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Journal of Politeness Research

Language, Behaviour, Culture

Ed. by Grainger, Karen

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Impoliteness in English and Chinese online diners’ reviews

Xiaoyu Lai
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  • Guangdong University of Technology - School of Foreign Languages Panyu District Guangzhou China
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Published Online: 2019-06-26 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/pr-2017-0031


Linguistic impoliteness appears to be an important feature of online reviews. This paper examines how impoliteness is realized in English and Chinese negative reviews, and how these reviews are responded to. The data sets are composed of 32 English and 32 Chinese negative reviews with responses respectively from the websites TripAdvisor and Dazhongdianping. Building on the work of Culpeper (1996; 2011), English reviewers are found to adopt more of a mixture of approval and criticism, and “stuff-oriented” pointed complaints, while Chinese reviewers employ more indignant exclamations and “staff-oriented” pointed complaints. This suggests that the latter are more concerned about their own face needs, and thus have the potential to be perceived as more impolite and aggravating than the former. However, it is also found that Chinese respondents are potentially more polite and indirect than English respondents. Chinese respondents pay more attention to reviewers’ face wants rather than that of their own, while English respondents attach greater importance to maintaining a positive image for a restaurant, and hence attending to their own face needs. This paper reveals a sharp contrast in the use of impoliteness and its link to the concept of face in English and Chinese negative reviews and responses.

Keywords: impoliteness; face; negative reviews; responses


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About the article

Xiaoyu Lai

Xiaoyu Lai is a faculty member in the School of Foreign Languages, Guangdong University of Technology, China. Her research interests include linguistic (im)politeness, language aggression and intercultural communication.

Published Online: 2019-06-26

Published in Print: 2019-07-26

Citation Information: Journal of Politeness Research, Volume 15, Issue 2, Pages 293–322, ISSN (Online) 1613-4877, ISSN (Print) 1612-5681, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/pr-2017-0031.

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