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Politeness and Face in Chinese Culture

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Song Mei Lee-Wong

This book draws on a number of disciplines, including sociology, cultural anthropology and political science. It examines how Chinese native speakers in the People's Republic of China, Melbourne, Singapore and other Southeast Asian countries formulate face-to-face requests.
In the Chinese socio-cultural context, both li and mianzi play a prime role in the perception and conceptualization of politeness. Unlike the West, where directness is considered impolite, Chinese speakers place greater emphasis on the use of terms of address which mark relative social distance and relative power. Failure to use appropriate terms of address constitutes impoliteness. Directness is neither face-threatening nor imposing. Rather, it serves to signal ingroup solidarity. Effective communication in China demands cultural sensitivity – sensitivity to distinguish between norms and strategies in politeness.
Contents: Concept of mian (face): cultural specificity versus universality – Request strategies: direct versus indirect – Social parameters: relative social distance, relative power – Conceptualization of politeness: normative politeness versus strategic politeness.