Revisiting the conceptualisation of politeness in English and Japanese
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The issue of what in fact constitutes politeness remains a source of considerable debate amongst researchers. There is mounting evidence that although there may be common underlying elements, politeness is conceptualised differently across cultures. A comparison of the notions of politeness in English and teinei, reigi tadashii and keii hyoogen in Japanese indicates that these respective terms encompass somewhat different conceptual ranges. Politeness in English refers to showing consideration for others and demonstrating a polished self-presentation. In Japanese, on the other hand, it encompasses showing respect (with a strong nuance of vertical respect involved) and consideration towards the position and quality of character of others, and modesty about oneself. While politeness in both English and Japanese involves showing one thinks well of others (other-oriented politeness) and showing one does not think too highly of oneself (selforiented politeness), differences in the underlying conceptualisation of politeness give rise to different ways of expressing politeness. It is thus difficult to maintain the assumption that politeness can be defined in the same way across different cultures, although this does not necessarily preclude the identification of common elements of politeness across cultures.
© 2004 Walter de Gruyter & Co. KG Publishers. This is the author-manuscript version of this paper. Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher. Please refer to the publisher's website for access to the definitive, published version.