Managing multiple identities

A new perspective on compliment responses in Chinese


  • Jensen Chengyu Zhuang A.J. AcaVice
  • Amy Yun He University of Edinburgh



Compliment response, identity, Chinese, naturally occurring, perspective


In this article, we offer an identity perspective on compliment responses (CRs). Our purpose is twofold: first, to enrich our understanding of CRs by addressing the bias in research towards CRs as an im/politeness phenomenon; second, to question the assumption of the correlation between CR strategies and identities and to challenge the essentialist view of identity implicit in previous studies. We propose a four-fold perspective on identity by incorporating cultural identity into the influential three levels of self-construal formulated by Brewer and her colleagues (e.g. Brewer & Gardner, 1996). We present it by illustrating the dynamic construction of individual identity, relational identity, group identity, and cultural identity through qualitative analyses of naturally occurring CRs in Chinese. We show that macro strategies (i.e. acceptance, refusal, and in-betweenness) and, by implication, micro strategies (e.g. upgrade) can all construct the above four identities depending on context. We argue that there is no such thing as a simple correlation between CR strategies and identities widely assumed in the existing literature.

Author Biographies

Jensen Chengyu Zhuang, A.J. AcaVice

Jensen Chengyu Zhuang, PhD, is a co-founder and director of A. J. AcaVice, a UK-based academic proofreading, editing, and translation services provider. Prior to his current role, Jensen worked in different capacities at the University of Huddersfield, Loughborough University, and several reputable universities in China. While his earlier research interests span sociolinguistics, intercultural communication, anthropology, and psychology, Jensen currently focuses on English for academic purposes and academic translation. He has hitherto completed four funded research projects and published over twenty articles in the above areas of research.

Amy Yun He, University of Edinburgh

Amy Yun He, PhD, is currently lecturing at the University of Edinburgh. She is a co-founder and chief researcher at A. J. AcaVice, a UK-based academic proofreading, editing, and translation services provider. Amy previously held research and/or teaching positions at universities including Manchester Metropolitan University, University of Huddersfield, and Loughborough University. She has carried out five research projects supported by high-profile funders such as Higher Education Funding Council for England. Her interests cut across pragmatics, sociolinguistics, translation studies, and English as a lingua franca in scientific communication. Amy has published extensively, and some of her recent research articles appear in journals such as Journal of Politeness Research and in edited volumes including The Routledge Encyclopedia of the Chinese Language (Chan et al 2016).


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How to Cite

Zhuang, J. C., & He, A. Y. (2020). Managing multiple identities: A new perspective on compliment responses in Chinese. East Asian Pragmatics, 5(1), 9–39.