Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Show Summary Details
More options …

Journal of Politeness Research

Language, Behaviour, Culture

Ed. by Grainger, Karen

2 Issues per year

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

See all formats and pricing
More options …

Exploring face, identity and relationship management in disagreements in business meetings in Hong Kong

Angela Chan
  • Corresponding author
  • Department of Foreign Languages and Literature, Shantou University, College of Liberal Arts, Shantou, Guangdong, China,
  • Email
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
/ Stephanie Schnurr
  • Corresponding author
  • Centre for Applied Linguistics, University of Warwick Warwick United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
  • Email
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
/ Olga Zayts
Published Online: 2018-07-05 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/pr-2015-0036


This paper examines the discursive processes involved in the construction and negotiation of face in Chinese business interactions. Drawing on 20 hours of authentic video- and audio-recorded business meetings in two companies in Hong Kong, we analyse how interlocutors do facework while orienting to and actively constructing their interpersonal relationships. Our particular focus is disagreements upwards, i. e., those, potentially very face-threatening, disagreements that are uttered by subordinates targeted at their superiors. Findings illustrate that some disagreements are relatively strong but face and relationship maintaining, while others are relatively weak but face and relationship challenging. We not only argue that the processes of doing facework and managing relationships are closely interwoven, but we also illustrate the important role of identity in these processes, and argue that the notion of identity should be incorporated into theories of face and relationship management as it constitutes an integral aspect of how interlocutors construct and negotiate face.

Keywords: face; facework; identity; relationship; workplace interaction; Hong Kong


  • Angouri, Jo. 2012. Managing disagreement in problem solving meeting talk. Journal of Pragmatics 44. 1565-1579.Google Scholar

  • Angouri, Jo & Miriam Locher. 2012. Theorising disagreement. Journal of Pragmatics 44. 1549-1553.Google Scholar

  • Angouri, Jo & Meredith Marra. 2010. Corporate meetings as genre: A study of the role of the chair in corporate meeting talk. Text & Talk 30(6). 615-636.Google Scholar

  • Arundale, Robert B. 2006. Face as relational and interactional: a communication framework for research on face, facework, and politeness. Journal of Politeness Research: Language, Behaviour, Culture 2. 193-216.Google Scholar

  • Arundale, Robert. 2009. Face as emergent in interpersonal communication: An alternative to Goffman. In Francesca Bargiella-Chiappini & Michael Haugh (eds.), Face, communication, and social interaction, 33-54. London: Equinox.Google Scholar

  • Arundale, Robert. 2010. Constituting face in conversation: Face, facework, and interactional achievement. Journal of Pragmatics 42. 2078-2105.Google Scholar

  • Boden, Deirdre. 1994. The business of talk: Organizations in action. Cambridge: Polity Google Scholar

  • Boden, Deirdre. Press.Google Scholar

  • Bond, Michael Harris. 1986. The psychology of the Chinese people. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

  • Bond, Michael Harris & Kwang-kuo Hwang. 1986. The social psychology of Chinese people. In Michael Harris Bond (ed.), The psychology of the Chinese people, 231-266. Hong Kong: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

  • Bucholtz, Mary & Kira Hall. 2005. Identity and interaction: A sociocultural linguistic approach. Discourse studies 7(4-5). 585-614.Google Scholar

  • Chang, Wei-Lin M. & Michael Haugh. 2011. Strategic embarrassment and face threatening in business interaction. Journal of Pragmatics 43(12). 2948-2963.Google Scholar

  • Chang, Hui-Ching & Richard Holt. 1994. A Chinese perspective on face as inter-relation concern. In Stella Toomey (ed.), The challenge of facework, 95-132. Albany, New York: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar

  • Cheng, Winnie & Amy Tsui. 2009. ‘ahh ((laugh)) well there is no comparison between the two I think’: How do Hong Kong Chinese and native speakers of English disagree with each other? Journal of Pragmatics 41. 2365-2380.Google Scholar

  • Choi, Seongsook & Stephanie Schnurr. 2014. Exploring distributed leadership: Solving disagreements and negotiating consensus in a ‘leaderless’ team. Discourse Studies 16(1). 3-24.Google Scholar

