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Journal of Politeness Research

Language, Behaviour, Culture

Ed. by Grainger, Karen


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(Im)politeness at a Chinese dinner table: A discursive approach to (im)politeness in multi-party communication

Dengshan Xia
  • Corresponding author
  • School of English and International Studies Beijing Foreign Studies University Beijing 100089 Beijing China
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/ Chun Lan
Published Online: 2019-06-26 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/pr-2016-0056

Abstract

This article presents a detailed analysis of (im)politeness in a naturally occurring multi-party conversation and in doing so challenges the theoretical premise of dyadic communication in traditional politeness research. Informed by the classical theories of Leech (1983) and Brown and Levinson (1987), traditional politeness research has largely been framed in the dyadic model of communication, without taking into full consideration the influence of other participants. Following a number of discursive theorists, we propose that (im)polite utterances are not always addressed exclusively at one hearer or one party of hearers. More often than not, the other parties present exert considerable influence on the design and interpretation of (im)polite utterances as well. Our analyses of three extracts of a multi-party conversation from a Chinese dinner table demonstrate that in a triad involving a relational coalition of two participants, the (im)politeness in some speech acts can be extended or transformed in specific contexts. In particular, a compliment directed at one member of the coalition tends to be polite at the same time to the other member; and a criticism between the coalition members may be polite to the third party under some circumstances. It is argued that the extension and transformation of (im)politeness in a multi-party context are culturally motivated and conditioned by the interpersonal relationships among the different parties. The study points to the need for further research on (im)politeness in a multi-party context.

Keywords: (im)politeness; multi-party communication; extension of politeness; transformation of impoliteness; relational coalition

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About the article

Dengshan Xia

Dengshan Xia is Professor of Linguistics in the School of English and International Studies at Beijing Foreign Studies University. He received his Ph.D in linguistics from Tsinghua University and has published articles and books on pragmatics, sociolinguistics, and history of translation. His current research interests mainly include historical pragmatics, (im)politeness and Chinese history of translation.

Chun Lan

Chun Lan is Professor of Linguistics at Beijing Foreign Studies University. Her main research interests are in cognitive linguistics, pragmatics, rhetoric and English language teaching. Her books include A Cognitive Approach to Spatial Metaphors in English and Chinese (2003), Cognitive Linguistics and Metaphorical Studies (2004), A Pragmatic Approach to A Dream of the Red Chamber (2007), Towards an Understanding of Language and Linguistics (2009) and Rhetoric: Theories and Practice (2010).


Published Online: 2019-06-26

Published in Print: 2019-07-26


Citation Information: Journal of Politeness Research, Volume 15, Issue 2, Pages 223–256, ISSN (Online) 1613-4877, ISSN (Print) 1612-5681, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/pr-2016-0056.

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