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Linguistic Politeness Education in the Ryūkyūs - An Intercultural Pragmatic Investigation

By Daniel Z. Kádár


The aim of this study is to explore the ways in which Chinese politeness was educated in the Ryukyus, by relying on a unique historical source, a textbook written to Okinawan students. Before the 20th century Chinese was an honorific-rich language, and the education of proper Chinese politeness was part of basic education in the Kingdom of Ryukyu, which used to maintain close political and economic ties with China, especially during the Ming Dynasty. Due to these connections, Ryukyuan students often visited China; learning at a prestigious school of China meant good career upon return. Since Ryukyuan languages belong to the Japonic language family, the visiting students needed to learn Standard Chinese as a second language. Therefore, several textbooks were compiled for these students, in order to help them to brush up their Standard Chinese, and also to teach them some Fujianese, before departing to China. Among these works the supposedly most recent and influential one is Xue-guanhua (Learn Guanhua, or Gaku-kanwa in Japanese), compiled by an unknown author (or a team of authors) with native or near-native Chinese proficiency. The source studied does not only reveal much about the linguistic characteristics of historical Chinese politeness but it is also an illuminating source for the scholar of historical intercultural language studies and historical linguistics. This is because Xue-guanhua is a is a ‘pragmatic' textbook, which teaches Chinese oral communication in a situational way, for example, how to behave when invited to a Chinese family and how to talk with neighbours. Thus, many of the issues addressed by the (anonymous) author(s) are related with intercultural communicational and sociocultural difficulties. By exploring this issue, the present study not only contributes to Okinawan studies but also to intercultural ones, since so far no study has been devoted to historical intercultural communication

Topics: GT, P1, PL
Year: 2010
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