The acceptability of American politeness from a native and non-native comparative perspective
Keywords:politeness, corpus, acceptability, interview, questionnaire
This article examines the American politeness phenomena from a comparative perspective between American native speakers and intermediate- or high-level second language learners in mainland China. Both groups are invited to inspect the same ten conversations randomly elicited from the Oral Corpus of California University at San Barbara and evaluate the politeness acceptability in terms of a questionnaire. In that questionnaire, Likert scaling as a bipolar scaling method, also called summative scales, measures either positive or negative responses to a conversation in judging whether it is polite or not. With the assistance of statistical software SPSS 21, it continues to discuss the discrepant understanding of the groups towards the same politeness phenomena. It is found that all the Chinese subjects, though already intermediate- or high-level English learners for at least ten years, are somewhat weak in evaluating American politeness. There is an apparent blocking ‘plateau’ in their accurately interpreting politeness in naturally occurring American English conversations. The article then conducts a closed follow-up structured review to discuss why Chinese interviewees exhibit strikingly low scores in the questionnaire comparatively so as to complement the quantitative results of politeness judgment with an in-depth qualitative exploration. The main focus was in revealing the panoramic status of second-language learners’ politeness acceptability, their underlying explanatory motivations, as well as possible implications for pragmatic teaching
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