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Cross-Cultural Analysis of Swedish vs. Japanese Politeness Strategies
Dalarna University, School of Humanities and Media Studies, Japanese.
2018 (English)Conference paper, Oral presentation with published abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Japanese politeness discourse varies in complexity according to social distance, relative power between speakers, and social situations. However, the attitude surveys I conducted over the past eight years indicate that Swedish learners of Japanese often do not see the necessity of learning polite discourse and often view such forms negatively. Intentionally or unintentionally, Swedish students often fail to use appropriate politeness strategies as Sweden is one of the most egalitarian societies in the world, with the elimination of the second person plural form ni to indicate a higher level of politeness reflecting this change. However, it is important to point out to foreign language learners that cultural and social norms are not cross-culturally interchangeable and that speakers must often adapt to the language they are learning and the culture they find themselves in.

Cross-cultural data on polite discourse shows that the politeness strategies differ considerably across cultures. While politeness, respect, and formality are closely associated in Japanese (e.g., Ide 1989, 2006; Matsumoto 1988, 1989, 1993) Swedish speakers perceive respect and politeness as separate matters (Björk 2014; Brumark 2006; Utrzén 2011; Norrbom 2006). Studies have also found that while Japanese speakers are inclined to use verbal politeness strategies, Swedish speakers tend to express respect through non-verbal actions or behaviors (Norrbom 2006; Pizziconi 2008; Utrzén 2011).

Language and identity are closely related, and language use is based on culture and society. Understanding both one’s own politeness strategies as well as foreign norms can help learners realize how culture, language, and their own identity are intertwined. Learners of Japanese should therefore consider polite discourse as part of the rules of the language rather than as something that can be modified based on one’s opinion.

Based on an analysis of cross-cultural differences in politeness strategies between Japanese and Swedish seen from both cultural and linguistic viewpoints, this study investigates politeness strategies used by Swedish and Japanese speakers by conducting attitude surveys and by analyzing the types of pragmatic errors made by Swedish learners of Japanese along with possible reasons for such errors.

Teaching communicative competence is extremely important in language instruction. Speakers can avoid embarrassing situations and conflicts caused by misunderstandings if they are aware of differences in inter-cultural pragmatics. Studies have shown that pragmatics can be taught effectively by using appropriate methods and tools (Cohen & Ishihara 2005, Bardovi-Harlig & Mahan-Taylor 2003). By demonstrating the use of the Japanese honorific system more systematically and contrasting it with Swedish politeness strategies, I aim to motivate students to learn honorific expressions, thus enabling them to communicate more successfully in Japanese.

In this presentation, I will first offer various definitions and views of politeness in Japan and Sweden suggested by previous studies and discuss the reasons why these came to be viewed as they are today. Second, Swedish speakers’ attitudes toward the use of Japanese polite forms will be examined using data from the surveys and error analyses I conducted. Finally, various methods for overcoming cross-cultural miscommunication caused by differences in politeness strategies will be discussed.

 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2018.
Keywords [en]
politeness, pragmatics, Japanese, Swedish
National Category
Languages and Literature
Research subject
Intercultural Studies
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:du-27539OAI: oai:DiVA.org:du-27539DiVA, id: diva2:1203173
Conference
Conference on East Asia Research: What's in it for Sweden? Toward a shared agenda for Swedish East Asia research, the University of Gothenburg, 26-27 April 2018.
Available from: 2018-05-02 Created: 2018-05-02 Last updated: 2018-05-04Bibliographically approved

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Aida Niendorf, Mariya

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CiteExportLink to record
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Citation style
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