By Shavira Sarashita

a 5th semester student


Nowadays, there are so many talk shows on televisions. The type of the talk shows can be considered to be varied depending on the concept of the talk show itself, the content, the guests, and so on. When it comes to a thought that talk shows are varied, the language style used must diverse as well. In this research paper, the focus is on the politeness—negative and positive face used by the presenter or the host of the talk show program. It has been decided that there will be two talk shows to compare and discuss in this paper, which are Mata Najwa, a talk show program hosted by Najwa Shihab, and The Ellen DeGeneres Show, hosted by Ellen DeGeneres.
In writing this research paper, there are absolutely some objectives to background the reason why the politeness in talk shows is chosen to be discussed. First, because pragmatics is the study of utterance meaning, the thing to be analysed should be about spoken language. In talk shows, people talk, not write. Second, Mata Najwa and The Ellen DeGeneres Show seem to be different in concept and content; Mata Najwa is a formal to semi-formal talk show containing topics about politics, economy, and other important things related to the problems and development of Indonesia while The Ellen DeGeneres Show is about celebrity life which is more fun, more casual with a lot of jokes using informal style of language. Therefore, the way they talk with their guests, and of course, the politeness used will be different. In short, talk shows have a lot of evidence to show that people use linguistic politeness, especially negative and positive face, when they talk to each other, and also the reasons or the factors why they use different types of face-saving act in their conversation.

Theoretical Review

According to Yule (2010, p. 135) the most involved feature in linguistic politeness is called the ‘face’. Yule stated that the face is the person’s public self-image. It means that when a person talks the face is considered to be the self-impression that other people will see. He believed that there are terms called face-threateing act (FTA) and face-saving act (FSA). Face-threatening act can be said to occur when a person’s speech makes other people feel irritated while face-saving act can occur when a person’s speech makes other people feel less irritated. In other words, the people who hear the speech will feel more comfortable.
Yule (2010, p.135) went on to say that there are two kinds face-saving act; the negative face and positive face. The word negative here does not mean something bad or harmful. Yule (p.135) declared that negative face is the demand to be independent, not to be closely connected with other people, and to create distance. Meanwhile, positive face is the opposite of negative face. It is the need to be closely connected with other people, and to be accepted in the society or certain social groups. The most important point to be kept in mind is both negative face and positive face are face-saving acts but the difference is on the need when somebody uses it.


For the talk show videos, the data collecting is done by browsing and watching the recording videos of Mata Najwa and The Ellen DeGeneres Show on YouTube. In the video of Mata Najwa, the host who is Najwa Shihab was interviewing The President Joko Widodo (known as Jokowi) when he had just finished his campaign since 10th of July was one day after the Election Day. Meanwhile, Ellen DeGeneres was having an interview with one of the famous young singers in the world named Miley Cyrus. As it is not enough to watch just once, the videos are then downloaded so that I could re-watch them to get some more data to be analysed.
For the related literature or the theories about politeness, the data is collected by reading the PDF book of The Study of Language: 4th Edition (2010) authorised by George Yule. Yule provides clear and concise theories about politeness with an easy-to-understand way of explaining since the language is simple and understandable. Therefore, I choose the book to provide some theories in this research paper.

Data Analysis

After the data has been all collected, the step goes on the analysis. The data analysis is done by watching, listening, and observing the two videos. Since the videos have been downloaded, the process of observing is much easier. According to me, watching the videos once does not enough since i have to really pay attention on what happens in the conversation between Najwa Shihab and The President Jokowi, and also between Ellen DeGeneres and Miley Cyrus. The most possible way to analyse talk shows is to watch them again and again, and then observe the face-saving act used in the conversation between the host and the guest. In addition, to support the analysis on both talk shows, there will be theories from George Yule’s book, The Study of Language; 4th Edition (2010).

Najwa & Ellen
Analysis of Negative and Positive Face on Both Talk Shows

Mata Najwa
To start with, it seems better to introduce the program itself. Mata Najwa is a television interview or talk show program in one of the national TV station in Indonesia. That is why the language used in Mata Najwa is Bahasa Indonesia. In the episode that I watch for working on the research paper, Najwa Shihab as the host was having an exclusive interview with the seventh President of Indonesia, Joko Widodo, also known as Jokowi. This episode was aired on the 10th of July in 2014. At that time, Indonesian citizens had just done the election process on the Election Day, 9th of July in 2014. It came out that the President Jokowi won the election based on the quick count system.

After watching the videos repeatedly, and then observing the face-saving act used, I come up with the result that Najwa Shihab used both negative face and positive face. The first thing to be analysed is the negative face. When Najwa was greeting The President, she went on to say, “Apa kabar, Pak Jokowi?” It appears that Najwa used the word ‘Pak’, which is similar to ‘Mr.’ or ‘Sir’ in English, to talk with President Jokowi since he is much older than her so that she considered to use negative face to create distance between herself and Jokowi. It can be also said that she is Jokowi’s subordinate by the age. In addition, the situation at that time also determined the use of negative face. President Jokowi was still the considered to be the future President of Indonesia, so Najwa decided to use negative face to show some respect to President Jokowi.

