The Face of Politeness

Feb 3rd, 2012
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University of Bradford
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A Comparative Study of Western and Oriental Politeness Strategies Different languages and cultures strive in various ways, to maintain face in every day encounters. In particular, striking contrasts exist in the strategies used in the English and Chinese acts of complimenting, addressing, offering and inviting. In this paper, I endeavour to demonstrate how various ‘faces’ might account for these different strategies.

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A Comparative StudyofWestern and OrientalPoliteness Strategies0THE FACEOFPOLITENESSA Comparative StudyofWestern and OrientalPoliteness StrategiesStuart KellyPublished 2013 by Stuart Kelly, Bradford, EnglandTaken from an original document 2006Electronically reprinted 2013 copyright 2013 Stuart Kelly1Throughout several decades, face has been variously defined as positive ornegative (Brown and Levinson 1987), respectability, identity, individual, group(Spencer-Oatey 2005), mianzi and lian. (Mao 1994, Chen 1991). Despite claims forthe universality of face, there would appear to be no general agreement as to itsprecise nature. Variations have been identified in the ways that differentlanguages and cultures strive to maintain face in every day encounters. Inparticular, striking differences have been pointed out in the strategies used inthe English and Chinese acts of complimenting (Tian and Zhao 2006), addressing(Gu 1990), offering (Chen 1991, Spencer-Oatey 2005) and inviting (Mao1994). Ishall endeavour to demonstrate how various faces might account for thesedifferent strategies.Goffman (1955) introduced a concept of face, which he defined as;the positive social value a person effectively claims for himself bythe line others assume he has taken during a particular contact.(p213)He uses the term, face-work (p216) to describe the actions people take to savetheir own face (defensive orientation) and

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