Applicability of Brown and Levinson’s Politeness Theory to a Non-Western Culture

Evidence From Japanese Facework Behaviors

Sachiko Kiyama, Katsuo Tamaoka, Masato Takiura

Abstract

To examine applicability of Brown and Levinson’s politeness theory to facework in a non-Western culture, we conducted a questionnaire survey of native Japanese speakers. A rank order of influences on facework behavior was investigated among the five factors: (a) intrinsic factor (Ri; that is, effects caused by difference in settings), (b) contextual factor (Rc; that is, effects caused by difference in types of interlocutor’s contradictory attitudes), (c) power factor (P; that is, effects caused by age difference with the interlocutor), (d) distance factor (D; that is, effects caused by difference in familiarity with the interlocutor), and (e) gender factor (G; that is, whether the participant is male or female). Results revealed that factors related to the intrinsic content of the situation (Ri) and the interlocutor’s attitudes (Rc) had stronger influences than those of the inter- and intrapersonal factors of P, D, and G. Based on these findings, we conclude that Brown and Levinson’s formula is applicable to a non-Western culture, Japan.

  • facework
  • Brown and Levinson’s politeness theory
  • Japanese
  • face-saving
  • face-threatening

Article Notes

  • Declaration of Conflicting Interests The authors declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.

  • Funding The authors disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research and/or authorship of this article: This study was supported by JSPS KAKENHI Grants 24652080 and 23320106.

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