  • Clift, Rebecca. 2001. Meaning in interaction: The case of actually. Language 77(2). 245-291.Google Scholar

  • Clifton, Jonathan. 2017. Taking the (heroic) leader out of leadership. The in situ practice of distributed leadership in decision-making talk. In Cornelia Ilie & Stephanie Schnurr (eds.), Challenging leadership stereotypes through discourse: Power, management and gender. 45-68. Delhi: SpringerGoogle Scholar

  • Gao, Ge. 1998. ‘Don’t take my word for it’: Understanding Chinese speaking practices. International Journal of Intercultural Relations 22(20). 163-186.Google Scholar

  • Garcés-Conejos Blitvich, Pilar. 2013. Introduction: Face, identity and im/politeness. Looking backward, moving forward: From Goffman to practice theory. Journal of Politeness Research: Language, Behaviour, Culture 9(1). 1-33.Google Scholar

  • Georgakopoulou, Alexandra. 2001. Arguing about the future: On indirect disagreements in conversations. Journal of Pragmatics 33. 1881-1900.Google Scholar

  • Geyer, Naomi. 2008. Discourse and Politeness: Ambivalent Face in Japanese. London & New York: Continuum.Google Scholar

  • Glenn, Philipp. 2003. Laughter in interaction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

  • Goffman, Erving. 1955. On face-work: An analysis of ritual elements in social interaction. Psychiatry 18(3), 213-231.Google Scholar

  • Goffman, Erving. 1967. Interaction Ritual: Essays in Face-to-Face Behavior. Chicago: Aldine.Google Scholar

  • Golato, Andrea. 2003. Studying compliment responses: A comparison of DCTs and recordings of naturally occurring talk. Applied Linguistics 24(1). 90-121.Google Scholar

  • Gu, Yueguo. 1990. Politeness phenomena in modern Chinese. Journal of Pragmatics 14. 237-257.Google Scholar

  • Habib, Rania. 2008. Humor and disagreement: Identity construction and cross-cultural enrichment. Journal of Pragmatics 40(6). 1117-1145.Google Scholar

  • Hall, Kira & Mary Bucholtz. 2013. Epilogue: Facing identity. Journal of Politeness Research: Language, Behaviour, Culture 9(1). 123-132.Google Scholar

  • Haugh, Michael. 2007. Emic conceptualisations of (im)politeness and face in Japanese: Implications for the discursive negotiation of second language learner identities. Journal of Pragmatics 39. 657-680.Google Scholar

  • Haugh, Michael. 2009. Face and interaction. In Francesca Bargiela-Chiappini & Michael Haugh (eds.), Face, Communication, and Social Interaction, 1-30. London: Equinox.Google Scholar

  • Haugh, Michael & Francesca Bargiela-Chiappini. 2010. Face in interaction. Journal of Pragmatics 42. 2073-2077.Google Scholar

  • Haugh, Michael & Carl Hinze. 2003. A metalinguistic approach to deconstructing the concepts of ‘face’ and ‘politeness’ in Chinese, English and Japanese. Journal of Pragmatics 35(10-11). 1581-1611.Google Scholar

  • He, Ming & Shao-Jie Zhang. 2011. Re-conceptualizing the Chinese concept of face from a face-sensitive perspective: A case study of a modern Chinese TV drama. Journal of Pragmatics 43(9). 2360-2372.Google Scholar

  • Ho, David Yau-Fai. 1994. Face dynamics: From conceptualization to measurement. In Stella Ting-Toomey (Ed.), The Challenge of Facework, 269-286. New York: SUNY Press. Google Scholar

  • Holmes, Janet & Maria Stubbe. 2015. Power and politeness in the workplace: A sociolinguistic analysis of talk at work (2nd Edition). London & New York: Routledge.Google Scholar

  • Hu, Hsien Chin. 1944. The Chinese concepts of “face”. American Anthropologist 46(1). 45-64.Google Scholar

  • Joseph, John. 2013. Identity work and face work across linguistic and cultural boundaries. Journal of Politeness Research: Language, Behaviour, Culture 9(1). 35-54.Google Scholar

