us if I call ahead." (Air Koryo is the state-owned national airline of the DPRK.)

On arrival at the airport we stopped at the bank machines to withdraw Chinese yuan for spending money. (Visitors to the DPRK use yuan, euros, or US dollars for all purchases; using the local won isn't normally permitted.) Then we headed to the Air Koryo checkin desk, which for most of us was our first encounter with actual North Koreans. While our tour group stood in line to check in, the Koreans next to us were busy wrapping up enormous boxes, crates, and suitcases full of consumer electronics. Sarah explained that she sees the same Korean travellers over and over again at the airport—it's probably their job to travel back and forth to Beijing to load up on sanctioned goods.

Sarah warned us that the flight meals were terrible, so after checking in, most of us headed to Starbucks for a quick snack. This was also our last chance to check e-mail, since there is generally no Internet access for tourists (or anyone else, for that matter) in North Korea.

[The Pyongyang Times] [DPRK Magazine] [Air Koryo economy class] [In-flight entertainment]
The Pyongyang Times DPRK Magazine Air Koryo economy class In-flight entertainment

Before long, it was time to board the plane—a Russian-made Tupolev Tu-204. Like any other airline, they offered us a range of complimentary newspapers and magazines at the end of the jet bridge. By the time I got there, all copies of the English-language Pyongyang Times were gone, but I managed to snag the last copy of Democratic People's Republic of Korea. This is a beautifully produced, large-size, glossy magazine, though the writing would put even the most die-hard DPRK fanboy to sleep: page after page of articles glorifying Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il, and Kim Jong Un. Nonetheless, Koryo Tours had warned us to treat these publications with respect: tourists have occasionally gotten into trouble for folding them so as to crease the cover image of the supreme leaders.

The aircraft interior was clean and modern-looking, and the flight attendants young and well-groomed. The in-flight entertainment consisted of a slickly-produced military concert video. For a couple hours, we all watched uniformed women sing the praises of the Korean People's Army to backdrops of old Korean War footage intercut with clips of a beaming Kim Jong Un. At the end of each number the camera would pull away from the stage to reveal a hall filled to capacity with applauding generals and other high-ranking officers. (Over the course of our tour, we became intimately familiar with this video, as it was played for us at almost every meal, no matter what restaurant or hotel we ate at.)

Contrary to expectations, the in-flight meal—a large bun containing a meat-and-vegetable patty—was quite tasty. I attempted to take a photo of it, but a flight attendant told me that photographing the food was forbidden(!). Dejectedly, I put away my camera while others in my group who had not received the warning snapped away with impunity.

Our flight arrived in Pyongyang around 16:00 Korean Time. We had been warned in advance that the border guards might try to inspect our electronic devices, and this turned out to be the case with me and others in our group. After showing my passport, I was taken aside and asked to surrender my digital camera and netbook. The guard returned my camera almost immediately—I don't think he even bothered turning it on—but he took particular interest in the netbook. He put it on a metal table and pressed the power button, and asked me to log in. I then witnessed him spend a good five minutes attempting to navigate my KDE desktop environment in a state of total confusion. It was clear he had never before encountered a computer running GNU/Linux. He moved around and closed windows at random, and opened and closed the Kickoff application launcher several times, completely bamboozled by the unfamiliar interface. Eventually he turned around and said to me, "Movies?"

I understood that he was looking for contraband films, which as far as North Korea is concerned means any movie in Korean or about Korea but not produced by the DPRK. I took control of the machine, using the only terminal window he hadn't yet closed to list the contents of my video folder. "Movies!" I said, pointing at the output of ls.

He clearly didn't understand. "Movies?" he asked again.

"Yes, this is a list of the movies!" I said, again pointing at the terminal output.

The guard directed his gaze at the terminal window and then back to me several times. He had no idea what to do. After a long pause, he said to me, "So, no movies?"

I sighed and decided not to press the matter. "Yeah, no movies," I said.

"OK, goodbye," said the guard.

I packed up my computer and headed out the security door and into the airport lobby. I had made it into the country.

(Continued in Part 2.)

Wed, 10th Jun. 2015, 09:57
Anyone up for a DPRK tour?

So way back in 2008, I conducted a poll here to find out if anyone here was interested in going to the same unusual places I always wanted to visit. It turns out a lot of people were. (Though for some reason LiveJournal has deleted all the poll comments, and shows most of the poll options at 0.0% support even though lots of people voted for them.)

Anyway, in the last seven years I've only been able to visit one of the places on that list (Iceland) but, thanks to an upcoming all-expenses-paid business trip to Beijing, I'll be able to squeeze in a short tour of North Korea afterwards. If anyone's still interested in going there, would you like to sign up for the tour with me? It starts and ends in Beijing, and takes place from 1 to 6 or 7 August 2015. The tour costs €1700 (£1250), which includes the visa, air/rail transportation to and from Beijing, all food and accommodation, and almost all attractions. (A return air ticket from Europe to Beijing might set you back another £480 to £725, depending on from where and when you fly.) It would be great to go with friends.

