Item Details

The role of English as a scientific metalanguage for research in pragmatics: Reflections on the metapragmatics of “politeness” in Japanese

Issue: Vol 1 No. 1 (2016)

Journal: East Asian Pragmatics

Subject Areas:

DOI: 10.1558/eap.v1i1.27610


Much of the theorisation undertaken in pragmatics has afforded English a privileged place, not only as the object of analysis but also as the means through which such theoretical discussions have been accomplished. Yet as a number of researchers have pointed out, the language in which the description, analysis and theorisation of pragmatic phenomena is undertaken can have an influence on how the research object(s) in question are understood. In this paper, the role of English as our scientific metalanguage in research on “politeness” in Japanese is considered. It is argued that in order to start managing such challenges for research in pragmatics we need to go beyond the study of abstract or decontextualised meanings of words and move towards the analysis of emic concepts and emic practices. It is concluded that rather than abandoning notions such as “politeness” in favour of seemingly less culturally-imbued terms, what is needed instead is greater awareness of what the use of English as a scientific metalanguage both affords for researchers working in pragmatics, along with the challenges it can create for such work.

Author: Michael Haugh

View Original Web Page

References :

Arundale, R. B. (2006). Face as relational and interactional: A communication framework for research on face, facework, and politeness. Journal of Politeness Research, 2(2), 193–216.

Arundale, R. B. (2010). Constituting face in conversation: Face, facework and interactional achievement. Journal of Pragmatics, 42(8), 2078–2105.

Arundale, R. B. (2013). Face as a research focus in interpersonal pragmatics: Relational and emic perspectives. Journal of Pragmatics, 58, 108–120.

Berry, R. (2005). Making the most of metalanguage. Language Awareness, 14(1), 3–20.

Boas, F. (1911). Introduction. In F. Boas (Ed.), Handbook of American Indian languages (pp. 1-83). Washington, DC: Government Printing Office.

Burdelski, M. (2010). Socialising politeness routines: Action, other-orientation, and embodiment in a Japanese pre-school. Journal of Pragmatics, 42(6), 1606–1621.

Caffi, C. (1998). Metapragmatics. In J. Mey (Ed.), Concise encylopedia of pragmatics (pp. 581–586). Amsterdam: Elsevier.

Chang, W.-L. M., & Haugh, M. (2013). Face in Taiwanese business interactions: From emic concepts to emic practices. In Y. Pan & D. Z. Kadar (Eds.), Chinese discourse and interaction: Theory and Practice (pp. 127–151). London: Equinox.

Clancy, P. (1986). The acquisition of communicative style in Japanese. In B. Schieffelin & E. Ochs (Eds.), Language socialization across cultures (pp. 213–250). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Coupland, N., & Jaworski, A. (2004). Sociolinguistic perspectives on metalanguage: Reflexivity, evaluation and ideology. In A. Jaworski, N. Coupland, & D. Galasiński (Eds.), Metalanguage: Social and ideological perspectives (pp. 15–51). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Culpeper, J. (2011). Impoliteness: Using language to cause offence. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Culpeper, J. (2012). (Im)politeness: Three issues. Journal of Pragmatics, 44(9), 1128–1133.

Culpeper, J., & Haugh, M. (2014). Pragmatics and the English language. Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Deutschmann, M. (2003). Apologising in British English. Umeå, Sweden: Umeå University.

Dunn, C. D. (2013). Speaking politely, kindly and beautifully: Ideologies of politeness training in Japanese business etiquette training. Multilingua, 32(2), 225–245.

Eelen, G. (2001). A critique of politeness theories. Manchester: St. Jerome.

Eglin, P. (2015). Language, culture, and interaction. In F. Sharifian (Ed.), The Routledge handbook of language and culture (pp. 141–153). London: Routledge.

Ehlich, K. (1992). On the historicity of politeness. In R. Watts, S. Ide, & K. Ehlich (Eds.), Politeness in language: Studies in its history, theory and practice (pp. 71–107). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Enfield, N. J. (2014). Natural causes of language: Frames, biases, and cultural transmission. Berlin: Language Science Press.

Enfield, N. J. (2015). The utility of meaning: What words mean and why. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Fukushima, S. (2004). Evaluation of politeness: The case of attentiveness. Multilingua, 23, 365–388.

