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Culture - the root of the difference between Chinese and western politeness

2020-06-02 来源: 51Due教员组 类别: Paper范文


下面为大家整理一篇优秀的essay代写范文 -- Culture - the root of the difference between Chinese and western politeness,文章讲述英国电视剧《唐顿庄园》(Downton Abbey)吸引了众多听众进入20世纪的英国社会。此外,它还详细介绍了当时的英语语言礼貌。同时,中国电视剧《皇后娘娘腔》不仅在中国大陆,而且在香港,日本,韩国和泰国也很受欢迎。它以清朝为背景,以古代礼节礼节的描写为重点,介绍了紫禁城妇女生活的不同命运。这两部电视剧都揭示了礼貌语言在两个国家中的重要性。但是,这也表明了这两个类别之间的巨大差异。从那时起,其中一些差异就一直存在。然后,这触发了我探索差异的根本原因。

Culture - the root of the difference between Chinese and western politeness


The British teleplay Downton Abbey, as a hit recently, brought its audiences to the 20th century’s British society. Besides, it also detailed the language courtesy in England at that time. Meanwhile, a Chinese TV play Empresses in the Palace gained its popularity not only in mainland China, but also in Hong Kong, Japan, Korea and Thailand. It set the Qing Dynasty as background, focusing on the life different destinies of women in the Forbidden City with descriptions of ancient courtly etiquette. Both of the two teleplays revealed the importance of polite language in two countries. However, it also indicates the huge differences between these two categories of them. Some of these differences are retained ever since. Then this became a trigger of making me explore what is the fundamental source of the differences.

According to Yueguo Gu, to have a better understanding of the modern conception of “limao” (etiquette in Chinese), it may be helpful to briefly review the classical notion of “li” formulated by Confucius (238). At that time, “li” was much likely to refer to social hierarchy and order than to politeness and etiquette. For instance, a servant was required to call himself “nucai” (slave), while addressing his master as “zhuzi” (master). Although the variance of cultural idea since the founding of the People’s Republic of China has transform people’s understanding of modern “limao” somehow, it is indubitable that the cultural context set a solid foundation for the conception of language courtesy in most of modern Chinese, which basically including four notions: respectfulness, modesty, attitudinal warmth, and refinement.

However, for Western, the word “etiquette” which was originated from French, contained the meaning of “a passport in court.” The Western etiquette firstly derived its origin from nobility and then spread among civilians, and so did the language courtesy. No matter how did the language courtesy get popular in Western world, it always played a role of being a moral rule or a behavioral standard instead of an embodiment of social hierarchy. Just like what were advocated in Desiderius Erasmus’ Etiquette: the civilized conversation, the table manners, the morality, and the personal cleanliness are significant. After the Bourgeois Revolution in Europe, the conception of polite languagee was redefined, and characterized by features of liberty, equality, sincereness, and individuality, which are also regarded as the typical features of Western culture nowadays.

Therefore, according to the background research, a hypothesis can be constructed that culture is the source of causing the differences between Chinese and Western language courtesy.

The hypothesis can be tested by a survey launched on the internet. The survey was mainly focus on several categories of using language courtesy in Chinese and Westerners’ daily life, including: address, greetings and attitudinal warmth, and compliment.

1. Questions about different forms of address are as followed:

1.1 How do you address your parents?

1.2 How do you address your teacher?

1.3 Are the form your parents address you in your family same as which they address you when they are chatting with others?


 1.1 Nearly 85% of Western respondents address their parents “mother” (mama, mommy, or mom) and “father” (papa, daddy, or dad). The rest of respondents address their parents in their own way, such as calling them by names or by nicknames. Relatively, almost 100% of Chinese respondents call their parents “mama” (mother in Chinese) and “baba” (father in Chinese).

1.2 About 50% of Western participants express that they title their teachers with “Mr.” (Mrs., or Miss), and 40% may name their teacher by their professional ranks and degree, like “Professor” (Dean) or “Doctor”. While Chinese respondents prefer the way combining their teachers’ family name with “laoshi” (teacher in Chinese), and then get the appellation of “XX laoshi” (Teacher XX).