  • Kakava, Christina. 2002. Opposition in modern Greek discourse: Cultural and contextual constraints. Journal of Pragmatics 34. 1537-1568.Google Scholar

  • Kim, Haeyeon. 2004. Really as a free-standing TCU in English conversation. Language Research 40(4). 861-883.Google Scholar

  • Kirkbride, Paul, Sara Tang & Robert Westwood. 1991. Chinese conflict style and negotiating behaviour: Cultural and psychological influences. Organization Studies 12(3). 365-386.Google Scholar

  • Kotthoff, Helga. 1993. Disagreement and concession in disputes: On the context sensitivity of preference structures. Language in Society 22. 193-216.Google Scholar

  • Laforest, Marty. 2002. Scenes of family life: Complaining in everyday conversation. Journal of Pragmatics 34(10-11). 1595-1620.Google Scholar

  • Lazarro-Salazar, Mariana Virginia, Meredith Marra, Janet Holmes & Bernadette Vine. 2015. Doing power and negotiating through disagreement in public meetings. Pragmatics and Society 6(3). 444-464.Google Scholar

  • Liu, Si. 2004. Pragmatics strategies and power relations in disagreement: Chinese culture in higher education. Boca Raton, FL: Universal Publishers.Google Scholar

  • Locher, Miriam. 2004. Power and politeness in action: Disagreements in oral communication. Berlin: Mouton De Gruyter.Google Scholar

  • Locher, Miriam. 2006. Polite behavior within relational work: The discursive approach to politeness. Multilingua 25(3). 249--267.Google Scholar

  • Locher, Miriam. 2008. Relational work, politeness, and identity construction. In Gerd Antos and EijaVentola in cooperation with Tilo Weber (eds.), Handbook of interpersonal communication, 509-40. Berlin: Mouton De Gruyter.Google Scholar

  • Mao, Lu Ming Robert. 1994. Beyond politeness theory: ‘Face’ revisited and renewed. Journal of Pragmatics 2. 451--486.Google Scholar

  • Marra, Meredith. 2012. Disagreeing without being disagreeable: Negotiating workplace communities as an outsider. Journal of Pragmatics 44(12). 1580-159.Google Scholar

  • Maynard, Douglas. 1997. The news delivery sequence: Bad news and good news in conversational interaction. Research on Language and Social Interaction 30(2). 93-130.Google Scholar

  • Millers, Elizabeth R. 2013. Positioning selves, doing relational work and constructing identities in interview talk. Journal of Politeness Research: Language, Behaviour, Culture 9(1). 75-95.Google Scholar

  • Mills, Sara. 2009. Impoliteness in a cultural context. Journal of Pragmatics 41(5). 1047-1060.Google Scholar

  • Mills, Sara. 2011. Discursive approaches to politeness and impoliteness. In Linguistic Politeness Research Group (eds.), Discursive Approaches to Politeness, 19--56. Berlin & New York: Mouton de Guryter.Google Scholar

  • Pan, Yuling. 2000. Politeness in Chinese face-to-face interaction. Stamford, CT: Ablex.Google Scholar

  • Pan, Yuling, & Dániel Kádár. 2011. Politeness in historical and contemporary Chinese. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group.Google Scholar

  • Pomerantz, Anita, 1984. Agreeing and disagreeing with assessments some features of preferred/dispreferred turn shapes. In J. Maxwell Atkinson & John Heritage (eds.), Structures of social action: Studies in conversation analysis, 75-101. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

  • Rees-Miller, Janie. 2000. Power, severity, and context in disagreement. Journal of Pragmatics 32. 1087-1111.Google Scholar

  • Ruhi, Sükriye & Hale Isik-Güler. 2007. Conceptualizing face and relational work in (im)politeness: Revelations from politeness lexemes and idioms in Turkish. Journal of Pragmatics 39. 681-711.Google Scholar

  • Schegloff, Emanuel A. (1997). Practices and actions Boundary cases of other-initiated repair. Discourse Processes 23. 499-545.Google Scholar

