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Pragmatic and Cross-Cultural Competences

Focus on Politeness

Edited By Thomas Szende and George Alao

The L2 speaker is able to function in the target culture only when s/he is able to understand, anticipate and produce the choices that the said society makes. Being polite therefore means: knowing how to draw on the conventions of a society, taking into account the expectations of an interlocutor regarding social relations at any given point, and is based on the appropriate language register to the communication situation; being able to balance standard and non-standard features and to adjust one’s speech by moving it towards more or less familiarity, or formality. The learner therefore needs to be aware of the pragmatic flexibility of speakers – native and experts – who move from one register to another and juggle between respect and caution, first degree meaning and irony, exuberance and excess, with difference in levels, nature and degrees of politeness.

 

This volume contains contributions whose theoretical reflections, field work experiences and authentic data from diverse African, Asian and European languages, literatures and cultures as well as a variety of corpora shed new light on politeness as a central phenomenon in pragmatics, and on what is at stake when teaching or learning the subject. It also opens up a conceptual dialogue with a whole range of domains likely to enrich the debate: sociolinguistics, literature, translation studies, semiotics, cultural anthropology, social psychology, etc.

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Chapter V: Teaching fictive kinship terms in Chinese as a Foreign Language (Junji Gong & Joël Bellassen)

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Chapter V

Teaching fictive kinship terms in Chinese as a Foreign Language

Junji Gong & Joël Bellassen

EA 4514 PLIDAM, INALCO (France)

Introduction

The rules of politeness, as a central phenomenon of pragmatics are often subtle and complex in the culture to which they belong, and become even more so to a foreign culture. The correct use of polite terms is one of the most immediate manifestations of this subtlety and it constitutes a major difficulty in the teaching of a foreign language. Indeed, not only linguistic competences, but also sociolinguistic and pragmatic competences need to be mobilized to master them. These difficulties are particularly exemplified by the Chinese language in its politeness formulae with the use of kinship terms.

From the point of view of the teaching and learning of Chinese as a foreign language, the rules of politeness and the use of kinship terms are both an aspect of everyday communication and a source of acquisition difficulties which can sometimes be challenging.

Kinship terms are among the most complex aspects of the Chinese language because of their asymmetry with Western languages such as French and English. This asymmetry generates an important cognitive burden in learners which leads to the formation of ‘areas of resistance’1, whatever the language activity.←83 | 84→

In addition to the difficulty French learners of Chinese have with oral expression and comprehension due to linguistic or pragmatic asymmetry,...

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