The next thing to be discussed is the positive face used by Najwa. Najwa said to Jokowi, “Sejauh apa sih…? Sejauh apa nervous-nya, deg-degan-nya?” By seeing this Najwa’s question, she used the informal expression ‘sih’, and then code mixing between Bahasa Indonesia and English since there is the word ‘nervous’. It occurs that Najwa wanted to make the situation less intense so that The President will also feel comfortable in receiving and answering the questions. As the presenter or the host of a talk show, Najwa is believed to have a responsibility in bringing the interview more relaxed by establishing the close relationship between her and President Jokowi. Therefore, she decided to also use positive face when talking with the President.

There are two other evidence to prove that Najwa used both negative and positive face. Najwa asked Jokowi “Kenapa bajunya ganti-ganti terus, Pak?” and “Bapak ada request ngga?” In these utterance, it seems clearer that Najwa really used both types of face-saving act when she was talking to Jokowi. In the first question, Najwa used the word ‘kenapa’, which is the informal form of ‘mengapa’. It means ‘why’ in English. Moreover, in the second question, she used code mixing between Bahasa Indonesia and English since used the word ‘request’ between other Indonesian words, and also she used the word ‘ngga’, the informal form of ‘tidak’. It can be considered that Najwa had an intention to build a more casual conversation and a close relationship between the interviewer and the interviewee. By using those words, Najwa was using positive face to The President Jokowi. However, Najwa did not forget to still show respect to The President since she used the word ‘Bapak’ and ‘Pak’ in her questions. That is considered to be the negative face strategy.

The Ellen DeGeneres Show

The Ellen DeGeneres Show is one of the famous talk shows in The United States of America. The talk show is about celebrity life with the guests which are artists, singers, actors, actress, and so on. In the episode that I observe, Ellen DeGeneres had Miley Cyrus as her guest to be interviewed. The topic was about her performance on VMA singing her new song entitled We Can’t Stop, about her love relationship, and other things. The Ellen DeGeneres Show seems to be more fun, more casual, and there are a lot of jokes since it is talking about celebrity life which is considered to be more entertaining.

After watching and observing what is happening in the video, it is believed that Ellen used more positive face when talking to Miley. It might happen because the context is a celebrity talk show so that she decided to use a more informal and casual style of language. Even there is no negative face found in the interview as Ellen was not making a distance between her and Miley. Otherwise, she kept building a close relation during the interview. It is also found that Ellen made a lot of jokes with Miley. For instance, when they were talking about Miley’s controversial performance on VMA because her costume and her dance was considered inappropriate, Miley told that everybody was shocked about the giant bear on the stage. Ellen suddenly uttered, “Yeah, they (the audience) were shocked about everything.” Miley and everybody in the studio laughed. It can be seen that Ellen had a purpose to make Miley, the audience, and also the situation more relaxed by making a joke.

Ellen’s joke did not just end with that, in the next session she asked Miley “If you’re not gonna do the tongue thing anymore, can I take that over?” To make the things clear, Miley has a signature tongue-out pose when somebody is taking pictures of her. She said that she is not comfortable to smile so she makes that tongue-out pose. After Ellen questioned her, Miley then taught her to pose like that. By seeing what Ellen did, it is believed that she was establishing a close relationship with Miley since doing that tongue-out pose made the fun increase, and made the audience laugh and clap their hands.

Besides doing jokes, Ellen was found saying a compliment to Miley. She said, “…You’re an amazingly talented woman…you have an amazing voice…” Miley then replied, “Oh, thank you..” In short, it appears that by saying a compliment, Ellen had a purpose to make Miley feel pleasant, happy, respected, and comfortable to be interviewed in the show. When somebody is feeling pleasant and comfortable, there is a tendency to build a closer relationship with them. Ellen had done it well to get closer to Miley.


After watching the videos, listening to the interview, and observing the negative and positive face used in Mata Najwa and The Ellen DeGeneres Show, I come up with the conclusion that the hosts have the age factor and the context or situation factor to consider before they decide what kind of face-saving acts they would like to use to talk with their guests. In Mata Najwa talk show, Najwa Shihab used both negative and positive face since her guest was The President Jokowi. She had to make the conversation less intense by saying some fun things and using semi-formal language, but she must have shown some respect to The President by calling him ‘Bapak’ or ‘Pak’ as he is much older than her. On the other hand, Ellen DeGeneres was doing a more casual and fun interview with a young singer, Miley Cyrus. Ellen made a lot of jokes with Miley and used more informal language to shape a relax, casual, and fun atmosphere in the interview. Moreover, Miley is a celebrity, an entertainer, not a politician so that Ellen should have been more informal but still polite when talking to Miley.


Yule, George. (2010). The Study of Language (4th ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Jokowi Interview on Mata Najwa
Miley Cyrus Interview on Ellen Show