  • Schiffrin, Deborah. 1984. Jewish argument as sociability. Language in Society 13. 311—335.Google Scholar

  • Schnurr, Stephanie, & Angela Chan. 2011. Exploring ‘another side’ of co-leadership: Negotiating professional identities through face-work in disagreements. Language in Society 40(2). 187-209.Google Scholar

  • Schnurr, Stephanie & Olga Zayts. 2011. Be(com)ing a leader: A case study of co-constructing professional identities at work. In Jo Angouri & Meredith Marra (eds.), Constructing identities at work, 40-60. Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar

  • Schnurr, Stephanie & Olga Zayts. 2013. ‘I can’t remember them ever not doing what I tell them!’ Negotiating face and power relations in ‘upwards’ refusals in multicultural workplaces in Hong Kong. Intercultural Pragmatics 10(4). 593 - 616.Google Scholar

  • Shum, Winnie & Cynthia Lee. 2013. (Im)politeness and disagreement in two Hong Kong Internet discussion forums. Journal of Pragmatics 50. 52-83.Google Scholar

  • Sifianou, Maria. 2012. Disagreements, face and politeness. Journal of Pragmatics 44. 1554-1564.Google Scholar

  • Spencer-Oatey, Helen. 2007. Theories of identity and the analysis of face. Journal of Pragmatics 39. 639-56.Google Scholar

  • St. André, James. 2013. How the Chinese lost face. Journal of Pragmatics 55. 68-85.Google Scholar

  • Svennevig, Jan. 2004. Other-repetition as display of hearing, understanding and emotional stance. Discourse studies 6(4). 489-516.Google Scholar

  • Svennevig, Jan. 2012. “Interaction in workplace meetings”. Discourse Studies 14(1). 3-10.Google Scholar

  • Tannen, Deborah. 1981. New York Jewish conversational style. International Journal of the Sociology of Language 30. 133-149.Google Scholar

  • Tannen, Deborah. 2002. Agonism in academic discourse. Journal of Pragmatics 34. 1651-1669.Google Scholar

  • Ting-Toomey, Stella. 1988. Intercultural conflict styles: A face-negotiation theory. In Young Yun Kim & William B. Gudykunst (eds.), Theories in intercultural communication, 213-235. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar

  • Tjosvold, Dean, Chun Hui & Haifa Sun. 2004. Can Chinese discuss conflicts openly? Field and experimental studies of face dynamics in China. Group Decision and Negotiation 13. 351-373.Google Scholar

  • Tracey, Karen. 1990. The many faces of facework. In Howard Giles & W. Peter Robinson (eds.), Handbook of language and social psychology, 209-226. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons.Google Scholar

  • Watts, Richard. 2003. Politeness. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

  • Wang, Yu-Fang, Pi-Hua Tsai & Ya-Ting Yang. 2010. Objectivity, subjectivity and intersubjectivity: Evidence from qishi (‘actually’) and shishishang (‘in fact’) in spoken Chinese. Journal of Pragmatics 42(3). 705-727.Google Scholar

  • Wenger, Etienne. 1998. Communities of practice: Learning, meaning, and identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

  • Yu, Ming-chung. 2003. On the universality of face: Evidence from Chinese compliment response behaviour. Journal of Pragmatics 35. 1679-1710.Google Scholar

  • Zayts, Olga & Stephanie Schnurr. 2017. Laughter as a “serious business”: Clients’ laughter in prenatal screening for Down’s syndrome. In Nancy Bell (ed.), Multiple perspectives on language play. 119-142. Berlin: De Gruyter.Google Scholar

  • Zhu, Weihua. 2014. Managing relationships in everyday practice: The case of strong disagreement in Mandarin. Journal of Pragmatics 64. 85-101.Google Scholar

About the article

Published Online: 2018-07-05

Published in Print: 2018-07-26

Citation Information: Journal of Politeness Research, Volume 14, Issue 2, Pages 279–306, ISSN (Online) 1613-4877, ISSN (Print) 1612-5681, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/pr-2015-0036.

Export Citation

© 2018 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston.Get Permission

Comments (0)

Please log in or register to comment.
Log in