Historical vs. contemporary Chinese linguistic politeness

Yuling Pan, Dániel Z. Kádár

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


The present paper provides a comparative survey of historical and contemporary Chinese politeness, hence contributing to postcolonial pragmatics and linguistic politeness research. There is a unique gulf between historical and contemporary Chinese politeness, which is largely due to the influence of the 19th century colonization of China. While China was in fact partially colonized only, the invasion by foreign imperialist powers had a strong impact on the development of Chinese sociopragmatic norms. By demonstrating the gulf between 'historical' and 'contemporary', this paper provides an unprecedented case study for the influence of colonization on native language use. The analysis is divided into two parts. The first part, section of the paper, analyzes the ideologies, norms and practices of historical Chinese politeness, and demonstrates that historical Chinese politeness had some features that made it vulnerable to large scale socio-historical changes that led to the birth of contemporary Chinese politeness. Section, after reviewing politeness norms and ideologies in contemporary China, examine the similarities and differences between historical and contemporary practices of polite communication.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1525-1539
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
Issue number6
Early online date15 Dec 2010
Publication statusPublished - May 2011
Externally publishedYes


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