Fukushima, S. (2009). Evaluation of politeness: Do the Japanese evaluate attentiveness more positively than the British? Pragmatics, 19, 501–518.

Fuskushima, S. (2011). A cross-generational and cross-cultural study on demonstration of attentiveness. Pragmatics, 21, 549–571.

Fukushima, S. (2013). Evaluation of (im)politeness: A comparative study among Japanese students, Japanese parents and American students on evaluations of attentiveness. Pragmatics, 23, 275–299.

Fukushima, S. (2015). In search of another understanding of politeness: From the perspective of attentiveness. Journal of Politeness Research, 11, 261–287.

Fukushima, S., & Haugh, M. (2014). The role of emic understandings in theorizing im/politeness: The metapragmatics of attentiveness, empathy and anticipatory inference in Japanese and Chinese. Journal of Pragmatics, 74, 165–179.

Garfinkel, H. (1967). Studies in ethnomethodology. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Garfinkel, H. (2002). Ethnomethodology’s program: Working out Durkeim’s aphorism. Lanham, MD: Rowan & Littlefield.

Goddard, C. (2006). Ethnopragmatics: A new paradigm. In C. Goddard (Ed.), Ethnopragmatics: Understanding discourse in cultural context (pp. 1–30). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Goddard, C. (2007). A response to N. J. Enfield’s review of Ethnopragmatics (Goddard, Ed., 2006). Intercultural Pragmatics, 4(4), 531–538.

Hara, K. (2006). The concept of omoiyari (altruistic sensitivity) in Japanese relational communication. Intercultural Communication Studies, 15(1), 24–32.

Haugh, M. (2004). Revisiting the conceptualisation of politeness in English and Japanese. Multilingua, 23(2), 85–109.

Haugh, M. (2007a). The discursive challenge to politeness research: An interactional alternative. Journal of Politeness Research, 3(2), 295–317.

Haugh, M. (2007b). Emic conceptulisations of (im)politeness and face in Japanese: Implications for the discursive negotiation of second language learner identities. Journal of Pragmatics, 39(4), 657–680.

Haugh, M. (2012). Epilogue: The first–second order distinction in face and politeness research. Journal of Politeness Research, 8(1), 111–134.

Haugh, M. (2013a). Disentangling face, facework and im/politeness. Sociocultural Pragmatics, 1(1), 46–73.

Haugh, M. (2013b). Im/politeness, social practice and the participation order. Journal of Pragmatics, 58, 52–72.

Haugh, M. (2015). Im/politeness implicatures. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Hübler, A. (2011). Metapragmatics. In W. Bublitz & N. R. Norrick (Eds.), Foundations of pragmatics (pp. 107–136). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Hübler, A., & Bublitz, W. (2007). Introducing metapragmatics in use. In W. Bublitz & A. Hubler (Eds.), Metapragmatics in use (pp. 1–26). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Ide, S., Hill, B., Carnes, Y., Ogino, T., & Kawasaki, A. (1992). The concept of politeness: An empirical study of American English and Japanese. In R. Watts, S. Ide, & K. Ehlich (Eds.), Politeness in language: Studies in its history, theory and practice (pp. 281–297). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Kabaya, H., Kawaguchi, Y., & Sakamoto, M. (1998). Keigo hyōgen [Honorific expressions]. Tokyo: Taishukan.

Kádár, D., & Haugh, M. (2013). Understanding politeness. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Kádár, D. Z., & Paternoster, A. (2015). Historicity in metapragmatics: A study on ‘discernment’ in Italian metadiscourse. Pragmatics, 25(3), 369–391.

Karasawa, M., & Hirabayashi, H. (2013). Cultural source of omoiyari: Cross-cultural study of understanding ‘others’ in preschool education. Tokyo Joshi Daigaku Hikaku Bunka Kenkyuujo Kiyoo [Annals of the Institute for Comparative Studies of Culture, Tokyo Woman’s Christian University], 74, 65-92.

Leavitt, J. (2015). Ethnosemantics. In F. Sharifian (Ed.), The Routledge handbook of language and culture (pp. 51–65). London: Routledge.

Lebra, T. S. (1976). Japanese patterns of behaviour. Honolulu: University Press of Hawai’i.

