Malefactive uses of giving/receiving expressions: The case of te-kureru in Japanese


  • Yasuko Obana Kwansei Gakuin University
  • Michael Haugh University of Queensland



Japanese, benefaction, malefaction, affectedness construction


The Japanese auxiliary te-kureru (‘giving to the speaker or the speaker’s group member’) is traditionally assumed to connote gratitude, favour, or ‘politeness’, and thus is regarded as a benefactive. In this article we argue that te-kureru does not inherently indicate benefaction, but rather that its occurrence, whether it is grammatically obligatory or optional, serves to intensify the speaker’s affective stance towards the referent in that given context. This accounts for the way in which this auxiliary may also contribute to expressions of sarcasm, anger, contempt, or retaliation. We propose that because malefaction is unfavourable to the speaker, the speaker deliberately takes a lower stance through te-kureru, making as if the other’s unfavourable action was taken from a higher position, which amounts to a putting down or deliberate neglect of the speaker. We also suggest that the auxiliary remains affectively neutral if the context is neither benefactive nor malefactive in orientation.

Author Biographies

Yasuko Obana, Kwansei Gakuin University

Yasuko Obana is Professor of Linguistics at Kwansei Gakuin University, teaching English to science students. Her research interests include politeness and anaphora in text processing.

Michael Haugh, University of Queensland

Michael Haugh is Professor of Linguistics in the School of Languages and Cultures, The University of Queensland. His research interests include (im)politeness, implicature and teasing.


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How to Cite

Obana, Y., & Haugh, M. (2018). Malefactive uses of giving/receiving expressions: The case of te-kureru in Japanese. East Asian Pragmatics, 3(2), 201–231.