“So, what test do you prefer?” Negotiating politic behaviour in an L2 prenatal genetic counselling setting in Hong Kong

Olga A. ZAYTS, Munkyung Agnes KANG

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)

7 Citations (Scopus)


Previous research in the field of politeness studies indicates that different discourse genres are characterized by different degrees of adherence to politeness rules (Lakoff 1989). In the genetic counselling setting, we propose that verbal behaviour should be analyzed within a broader framework of politic verbal behaviour (Watts 1989, 2003). We examine an L2 English context in Hong Kong to illustrate how the sociocultural context shapes the notion of politic behaviour. By sociocultural context, we are referring to the combination of language used, in this case English as a second language, the background of the interactants, and the institutional setting in which the interactions take place. In genetic counselling, politic behaviour is influenced by two well-established concepts: informed choice and nondirective counselling. Informed choice concerns the decision that a pregnant woman makes regarding genetic screening and testing. Nondirectiveness reflects the autonomous nature of the choice and the fact that the health care provider should act as a facilitator of the woman's choice, avoiding any imposition. Given these institutional goals, we discuss how health care providers negotiate politic behaviour to facilitate the decision-making process and illustrate that considerations of language and participant background take precedence over nondirectiveness in this L2 context.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-51
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Politeness Research. Language, Behaviour, Culture
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2011
Externally publishedYes



  • genetic counselling; informed choice; nondirective counselling; non-native speaker interaction; politic behaviour; L2 context

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