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Journal of Politeness Research

Language, Behaviour, Culture

Ed. by Grainger, Karen

IMPACT FACTOR 2017: 1.000
5-year IMPACT FACTOR: 1.365

CiteScore 2017: 1.65

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2017: 0.585
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2017: 0.848

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How to get rid of unwanted suitors: Advice from Hmong-American women of two generations

Susan Meredith Burt
Published Online: 2005-07-27 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jplr.2005.1.2.219


This paper analyzes the recommendations made by Hmong immigrant women and Hmong-American women for responses to a face-threatening scenario, in which a woman is invited to play a courting game with a man in whom she has no interest. While the older women recommend direct statements and unmitigated directives to discourage the suitor, the younger women recommend excuses and attempts to postpone. Thus the younger women appear to recommend more polite verbal strategies than the older women do, a pattern that seems puzzling.

A close look at the older women’s responses reveals that they were assuming conditions for the interaction similar to those that prevailed when they were young women in Laos, where women’s power, both in general and in interaction, was much less than men’s. In contrast, the young Hmong- American women assume different conditions and possibilities for women’s lives, with greater power available to them than to women of their grandmothers’ generation. Thus, greater power for these speakers seems to occasion increased use of verbal politeness, while speakers with assumptions of lower power employ more bald-on-record strategies, a tendency that Brown and Levinson (1987 [1978]) do not predict.

Keywords: Hmong; courtship; advice-giving; politeness strategies; women and power; language shift

About the article

Published Online: 2005-07-27

Published in Print: 2005-07-20

Citation Information: Journal of Politeness Research, Volume 1, Issue 2, Pages 219–236, ISSN (Online) 1613-4877, ISSN (Print) 1612-5681, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jplr.2005.1.2.219.

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