The Application of Politeness Strategies in English and Chinese Movie Reviews

By Mu, Yuting | International Journal of English Linguistics, December 2015 | Go to article overview

The Application of Politeness Strategies in English and Chinese Movie Reviews


Mu, Yuting, International Journal of English Linguistics


(ProQuest: ... denotes non-US-ASCII text omitted.)

1. Introduction

When talking about politeness, many people may consider English are more positive, while Chinese are more negative. However, in movie reviews, maybe it is another way around. Using the politeness strategy theory of Brown and Levinson, this research will analyze the application of politeness strategies in ten movie reviews, and try to reveal the differences on positive and negative politeness strategies use between English and Chinese movie reviewers. This paper will also try to give possible reasons behind the differences.

Reviews are chosen from IMDb and Douban, five English movie reviews and five Chinese movie reviews, the ten reviews reviewed on the same five movies. Every review has a high click rate and reviews on famous movies. Five movies are Forrest Gump, Titanic, the Legend of 1900, Se7en, and Infernal Affairs (Mou Gaan Dou).

In this paper, the first part is background information and a brief introduction to the theory. The next part is methodology, followed by results and findings. Discussion is the fourth part. The last section is conclusion. This research will focus on the different use of politeness strategies between English review and Chinese review; both quantitative and qualitative data will be analyzed.

2. Review of Literature

Politeness is a complex and important topic in various cultures. Politeness, as a basic part of social life and human cooperation, is reflected in languages. It is also an important issue in social linguistics. However, many linguists have studied politeness in different cultures and they claim that there exists a set of universal politeness strategies across different cultures. "In positive politeness cultures, people seek to maintain other people's face by actively doing things for them and taking the lead in interaction. In negative politeness cultures, people seek to maintain other people's face by keeping out of their way and giving them space." (Pennington, 2013). Among politeness theories, an important and influential one is Brown and Levinson's politeness theory.

Brown and Levinson defined face as "the public self-image that every member wants to claim for himself" (Brown & Levinson, 1987). And they think face consists of two related aspects: negative face, which is "the basic claim to territories, personal preserves, rights and freedom of action and free from imposition. Positive face, on the other hand, is positive self-image or personality claimed by interactants" (Brown & Levinson, 1987).

They developed positive politeness and negative politeness. Positive politeness is oriented toward the positive face and the positive self-image. "Positive politeness is approach-based. It anoints the face of the addressee by indicating that in some respects; speaker wants the hearer's wants. Negative politeness, is oriented mainly toward partially satisfying or redressing hearer's negative face, which basically maintains the hearer's self-determination." (Brown & Levinson, 1987)

According to Brown and Levinson (1987), the theory includes fifteen positive politeness strategies:

1. Notice, attend to the hearer

2. Exaggerate

3. Intensify interest to hearer

4. Use in-group identity markers

5. Seek agreement

6. Avoid disagreement

7. Presuppose, raise, or assert common ground

8. Joke

9. Assert or presuppose speaker's knowledge of and concern of hearer's wants

10. Offer, promise

11. Be optimistic

12. Include both speaker and hearer in the activity

13. Give or ask for reasons

14. Assume or assert reciprocity

15. Give gifts to hearer

(pp. 103-129)

And ten negative politeness strategies:

1. Be conventionally indirect

2. Question, use hedges

3. Be pessimistic

4. Minimize the imposition

5. Give deference

6. Apologize

7. Impersonalize speaker and hearer

8. …

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