Chinese Language And Politeness Reports Example

Type of paper: Report

Topic: China, Politeness, People, Language, Strategy, Linguistics, English, Communication

Pages: 4

Words: 1100

Published: 2021/02/07

Politeness in society is a phenomenon that all people embrace as a reflection of their customs, culture, and traditions and is often reflected in the use of language (Hua, 2011). Because of the differences in cultural values and beliefs, languages across the world have different linguistic behaviors bordering on complimenting, greeting, addressing among others. Admittedly, people of different origins and cultural backgrounds are keen to aspects of politeness for purposes of enhancing their communication competence. Besides, politeness is a pertinent component of intercultural communication that is essential for establishing, consolidating or maintaining peaceful interpersonal relationships devoid of misunderstandings or disputes. The Chinese language is unique to many other languages especially in aspects of politeness. Many persons residing in China find it hard to figure out the lifestyle of Chinese in matters of politeness and others even still face challenges in accepting the expression of politeness. Particularly, the people who come to work in China find the experience daunting with many questions about how one should become polite in China bombarding their thoughts (Kádár & Mills, 2011). The differences in Chinese language politeness in comparison to others are not disadvantageous to anybody, and it is essential for people to understand them and accept the linguistic behaviors of the Chinese people for a comfortable social life.

Strategies for Politeness

According to Zhan (2012), Linguists identify three politeness strategies in a Chinese dialect. The first strategy entails the familiar politeness. In essence, this strategy focuses to establish closeness and greater warmth between interlocutors through the expression of a sense of regard for the individual receiving the address. Particularly, a person’s achievements, possessions, abilities, and virtues are significantly praised.
The second linguistic strategy borders on respectful politeness. The intention of this communicative strategy is to create reasonable, a respectful distance between the interlocutors. Essentially, this communicative act defines the addressee’s freedom from imposition or need for privacy.
The off-record politeness communicative act is captured in the third strategy. In most cases, this strategy may appear ambiguous to the non-Chinese. Purposely, this communicative act helps the individual addressed to avoid losing face or sometimes to escape responsibility.
Often, to show politeness, Chinese people address their friends, strangers or neighbors as their kin. Under certain circumstances, it is possible for a person to express a teacher-student relationship through verbal communication. Linguistically, a Chinese will use Zanmen language, tell white lies or respond in a vague manner.
Typically, Chinese politeness strategies especially when greeting each other are direct than those in other languages. The Chinese will say ask an ailing friend or acquaintance a question like, “Have you recovered? In addition, the Chinese host may tap the chest of his guest when escorting him and murmur, “button up.” Usually, the non-Chinese people may see this concern as nagging but it is a genuine way of showing respect while observing the status of the visitor (Zhan, 2012).
Notably, the politeness strategies in Chinese dialect entail understanding, exaggerating, overgeneralizing and even dropping hints. In addition, Chinese become vague because it that way they can easily express politeness. The Chinese strategies of politeness abhor negative responses .the trouble in terms of Chinese politeness in their language, however, occurs because of these strategies.

Farewell and Greeting

In Chinese language, it is not acceptable to address people with topics having emotional connections. In other languages, it is common for friends to pass emotional greetings upon meeting or see each other especially after a given period. For example, an English man at the first meeting would address a friend by words like, “hey, how have you been? Of course, such greeting is not offensive but in Chinese that address deals with emotions and cannot be acceptable. In fact, it is advisable to keep the address within oneself and save it for a particular context deemed right. Asking people a question like, “how are you?” is common in English and very rare in Chinese. Instead, the Chinese Dialect preferably demands that one may rather ask questions like, “Have you eaten? When that may not work, a person may still talk about a topical issue such as an observation. Essentially, it is more welcome and polite to talk, for example, about something that occurred to oneself on his/her way to meeting with a friend.
During the parting of an acquaintance, a western man may say “good luck,” “see you,” “Goodbye.” According to Pan & Kádár (2011), in Chinese the host will show the guest to the exit and when the guest leaves, the host will say words like “man zou” (walk slowly).However, such words may not find any direct translation to English.

Compliments and Responses

It is common to compliment others in most languages such as English and Chinese. However, the difference especially for the Chinese people lies in the people who can be complimented. Moreover, the Chinese people do not compliment family members in the presence of others because they believe in being polite and not honest. In particular, praising a man in China because of his wife’s appearance is regarded as a taboo and indecent behavior.
In response to compliments, the Chinese do not use words of appreciation or show gratitude. Instead, the Chinese people murmur to imply that one is not equal to the praise because this way, a person looks modesty (Yuan, 2012). Unlike in western cultures where honesty is the best policy, in China modesty is the most outstanding virtue.


The Chinese people use specific expressions to administer apologies. However, the Chinese people tend to apologize less often especially when compared to English people. Unlike in the English culture where the uses of expressions like “excuse me” are very common even when a person sneezes, the Chinese use expressions like “dui bu qi” and only when they want to bother others or show sympathy (Yuan, 2012).

Chinese Language in Other Aspects of Social Life

The Chinese people often speak directly on some issues that they consider obvious. In fact, the Chinese will speak about a person or comment on what they observe in a person regardless of whether it is hurting because they consider observations open to the public as obvious. For example, it is common to hear one telling another one that, “you have lost weight” or “you have a big tummy”. In most occasions, those commenting will remark if the change in a person is bad or good. In essence, the comments may be hurting to a non-Chinese but for the Chinese people they consider such observations as obvious that one cannot hide from the public. Starting conversations with people one has never met in Chinese is a show of impoliteness. In fact, Chinese people rarely talk or stir any chat with is socially unacceptable to engage in in any conversation with strangers if you are a Chinese.


The Chinese people have their way of expressing politeness. The differences in language usage and reflection of politeness exist in many languages and not necessarily between English and Chinese. However, it is agreeable that Chinese language seems to have unique differences in the expressions of politeness than most languages. The culture of Chinese people contributes to their language use and affects what they regard as polite and impolite. Therefore, the differences in Chinese language politeness in comparison to others are not disadvantageous to anybody and it is essential for people to understand them and accept the linguistic behaviors of the Chinese people for a comfortable social life.


Hua, Z. (2011). The Language and Intercultural Communication Reader. London: Routledge.
Kádár, D., & Mills, S. (2011). Politeness in Chinese Language. Cambridge: Cambridge UP.
Pan, Y., & Kádár, D. (2011). Politeness in Historical and Contemporary Chinese. London: Continuum.
Yuan, X. (2012). Politeness and Audience Response in Chinese-English Subtitling. Oxford: Peter Lang.
Zhan, K. (2012). The Strategies of Politeness in the Chinese Language. Berkeley: Institute of East Asian Studies, U of California, Berkeley.

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