Levinson, S. C. (2013). Action formation and ascription. In T. Stivers & J. Sidnell (Eds.), Handbook of conversation analysis (pp. 103–130). Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

Lyons, J. (1977). Semantics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Majid, A. (2015). Comparing lexicons cross-linguistically. In J. R. Taylor (Ed.), Oxford handbook of the word (pp. 364–379). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Malt, B. C., Gennari, S., Imai, M., Eef, A., Saji, N., & Majid, A. (2015). Where are the concepts? What words can and can’t reveal. In E. Margolis & S. Laurence (Eds.), The conceptual mind: New directions in the study of concepts (pp. 291–326). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Malt, B. C., & Majid, A. (2013). How thought is mapped into words. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science, 4(6), 583–597.

Marui, I., Nishijima, Y., Noro, K., Reinelt, R., & Yamashita, H. (1996). Concepts of communicative virtues (CCV) in Japanese and German. In M. Hellinger & U. Ammon (Eds.), Contrastive sociolinguistics (pp. 385–409). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

McWhorter, J. H. (2014). The language hoax: Why the world looks the same in any language. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Mertz, E., & Yovel, J. (2009). Metalinguistic awareness. In D. Sandra, J.-O. Ostman, & J. Verschueren (Eds.), Cognition and pragmatics (pp. 25–271). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Mills, S. (2009). Impoliteness in a cultural context. Journal of Pragmatics, 41(5), 1047–1060.

Mitchell, N., & Haugh, M. (2015). Agency, accountability and evaluations of impoliteness. Journal of Politeness Research, 11(2), 207–238.

Murphy, G. L. (2002). The big book of concepts. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Nwoye, O. (1992). Linguistic politeness and socio-cultural variations of the notion of face. Journal of Pragmatics, 18(4), 309–328.

Obana, Y., & Tomoda, T. (1994). The sociological significance of ‘politeness’ in English and Japanese languages – report from a pilot study. Japanese Studies Bulletin, 14(2), 37–49.

Palmer, G. (1996). Toward a theory of cultural linguistics. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.

Pike, K. L. (1967). Language in relation to a unified theory of the structure of human behaviour (2nd ed.). The Hague: Mouton de Gruyter.

Pizziconi, B. (2007). The lexical mapping of politeness in British English and Japanese. Journal of Politeness Research, 3(2), 207–241.

Preston, D. R. (2004). Folk metalanguage. In A. Jaworski, N. Coupland, & D. Galasiński (Eds.), Metalanguage: Social and ideological perspectives (pp. 75–101). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Sacks, H. (1992). Lectures on conversation. Oxford: Blackwell.

Sakai, R. (2006). Review of studies on ‘omoiyari’: Proposing the necessity to consider ‘omoiyari’ that is not expressed in action. Tokyo Daigaku Daigakuin Kyōikugaku Kenkyū Kiyō [Bulletin of the Graduate School of Education, Tokyo University], 45, 143–148.

Sapir, E. (1921). Language: An introduction to the study of speech. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.

Schalley, A. C., & Zaefferer, D. (2007). Ontolinguistics – an outline. In A. Schalley & D. Zaefferer (Eds.), Ontolinguistics: How ontological status shapes the linguistic coding of concepts (pp. 3–22). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Scheff, T. J. (2006). Concepts and concept formation: Goffman and beyond. Qualitative Sociology Review, 2(3), 48–64.

Schegloff, E. (1995). Discourse as interactional achievement III: The omnirelevance of action. Research on Language and Social Interaction, 28(3), 185–211.

Schieffelin, B. B. (1987). Do different words mean different worlds?: An example from Papua New Guinea. In S. U. Phillips, S. Steel, & C. Tanz (Eds.), Language, gender and sex in comparative perspective (pp. 249–260). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Sharifian, F. (2011). Cultural conceptualisations and language. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Shimizu, H. (2000). Japanese cultural psychology and empathic understanding: Implications for academic and cultural psychology. Ethos, 28(2), 224–247.

Shinmura, I. (Ed.) (2008). Kojien [English translation?] (6th ed.). Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten.

Sidnell, J., & Enfield, N. J. (2012). Language diversity and social action. A third locus of linguistic relativity. Current Anthropology, 53(3), 302–321.

