Managing multiple identities
A new perspective on compliment responses in Chinese
Keywords: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.
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