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Journal of Cross-Cultural and Interlanguage Communication

Ed. by Piller, Ingrid

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Volume 32, Issue 2


Speaking politely, kindly, and beautifully: Ideologies of politeness in Japanese business etiquette training

Cynthia Dickel Dunn
Published Online: 2013-02-19 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/multi-2013-0011


In recent years, politeness theory has increasingly focused on speakers’ own conceptualizations of polite behavior, viewing politeness concepts as a type of language ideology. This article examines the construction of Japanese politeness concepts in the business etiquette training provided for new employees in Japanese companies. Drawing on participant-observation of business etiquette seminars offered by five training companies, it analyzes how employees are taught to show deference through appropriate honorific use, to speak in ways which are seen as kind or considerate, and to speak and move in ways the instructors define as ‘beautiful.’ The analysis demonstrates how etiquette training conflates displays of deference, kindness, and demeanor, training new employees in an interactional presentation of self designed to promote a positive corporate image. The analysis of politeness as language ideology reveals how local constructions of politeness can serve larger strategic ends, in this case those of corporate image-making.

Keywords: politeness theory; language ideology; workplace communication; business etiquette; Japanese

About the article

Published Online: 2013-02-19

Published in Print: 2013-02-18

Citation Information: Multilingua, Volume 32, Issue 2, Pages 225–245, ISSN (Online) 1613-3684, ISSN (Print) 0167-8507, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/multi-2013-0011.

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