‘Your care and concern are my burden!’

Accounting for the emic concepts of ‘attentiveness’ and ‘empathy’ in interpersonal relationships among Taiwanese females


  • Wei-Lin Melody Chang University of Queensland
  • Saeko Fukushima Tsuru University




im/politeness, attentiveness, empathy, Mandarin Chinese, female discourse


While the enactment of gendered identities has been a key focus in the field of sociolinguistics and im/politeness (e.g. Holmes, 1995; Lakoff, 1975; Mills, 2003), research specifically investigating females’ emic understanding in relation to im/politeness has not been paid much attention. Building on prior work on ‘attentiveness’ (Fukushima, 2004, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015; Fukushima & Haugh, 2014), this article aims to further examine the emic understandings and evaluations of ‘attentiveness’ and ‘empathy’ in relation to ‘im/politeness’ by female speakers of Mandarin Chinese. It is suggested that, although the concepts of attentiveness (zhoudao) and empathy (titie) are intrinsically polite, these two concepts are found to be discursively disputable through the emergence of the three folk notions, meddlesomeness (jipo), familiarity, and reciprocity in the course of metapragmatic interviews. These notions give rise to cultural nuances in the evaluations of im/politeness which are thus grounded in a particular language or culture.

Author Biographies

Wei-Lin Melody Chang, University of Queensland

Wei-Lin Melody Chang is Lecturer at the University of Queensland, Australia. She is the author of Face and Face Practices in Chinese Talk-in-Interactions: An Empirical Analysis of Business Interactions in Taiwan (Equinox, 2016). Her research interests include politeness, intercultural communication, and business discourse and teaching Chinese as second language.


Saeko Fukushima, Tsuru University

Saeko Fukushima is Professor in the Department of English at Tsuru University in Japan. She has published Requests and Culture: Politeness in British English and Japanese (Peter Lang, 2000/2002/2003) and articles in edited volumes and international journals such as Journal of Politeness Research, Journal of Pragmatics, Language Sciences, Multilingua, Pragmatics, and World Englishes. Her research interests include cross-cultural pragmatics, intercultural pragmatics, sociopragmatics, pragmalinguistics, politeness, and metapragmatics.


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How to Cite

Chang, W.-L. M., & Fukushima, S. (2017). ‘Your care and concern are my burden!’: Accounting for the emic concepts of ‘attentiveness’ and ‘empathy’ in interpersonal relationships among Taiwanese females. East Asian Pragmatics, 2(1), 1-23. https://doi.org/10.1558/eap.33081