Rudeness at 911: Reconceptualizing face and face attack

Karen Tracy, Sarah J. Tracy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

125 Scopus citations


This article analyzes two telephone calls from citizens to a 911 center in a large city in the Western United States in which call-takers became angry and attacked the face of the callers. After reviewing past theoretical conceptualizations of face and face attack, the authors analyze the calls using afacework lens. Through a close study of the discourse, the authors show the subtle and blatant ways in which vocal delivery, substance and type of selected speech acts, second pair parts, and selected stance indicators do face attack. Then, they consider how context may contribute to the call-takers' usage of these problematic conversational strategies. The article concludes by assessing how notions of face and face attack would be reconceptualized if future research adopted the grounded practical theory frame that informs this 911 case study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)225-251
Number of pages27
JournalHuman Communication Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 1998
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Anthropology
  • Linguistics and Language


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