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Reconsidering Chinese modesty: Hong Kong and mainland Chinese evaluative judgements of compliment responses

By Helen Spencer-Oatey and Patrick Ng

Abstract

Compliments are usually intended to have a positive effect on interpersonal relations, yet for the outcome actually to be positive, both the compliment and the compliment response need to be handled appropriately. This paper focuses on different types of compliment responses, and explores Chinese people’s evaluative judgements of these different types. Gao and Ting-Toomey (1998) argue that modesty is an important component of Chinese politeness, and that to blatantly accept a compliment is considered impolite. Several studies (e.g. Chen 1993, Yuan 1996 and Loh 1993) have indeed found that compliments are rejected more frequently in Chinese than in English, yet other evidence suggests that acceptance responses are also relatively common in Chinese. This paper explores a number of hypotheses associated with these issues. It reports a study carried out in Mainland China and Hong Kong, and discusses the notion of Chinese modesty in relation to the findings

Topics: P1
Publisher: John Benjamins Publishing Co.
Year: 2002
OAI identifier: oai:wrap.warwick.ac.uk:2686

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Citations

  1. (1993). Responding to compliments. A contrastive study of politeness strategies between American English and Chinese speakers. doi
  2. just found out that he came top in an examination, after working really hard for it. After class, his teacher calls him over: Teacher: Congratulations, John! You did very well.
  3. just cooked an elaborate dinner for some family friends, and is pleased with how the dishes tasted. After they have gone, his mother says: Mother: Well done, John! The food tasted lovely.

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