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Study of the Politeness Principle in Chinese and English Cultures

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Submitted By if729
Words 1475
Pages 6

This thesis attempts to make a comparative study of politeness between English and Chinese cultures.Po- liteness Can be realized in a number of ways, among which the use of language is an important one.With the develop- ment of pragmatics in the past years, language is used to show-politeness and also the differences between different lan- guages and cultures.
Key words:
Politeness principle;Culture difference


Minimize the expression of beliefs which express dis-

Politeness as a social phenomenon can be observed in

praise of other; maximize the expression of beliefs which

all languages and cultures, it has long been made an and express approval of other.Other may not be the person di-

important object of study in linguistics.The really serious

rectly addressed, someone or something dear to humor but study of politeness in the Western linguistic circles can be


traced back to the German Romantic Movement in the

4.The Modesty maxim

early 1920s.In recent years, along with the rapid movement

Minimize the expression of praise of self; maximize towards pragmatics, politeness has become the central

the expression of dispraise of self.

theme.As a common social phenomenon, politeness is not

5.The Agreement maxim

only a universally highly valued virtue, also a widely but Minimize the expression of disagreement between self

employed strategy to realize tactful and effective communi-

and other; maximize the expression of agreement between

cation.Despite its universality of politeness, ways to re- the self and other.

alize politeness, the standards of judgment differ in and 6.The Sympathy maxim

difference cultures.Being unaware of such differences

Minimize the expression of detest of other; maximize would probably lead to trouble or failure in cultural com-

the expression of sympathy of other.I will make a compari-


son in politeness principle between China and English-

Politeness Principle

speaking countries according to these maxims.

(一 Definition of politeness

(二 Gu Yueguo'Politeness Principle

Politeness is a universal phenomenon in human soci-

In China, however the real study of politeness only

ety.However different linguists and scholars give their dif-

began in the 1980s when pragmatics was introduced into

ferent interpretations of politeness.G.Leech introduces the

China.The most important figure in this area is Gu Yueguo.

Politeness Principle which runs as follows:
Minimize the

He puts forward his own set of politeness maxims in his

expression of impolite beliefs,
Maximize the expression of


polite belief.Leech specified six maxims of the politeness

Phenomena in Modem Chinese (1990 .Gu
) (1992 has

principle which are the means by which on can obtain the

formulated a different set of politeness maxims, which he

degree of politeness required in a certain situation.

thinks that are more suitable to the Chinese environment.

1.Tact maxim

Gu who have contributed significantly to the study of po-

Minimize the expression of beliefs which imply cost to

liteness in modern Chinese holds that there are basically

other, maximize the expression of beliefs which imply ben-

four notions underlying the Chinese conception of limao

efit to other

( 礼 貌) Respectfulness,

modesty, attitudinal warmth, re- 2.The Generosity maxim

finement.'Respectfulness'is self's positive appearance of

Minimize the expression of benefit to self; maximize concerning the latter's face, social status and so on.It is i-

the expression of cost to self.
3.The Approbation maxim

dentical with the need to maintain the listener's positive face.'Modesty'can be seen as another way of say-


【专题研讨】 ing'self-denigration.Self-denigration is uniquely Chinese.

the speaker asked is our of their business.They consider it

'Attitudinal Warmth'is self's demonstration of kindness,

as an interpreting and impolite.Therefore, main content the consideration and hospitality to other.It bears a strong Chi-

.And inquiring the de- of talking is called “La Jia Chang”

nese trait and the speaker runs the risk of infringing on the

tai1s of family member is a common and polite topic.That's

listener's personal freedom, thus threatening his negative

the way to show care and concerning to listener.The Eng-

face.'Refinement' refers to self's behavior to other which

lish speakers dis1ike to be asked salary, and marriage, age meets certain standards .People should live up to the con-

however, they treat these as privacy.British people of- and ventionally recognized social standards in order not to be

ten start their talking as whether topic.When a Chinese

accused of being rude or ill mannered.Gu's principle re-

“ isn't , listener heard Windy, it”he would not regard it as a

flects the typical Chinese characteristics.Chinese has its

signal of start talking.Chinese personal relationships sym-

own principles and explanations.And through studies such

bols as society: emphasizes on keeping within the bounds

principles, could go further on study the concealing part we of social groups: regards the collectivities functions as and of Chinese culture.Collectivism,
Confucianism and Hierar-

the main role.Therefore, they don't treat these questions as

chy would be revealed.

privacy.Privacy is valued in all cultures, it is much but 三、
The differences in Politeness Principles be- tween Chinese and English Cultures

more highly regarded in the English speaking culture than in the Chinese culture.An English speaking person might

Different maxim is chosen because of different culture simply regard what is considered as an act of politeness in
Chinese culture as an intrusion upon a person's privacy.

The Tact maxim is the one that the westerns use the

Prof.Gu has included “Attitudinal warmth” one of the

most when they are communicating.People use it when

four motions underlying politeness in the Chinese culture.

they implement indicative behaviors such as making re-

To show warmth and concern of other is considered as a

quests orders, warms suggestions and giving advices and so

polite act.That's why when two Chinese meet each other

on.For eaample, Hang on a second”I've got a bit of

even for the first time: they might be asking about each

problem.Here it is very clear that the speaker is trying to

other's age, mortal status, offspring, occupation and even

lessen the cost of other.However, people in China and oth-

income.The Chinese think that they are being polite by

er eastern countries put emphasis on Modesty Maxim.After

showing concern for the other person and asking all these

a big meal, people will say I am so sorry, have given you

questions wi11 help shorten the social distance between

The so much trouble .” different choices are made because

themselves an d their interlocutors.But English speaker,

people come from different culture and they have different

should they be asked all such questions, would feel their

view of value.Chinese pursue a hamonious relationship .

interlocutor is rudely encroaching upon their privacy.In

However, is a country which put emphasis on social it modern Chinese, equivalent of politeness is Li Mao, the stratum.But in English countries, politeness principle the which is believed to have evolved in history from the no-

“ and . put emphasis equality” “consistence”

tion of Li(礼 .In the opening lines are round the following

“speaking of Li, humble yourself but show respect to oth-

(二 Collectivism

Family is in a specific position in Chinese transitional

er” has ever since become an essential feature of the

culture.All the relationship between people must revolve in

Chinese notion of politeness and has remained at the core

the relationship of family.Therefore, the language inter- in of politeness in the Chinese culture.
(三 Confucianism and Hierarchy

action, especially in the politeness greetings, 1ike to just family members.As greeting,
Chinese speakers 1ike to say.

Confucius set up 81l ethical moral system intended

“You are fat” “You are so thin” or .Please pay more atten-

ideally governs al1 relationships in the family and nation.

tion to your health.When the two friends meet, they often

He taught that society was made up of five relationships:

say,Where are you going? or Have you had the meal?

those between ruler and subjects, husband and wife, father in Chinese culture, shows tactful, it friendly and warmly.

and son, elder brother and younger brother and friends.He

Because when a Chinese speaker says hello to an English

emphasizes virtue, se1f1essness, duty, patriotism, hard work

speaker using these phrases,
English speaker sometimes

and respect for hierarchy.He gives social relationships to

“ not “
thinks it is an inquire” the friendly greeting” Ameri-

live in harmony with the universe, with your follows man

can and British culture English.Speaker pays more atten-

through proper behavior.Li cons ideas balance and harmo-

tion to the individualism and privacy.And they regard what

ny in human relationships to be the basic of society.…...

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