“On the one hand, the politeness principle is universal in language usage..
. [but] to understand the politeness strategies of Chinese and use them well, one should understand both the Chinese language and Chinese culture, including the psychological features of the Chinese people. ” 10. The particular characteristics of a culture’s politeness practices can thus be seen as markers of cultural differences. When comparing Chinese culture with Japanese culture, it is notable that What is characteristic of Japanese culture is.
..a distinctive emphasis on interpersonal relationships, and such an emphasis revolves around acknowledging and maintaining one’s position in relation to other members of the same community. To attend to each other’s face in Japanese culture is to recognise each other’s social position and to convey such a recognition through proper linguistic means. 11 It can be seen that the important values in Japanese culture, such as interpersonal relationships, affect politeness practices, which reciprocally affect the values of Japanese society.Similarly, it has been argued that “Chinese people value kindness and compassion very much”, distinctly influencing politeness practices: “Chinese speakers try to be polite by shortening the social distance between the speaker and the addressee”. 12 In both cases the notion of ‘attitudinal warmth’ is held in high regard, but is realised in different ways.
The extent to which this ‘warmth’ is valued is slightly different, giving rise to slightly different values and hence different politeness practices.Politeness is arguably one of many aspects of any culture, and can be used to mark cultural differences, but it is not over-emphasised in this regard. When considering cultural differences, politeness is not as obvious a marker as, for example, different food, customs or language. A culture’s values are unavoidably intertwined with language, for instance in grammatical structure or use of honorifics; similarly, politeness practices echo the values of any society. There are universal values such as modesty, tact and generosity, and “no one is likely to be offended…
by being used a linguistic device associated with ‘showing respect’. “13 But there are also values and politeness principles which highlight the differences between Chinese and Japanese culture. For example, while Japanese ‘face’ may be based on social debts (in terms of rei) Chinese ‘face’ can be seen as not just about individual wants and desires but also about promoting harmony between individual conduct and the views and judgements of the community – the concept of limao.Perhaps differences are best recognised in terms of language usage as a means through which politeness is exemplified. “Japanese can be described as a polite language, because there are relatively many structural means which are employed for the sole purpose of marking honorific distinctions”.
14 Honorifics are arguably both intrinsic and essential to the Japanese language; the principles of deference and respect dictate the use of honorifics.Politeness is not over-emphasised as a marker of cultural difference in terms of Chinese and Japanese culture because the core values and concepts behind each society’s politeness practices are the same. Although the means by which these are realised may be different there are arguably clearer markers of cultural difference; hence politeness is not over-emphasised in this way. “Comparing politeness across cultures presupposes a position or rather some measure which is independent of any culture.”15 Politeness principles are arguably similar for both Chinese and Japanese cultures because, essentially, the same Confucian principles govern politeness practices; however, there are differences in politeness practices due to differences in social values and conditions.
“Politeness may indeed be a universal phenomenon… found in every culture. However, what counts as polite behaviour…
is… culture-specific and language-specific”. 16 Politeness is heavily laden with cultural values and ideas intrinsic to a particular culture, yet there are many intrinsic values common to both Chinese and Japanese cultures.Because the core values and ideas behind each society’s politeness practices are fundamentally similar, politeness (in principle) is not a prominent factor when considering cultural differences, although politeness in practice demonstrates very different realisations of politeness principles. Arguably, in both Chinese and Japanese cultures, politeness principles and practices are “available for people to experiment, choose, and manipulate for paying deference, marking social status and affirming social solidarity for a long time to come. “17Bibliography Coulmas, F.
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