This study is an endeavor to investigate and explore the various pragmatic functions of endearment terms and expressions in Arabic. It tries to find out the different ways in which such expressions are used to perform different pragmatic functions and intentions. Such expressions are used extensively by Arab speakers. The misuse of such expressions may result in misunderstanding, embarrassment or even offence especially in the Arab-conservative community. The data of this study has been taken from Naguib Mahfouz’s Cairo Trilogy which includes: Palace Walk, Palace of Desire and Sugar Street. The model adopted in this study is an eclectic one. Hence, two major politeness theories are used in analyzing the data collected: First, Brown and Levinson’s (1989) concept of “positive politeness”, which is a strategy directed towards the positive face of the hearer, has mainly been adopted in the analysis of data. Second Leech’s (1983,2014) politeness view or Politeness Principle which comprises six politeness maxims for conversation has partly been taken into account in the analysis.
In this study, it has been found that terms of endearment are employed by Arab speakers in order to create a friendly atmosphere in conversation, show solidarity and intimacy. They are used to claim common ground with others, show sympathy and minimize the face-threatening acts. In addition, other forms and expressions such as some terms of address (e.g. diminutives, and kinship terms) as well as two of Leech’s politeness maxims, “approbation and sympathy”, are employed in order to perform the social function of endearments.