1.3 Almost 100% of Western respondents answer the third question with “yes”. Their parents may call them first name, or “my son” (daughter, boy, or girl), or “honey” (sweetheart) no matter in private or talking about them with others. However, there are approximately 75% of Chinese respondents claim that their parents may address them differently when talking with others, such as “quanzi” (a modest expression of “my son” in Chinese) or “xiaonv” (a modest expression of “my daughter” in Chinese), while they will address others’ children as “linggongzi” (a honorific expression of “your son” in Chinese) or “lingyuan” (a honorific expression of “your daughter” in Chinese).

2. Questions about the different conversation content when greeting and showing welcome are as followed:

2.1 What is the conversation content when greeting others in your country?

2.2 How do you show your welcome and attitudinal warmth when gathering with guests in your family?


2.1 About 60% to 65% of Western respondents indicate that they may chat with each other without any personal information involved. Their topic of talks always contain: weather, sports events, entertainment news or mutual interests. By contrast, over 70% of Chinese respondents claim that their greetings mostly begin with sharing recently living situations and private information, such as “Did your son has a girlfriend?” or “I’ve heart you have moved to a new house, how large is it?”

2.2 Less than 80% of Western respondents believe that the sentences like “Help yourself”, “Feel free” and “Suit yourself” are equal to language courtesy under that circumstance. However, in about 90% of Chinese respondents’ eyes, the behavior of Westerners is not polite enough, and it may endow the guests with a feeling of disrespect. They argue that: as hosts, they should ask their gusts what they need; are the food or the tea enough; or how do they feel about the dish. Only by this way, their attitudinal warmth can be revealed.

3. Questions about compliments are as followed:

3.1 Who do you often compliment, and which kind of compliments do you often make to them?

3.2 What is your response to others compliments on you?


3.1 For over 70% of Western respondents, it is common to compliment their family members. They may say “you look so cute today” to their children or say “you are very beautiful/handsome” to their mothers or fathers. Nevertheless, most of Chinese respondents prefer to compliment their friends, colleagues and superiors. Besides, they often integrate their compliments on others with a self-depreciation, such as “you look so slim but I have gained weight recently”.

3.2 Nearly 95% of Western respondents claim that when they are complimented by others, they often respond by saying “thank you” or “glad to hear that”. On the contrary, more than 65% of Chinese participants declare that if they get compliment, they will depreciate themselves (and sometimes praise others). For example: if someone compliments a Chinese “you did the job very well”, they properly answer like this ---- “I did not contribute so much; that is the result of joint efforts.”

By analyzing every result of the above question, it is clear that some conclusions can be drawn:

1. Question 1.1 and 1.2 illustrate that how Westerners address their parents and teachers is influenced by the culture of respecting of individuality. Meanwhile, the way Chinese people address their parents and teachers is deeply impacted by the traditional ideology of social hierarchy and respect for seniority.

2. Question 1.3 reveals the cultural background of pursuit of equality in Western people’s view. While the results of Question 1.3 express a very significant element not only in language courtesy but also in overall Chinese culture, which means compliment others by self-depreciation. This point can also be revealed by the results of Question 3.1 and 3.2.

3. The results of Question 2.1 and 2.2 indicate that in Western people’s eyes greeting is used to establish bonds of personal union between people brought together by the mere need of companionship (Malinowski 15). Therefore, in the process of greeting, they pay much more attention to privacy than Chinese people. Additionally, the respect of privacy is a huge progress in the development of etiquette in Western history. However, in Chinese traditional culture, greeting equals to whether they show their respect to the guests or friends, and Chinese people believe that an intimate chat can shorten the distance between people.

From all results above, it is obvious that some sentences can show the language courtesy in Western countries, but it seems inappropriate or impolite in China. The definitions of “polite” and “impolite” are both the creations of words and needs inherited from generation to generation. Every courteous word and action are reasonable when take the cultural background into consideration. Therefore, to be a polite person, particularly in aspect of language courtesy, is not that simple for it is necessary to have a basic understanding and grasp of a specific culture.


Works cited:

Malinowski, Bronislaw. Communication in face to face—Face interaction. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1972.

Gu, Yueguo. “Politeness Phenomena in Modern Chinese.” Journal of Pragmatics 20 (1990): 238.






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