Intra-lingual pragmatic variation in Mandarin Chinese apologies

Influence of region and gender


  • Yunwen Su The University of Utah
  • Yufen Chang Western Kentucky University



chinese apologies, variational pragmatics, regional variation, gender difference, macro- and micro-social factors


This study investigates regional and gender variations of apologies in Putonghua ‘Standard Mandarin' and Guoyu ‘Taiwanese Mandarin'. Production data were elicited from 40 participants from northern Mainland China and 34 from Taipei using an oral discourse completion task. Results showed that speakers in both regions employed a similar sequence of strategies and demonstrated similar preferences for context-dependent strategies in their apologies, but Mainland speakers used a significantly greater number of strategies than Taiwan speakers. Gender differences were observed in the apologies produced by Taiwan speakers regarding their use of illocutionary force indicating devices. The study found an interaction effect of power relation and region, with Mainland speakers sounding more apologetic than Taiwan speakers, but no interaction effect of power relation and gender; the effect of severity of offence was not clear, which could be attributed to the gap between the predetermined level of severity and speakers' actual perception of it in each scenario.

Author Biographies

Yunwen Su, The University of Utah

Yunwen Su is Assistant Professor of Chinese Linguistics at the Department of World Languages and Cultures at the University of Utah. She researches Chinese pragmatics and interlanguage pragmatics. She has published papers in Language Learning & Technology, Foreign Language Annals, and Modern Language Journal, as well as edited volumes.

Yufen Chang, Western Kentucky University

Yufen Chang is Assistant Professor of Chinese at the Department of Modern Languages at Western Kentucky University. Her primary research areas are second language acquisition of Chinese pragmatics and tones, Taiwanese tone sandhi, and phonology in general. She has published papers in journals such as Chinese as a Second Language Research and Concentric: Studies in Linguistics.


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How to Cite

Su, Y., & Chang, Y. (2019). Intra-lingual pragmatic variation in Mandarin Chinese apologies: Influence of region and gender. East Asian Pragmatics, 4(1), 59-86.