Why do people take offence? Exploring the underlying expectations

Tahmineh Tayebi*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The principal motivation for this study is to (i) analyse the types of expectations underlying people's evaluation of an act or behaviour as offensive and (ii) explore the various social and cultural factors that inform these expectations. Drawing on a corpus of 150 diary report forms written by Persian-speaking informants, the study revealed seven different, yet interrelated, expectations the unrealisation of which had led to taking of offence. In order to identify how these expectations are shared across a speech community, from each category of expectations two examples were randomly given to 100 new participants. As the retrospective comments revealed, while the expectations identified do exist in the speech community under investigation, they are not equally shared across all members. The ongoing tension between heterogeneity and homogeneity of these expectations can be explained by referring to both cognitive and relational bases of expectations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
Early online date30 May 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2016


  • (Im)politeness
  • Culture
  • Expectations
  • Persian
  • Taking offence


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