Politeness in Eastern and Western countries

Our group subject is “The difference of niceness between Eastern and Western countries” . Harmonizing the portion which I in charge of, this paper aims to explicate the relationship between the societal construction and the inclination of utilizing positive niceness or negative niceness among eastern and western states. Being polite is a complicated concern in any linguistic communication. Many people may non cognize that really there are two types of niceness, the positive niceness and the negative niceness. Positive niceness emphasizes shared attitudes and values, it is solidarity oriented. And negative niceness pays people regard and involves showing oneself suitably in footings of societal distance and esteeming position differences ( Holmes, 2013 ) . Different topographic points have their ain inclination for utilizing positive or negative niceness, and their societal construction ever give us some intimations for happening this inclination.

In the book “Japanese Society” , written by Nakane Chie, a professor of Social Anthropology of the University of Tokyo, Nakane introduces two societal constructions, the perpendicular construction and the horizontal construction, which are the common societal construction in the universe. And she recognizes Nipponese society as “Tate Shakai” , a perpendicular society which opposed to a horizontal society predominates in the West. Professor Nakane besides mentions that non merely Japan, but besides many eastern states are besides perpendicular society excessively ( Nakane, 1970 ) . First of all, allow see the cardinal construction of both perpendicular and horizontal society.

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Figure 1Beginning: Nakane ( 1967 )

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In figure 1, it shows the construction difference between perpendicular society ( X ) and horizontal society ( Y ) . Each group in figure 1 is made of the same figure of persons and points a, B, degree Celsius are stand foring the members of each society. We can see that the base of the trigon in X is losing while a, B and degree Celsius are formed a trigon in Y. The construction of X formed an upside-down V instead than a trigon when the relationship of B and degree Celsius is different from that of a and B or a and c. In the instance of X, all components are linked with a, the pivot of the society, other members will go unable to construct if a absences. And there can be limitless fluctuation in the manners of incorporation, new member can fall in easy. However, the construction of X is inflexible which means that members can non alter their comparative place within the society. The individual’s group engagement is regulated by his/her established relation to a given group member ( Nakane, 1970 ) .

However, on the other manus, a, B and degree Celsius are sharing the same property in Y, and being the footing of the society formation. Those members can take the topographic point of any other within the group. The property of rank is really clear in this instance, foreigners can understand whether they may fall in the group or non easy. Although the engagement of a new member would impact everyone in Y, the new member will be in the same place as all the other members ( Nakane, 1970 ) . After more and more members joined the group X and group Y, the construction form will widen and looks like the two which shows in Figure 2 and 3.

Figure 2Beginning: Nakane ( 1967 )

In Figure 2, we can see that the construction of X, a perpendicular society, is formed by many upside-down V now, and it is divided by many beds. We can see that human relationships are defined in footings of inequality. Take Japan as an illustration of the perpendicular society to explicate the relationship between perpendicular societal construction and the usage of niceness, as Nipponese people ever relate to each other as seniors and juniors, such as the internal community distinction of rank by senior status and occupational position ( Federal Research Division, 1994 ) . Nipponese people chiefly form a relationships based on hierarchy alternatively of organizing relationships of equals. The societal construction of Japan is every bit same as the X in Figure 2, and the relationship between two persons of upper and lower position is the footing of the structural rule of Nipponese Society. There is frequently an “elder-brother” or “father” figure in relationships, the junior should esteem the senior ( Nakane, 1967 ) . Hierarchy plays a really of import function in the perpendicular society and consequences in people tend to utilize honorific linguistic communications to their senior in order to demo regard to them.

Vertical construction is an of import societal mechanism of the Nipponese society ( Terashima, 1987 ) . It can assist us to understand about the construction of the Nipponese linguistic communication easy, peculiarly the honorific signifier and its map which usage for showing the niceness. For illustration, it is necessary for an employee utilizing honorific address to speak with his/her foreman because of the hierarchal position. Actually, non merely Japan, many eastern states like China and Korea besides has the perpendicular societal construction. Under the influence of Confucianism, being polite involves utilizing linguistic communication which recognizes comparative position is really explicitly in those countries ( Lakoff & A ; Ide, 2005 ) As a consequence, we can see that position is the major consideration of many eastern states ; most of them would wish to utilize the negative niceness.

Figure 3Beginning: Nakane ( 1967 )

For the western states, harmonizing to the theory of Professor Nakane, the societal construction of most western states are horizontal, like Britain and USA, are named as a horizontal society ( Nakane, 1970 ) . And their societal construction merely looks like Figure 3. We can see that this construction is wholly different with the perpendicular society which shows in Figure 2. Those a, B, degree Celsius, vitamin D, vitamin E and degree Fahrenheit seems equal to each other ; they are at the same degree. It does non like the perpendicular construction ; the relationship between seniors and juniors is non obvious. In this figure, we can see that the human relationships chiefly focus on the distance. Actually in many western communities in the 21st century, the solidarity dimension was tended to be given greater weight than position because of the influence of the democracy and equality ( Holmes, 2013 ) . Social distance became the major consideration of many western states, and eventually the societal construction was formed by this sort of form presents.

There is ever a misinterpretation that people think those people of western states are more insouciant in address and didn’t attention the niceness so much, comparing with the people from eastern states. For illustration, we are all Chinese, we didn’t hear that a station office bringing adult male say “Can I have your signature, my love? ” . If you hear the bringing adult male said that, you may believe this cat is frivolous, since we all are taught that we should be polite to our client, utilizing the term “my love” is a small spot informal. In Hong Kong, China or other eastern communities, most of them would prefer utilizing “Sir” or “Madam” in this instance. However, in the North of England, many bringing work forces, newspaper sellers or the coach music directors and so on make name everyone “love” . But it does non intend those people are impolite, really they are utilizing the positive niceness which is solidarity oriented. In most of the western states, people would wish to shorten the societal distance and minimise the position differences in order to avoiding societal struggles and keeping the societal harmoniousness, so they would wish to utilize the positive niceness largely.

To reason, societal construction ever shows us the societal features of one topographic point, and it even can assist us to happen out the inclination of utilizing positive or negative niceness. Although most people of the eastern states behave otherwise with most westerners when being polite, both eastern and western communities are polite. They are merely utilizing different types of niceness which people may non really familiar with.


Holmes, J. ( 2013 ) . An debut to sociolinguistics. Harlean carpenter: Pearson Education.

Nakane, C. ( 1970 ) . Nipponese Society. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Nakane, C. ( 1967 ) . Tateshakai no ningen kankei. Tokyo: Kodansha.

Lakoff, R.T. , & A ; Ide, S. ( 2005 ) . Broadening the skyline of lingual niceness. Philadelphia: John Benjamins Pub.

Federal Research Division. ( 1994 ) . The Country Studies. USA Library of Congress.

Post on the Web. Retrieved March 29, 2014, from

hypertext transfer protocol: //www.country-data.com/cgi-bin/query/r-7260.html

Terashima, S. ( 1987, September 20 ) . Social mechanism of honorifics. The Japan Times Post on the Web. Retrieved March 23, 2014, from hypertext transfer protocol: //www11.ocn.ne.jp/~noga1213/newpage75.htm

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