Mon, 18th Nov. 2013, 18:17
1 Unbelievably Stupid Webpage Reviewer

I just discovered this review of one of my web pages, which appears in 505 Unbelievably Stupid Webpages by Dan Crowley (Sourcebooks, 2007):

[a review of "Why I Will Never Have a Girlfriend" which I do not reproduce in full here]

Dear Dan Crowley,

Whoosh! :)

Regards,
Tristan

Thu, 14th Nov. 2013, 15:49
"How's your Denglisch?" now published in Babel: The Language Magazine

[cover of the November 2013 issue of Babel: The Language Magazine]

In his recent bestselling book series, Der Dativ ist dem Genitiv sein Tod, humorist Bastian Sick argues that the German language is succumbing to Sprachverfall, or language decay, and lays the blame squarely on English contamination. There is no denying that the German lexicon has seen significant influence from English since the Second World War. However, this is by no means limited to pristine transfer of vocabulary; many of the borrowings undergo what are, to a native English speaker, bizarre shifts in form and meaning.

How well do you think you can interpret the strange blend of English and German known as Denglisch? Find out in my new quiz, "How's your Denglisch?", which appears in the November 2013 issue of Babel: The Language Magazine. (Babel is a new print magazine all about language and linguistics, published by a team of world-class linguists including David Crystal. You can subscribe on the magazine's website.)

Thu, 7th Nov. 2013, 10:49
A Mozilla monument to me

So I just got an e-mail that someone is building an actual monument to me. About damn time. ;)

Text of an e-mail from Mozilla: Hi there,We are emailing you since your name is on the Mozilla credits page [1]. To show the world the thousands of people who contribute to Mozilla, we are building a monument to Mozillians that will sit outside of our new San Fransisco space [2]. Because your name is on the credits page, we plan to print your name on the monument as well.If you do not want your name printed on the monument, please send an email to sf-monument@mozilla.com by Friday, November 8. Please include your name and email address.Thank you,The Mozilla monument teamsf-monument@mozilla.com[1] http://www.mozilla.org/credits/[2] https://wiki.mozilla.org/Monument

Sun, 31st Mar. 2013, 18:50
Autocompleted British Isles

Here's another autocomplete map, this time of the British Isles. Evidently the people of Great Britain don't think much of their cities, whereas the Irish are on the whole quite enamoured with theirs.

If your browser doesn't display the map properly, or if you want to get the SVG source, visit my autocomplete maps page.

[An autocomplete map of the British Isles]

Sat, 30th Mar. 2013, 23:14
O Autocompleted Canada

I produced these maps by typing "placename is" into the Google search box and then taking the top non-tautological autocomplete suggestion which makes sense. If your browser isn't displaying them properly, or if you want to get the SVG sources, visit my autocomplete maps page.

[An autocomplete map of Canada]

[An autocomplete map of Europe]

Wed, 5th Dec. 2012, 11:33
Conference on rudeness, verbal aggression, and mock politeness

The coolest call for papers just landed in my inbox. It's for a conference on impoliteness, to be held in Bydgoszcz in May of next year. Solicited topics include "rudeness, ignorance, aggravation, offence, verbal aggression, sarcasm, and mock politeness". I suppose someone perceived a niche to fill following the shuttering of Maledicta: The International Journal of Verbal Aggression! Below is an excerpt from the CFP.

Impolin: Impoliteness and Interaction

Call for papers

The aim of the conference is to provide an interdisciplinary platform for discussion over linguistic and nonlinguistic impolite behaviour across languages and cultures. The focus of the conference will be pragmatic and sociolinguistic aspects of impolite behaviour analysed both in terms of verbal and nonverbal communication, however we also welcome presentations across a wide variety of topics stemming from neighbouring fields of research, such as social studies, political studies, psychology, intercultural communication, media studies, etc.…

The proposed topics for papers include, but are not limited to:

  • theoretical frameworks
  • Neo-Gricean approaches to impoliteness
  • Discursive approaches to impoliteness
  • Relevance-theoretic approach to impoliteness
  • Cognitive linguistics in impoliteness research
  • Corpus-based studies of impoliteness
  • Sociolinguistic aspects of impoliteness
  • Pragmatic approaches to impoliteness, etc.

Categories of description:

  • disagreement
  • rudeness
  • ignorance
  • aggravation
  • offence
  • verbal aggression
  • sarcasm
  • mock politeness
  • humour and impoliteness
  • using taboo words
  • swearing and expletives, etc.

Possible scope of empirical studies:

  • impoliteness in translation (including literary and audiovisual translation, in particular in subtitles)
  • impoliteness in computer-mediated discourse
  • impoliteness in courtship setting
  • impoliteness in educational setting
  • impoliteness in institutional setting
  • impoliteness in interpersonal setting (face-face and multi-party conversations)
  • impoliteness across dialects and genres
  • impoliteness and power
  • impoliteness and identity
  • impoliteness and miscommunication
  • intentional and unintentional impoliteness
  • impoliteness perception and interpretation
  • impoliteness strategies
  • impoliteness and rapport management
  • linguistic and nonlinguistic impoliteness
  • impoliteness and prosody
  • multimodal approaches to impoliteness, etc.

The organizers really missed the boat in not holding the impoliteness conference in Paris, where the local shop assistants would have been only too happy to show everyone how it's done.

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