Sifianou, M. (1993). Off-record indirectness and the notion of imposition. Multilingua, 12(1), 69–79.

Silverstein, M. (1993). Metapragmatic discourse and metapragmatic function. In J. A. Lucy (Ed.), Reflexive language: Reported speech and metapragmatics (pp. 33–58). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Silverstein, M. (2004). ‘Cultural’ concepts and the language-culture nexus. Current Anthropology, 45(5), 621–652.

Takada, A. (2013). Generating morality in directive sequences: Distinctive strategies for developing communicative competence in Japanese caregiver–child interactions. Language and Communication, 33(4), 420–438.

Tao, L. (2010). Komyunikēshon kōdō hyōka gainen ‘omoiyari’ no Nichichū hikaku [Omoiyari as an evaluative concept of communicative behaviour: a contrastive analysis of Japanese and Chinese]. Kanagawa Daigaku Gengo Kenkyuu, 32, 93–108.

Tao, L. (2013). The concepts of ‘politeness’: A comparative study in Chinese and Japanese verbal communication. Intercultural Communication Studies, 22(2), 151–165.

Taylor, C. (2015). Mock politeness in English and Italian: A corpus-assisted study of the metalanguage of sarcasm and irony (Unpublished PhD dissertation). Lancaster University.

Terkourafi, M. (2005). Beyond the micro-level in politeness research. Journal of Politeness Research, 1(2), 237–262.

Travis, C. (1997). Kind, considerate, thoughtful: A semantic analysis. Lexikos, 7, 130–152.

Travis, C. (1998). Omoiyari as a core Japanese value: Japanese-style empathy? In A. Athansiadou & E. Tabakowska (Eds.), Speaking of emotions: Conceptualisation and expression (pp. 55–81). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Trier, J. (1931). Der deutsche Wortschatz im Sinnbezirk des Verstandes: Die Geschichte eines sprachlichen Feldes: Vol. 1. Von den Anfängen bis zum Beginn des 13. Jahrhunderts. Heidelberg: Winter.

Tyler, S. (1969). Cognitive anthropology. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.

Uchida, Y., & Kitayama, S. (2001). Omoiyari shakudo no sakusei to datōsei no kentō [Development and validation of a sympathy scale]. Shinrigaku Kenkyū [The Japanese Journal of Psychology], 72(4), 275–282.

Ullmann, S. (1962). Semantics: An introduction to the science of meaning. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

Underhill, J. (2012). Ethnolinguistics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Usami, M. (1998). Poraitonesu riron no tenkai: Disukōsu poraitonesu to iu toraekata [Development of politeness theory: The approach of discourse politeness]. Tokyo Gaikokugo Daigaku Nihon Kenkyū Kyōiku Nenpō (1997 Nendopan), 145–159.

Verschueren, J. (2000). Notes on the role of metapragmatic awareness in language use. Pragmatics, 10(4), 439–456.

Watts, R. (2003). Politeness. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Watts, R., Ide, S., & Ehlich, K. (1992). Introduction. In R. Watts, S. Ide, & K. Ehlich (Eds.), Politeness in language: Studies in its history, theory and practice (pp. 1–17). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Whorf, B. L. (1956). Language, thought, and reality. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Wierzbicka, A. (1997). Understanding cultures through their key words. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Wierzbicka, A. ([1991]2003). Cross-cultural pragmatics: The semantics of human interaction (2nd ed.). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Wierzbicka, A. (2004). The English expression good boy and good girl and cultural models of child rearing. Culture & Psychology, 10(3), 251–278.

Wierzbicka, A. (2014). Imprisoned in English: The hazards of English as a default language. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Wilson, D. (2003). Relevance and lexical pragmatics. Italian Journal of Linguistics/Rivista di Linguistica, 15(2), 273–291.

Wilson, D., & Carston, R. (2007). A unitary approach to lexical pragmatics: Relevance, inference and ad hoc concepts. In N. Burton-Roberts (Ed.), Pragmatics (pp. 230–259). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Wittgenstein, L. (1968). Philosophical investigations (Trans. G. E. M. Anscombe). Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

Wong, J. (2015). A critical look at the description of speech acts. In A. Capone & J. Mey (Eds.), Interdisciplinary studies in pragmatics, culture and society. New York: Springer.