Politeness strategies in Helmut Kohl's speech at the opening of the brandenburg gate on december 22, 1989

Mulia Anggraini, Setiawati Darmojuwono

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


A speech that is delivered by a leader of a country contains information about their ideas. Every political leader of a nation, therefore, must provide meaningful information to their citizens. According to Austin's theory (1962), meaning is described as a relation between linguistic conventions correlated with words or sentences, conveyed in a situation where the speaker says something to the hearer to communicate their intentions. However, not all speeches have specific narrative strategies because sometimes speeches threaten the "face" of communication partners. According to Goffman (1955) face is the positive public image one seeks to establish in social interactions. Penelope Brown and Stephen Levinson used Goffman's face theory as their foundation for explaining human interactions that involve politeness. In fact, their theory of developing politeness expands the existing face theory by arguing that we have two faces: one based on a desire for approval and acceptance by others (positive face) and the other based on a desire to proceed without being impeded (negative face). Brown and Levinson (1987: 62) defined the positive face as "the want of every member that his [her] wants be desirable to at least some. " On the contrary, the negative face is defined as "the want of every 'competent adult member' that his [her] actions be unimpeded by others. " In this chapter, the authors focus on Chancellor Helmut Kohl's politeness strategies during his speech that influenced the reunification of Germany. Employing a descriptive qualitative method, the authors analyze a text from the archive of Chancellor Helmut Kohl's speech made on December 22, 1989, during the opening of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. The results of this research indicate that Chancellor Helmut Kohl's speech persuaded people by using speech acts that deployed politeness strategies. The speech acts used the most were (1) directive, (2) expressive, and (3) straightforward, to convey positive politeness, and these strategies allow the Chancellor to garner sympathy from his audience.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationOn Language, Education, Politics, and Identity
Subtitle of host publicationA Cross-Linguistics Perspective
PublisherNova Science Publishers, Inc.
Number of pages12
ISBN (Print)9781536193374
Publication statusPublished - 19 Mar 2021


  • Chancellor helmut kohl
  • Face
  • Opening of the brandenburg gate
  • Politeness strategy
  • Speech act


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