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Being Polite or Distant?: The Uchi/Soto and Meiwaku in Japanese sociocultural Behaviors Kanae Nakamura Assistant Professor Department of Japanese, Tamkang.

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Presentation on theme: "Being Polite or Distant?: The Uchi/Soto and Meiwaku in Japanese sociocultural Behaviors Kanae Nakamura Assistant Professor Department of Japanese, Tamkang."— Presentation transcript:

1 Being Polite or Distant?: The Uchi/Soto and Meiwaku in Japanese sociocultural Behaviors Kanae Nakamura Assistant Professor Department of Japanese, Tamkang University

2 About the speaker Female, in her thirties Born and grew up in a suburb of the Tokyo region Studied at a college in Tokyo 2.5 years of working experience at a retail store Left Japan at age 25 Ph.D at University of Wisconsin-Madison Lived in Taiwan since 2006 Has a Taiwanese husband and one child Language: Japanese, English, and Intermediate Mandarin

3 Uchi-Soto distinction Uchi (in-group)  Soto (out-group) Factors to decide who is uchi or soto : Age, gender, social status, affiliation, hometown, etc.

4 An example of Japanese uchi-soto structures Strangers Clients Bosses Friends, Colleagues Family members oneself uchi soto

5 Uchi-soto in linguistic use 1) Choice of verbs “give” – ageru (from insider to outsider) kureru (from outsider to insider) ex) I give my friend her favorite book. – ageru The teacher gives my brother a book. – kureru “go” and “come” ex) English: I’m coming! Japanese: ima ikimasu. (I’m going now.)

6 Uchi-soto in linguistic use 2) Honorific language honorific/humble/polite expressions ex) taberu (eat)  meshiagari-masu itadaki-masu tabe-masu ex) (to your colleague) Tanaka shashoo wa irasshai masu ka? Is Mr./President Tanaka here? (to your client) Hai, Tanaka wa ori masu. Yes, Tanaka is here.

7 Uchi-soto in linguistic use 2) Honorific language honorific/humble/polite expressions ex) taberu (eat)  meshiagari-masu itadaki-masu tabe-masu ex) (to your colleague) Tanaka shashoo wa irasshai masu ka? Is Mr./President Tanaka here? (to your client) Hai, Tanaka wa ori masu. Yes, Tanaka is here. honorific “exist” humble

8 Strangers Clients Bosses Friends, Colleagues Family members oneself uchi soto

9 Uchi-soto in social behaviors 1)The degree of apology: Japanese people use more polite expressions in apology when the interlocutor is out-group people (ex. teachers, bossses). However, the politeness level goes down when the interlocutor is a complete stranger.  Yoso (unfamiliar out-group)

10 Strangers Clients Bosses Friends, Colleagues Family members oneself uchi soto Yoso (unfamiliar out-group)

11 Uchi-soto in social behaviors 2) Avoid praising insiders in front of outsiders ex) A business man describes his son and wife “stupid” in front of his colleagues The business man DOES NOT think his families are stupid. The colleagues DO NOT take his words literally.  This is just a “socially proper” behaviors in Japan.

12 Uchi-soto in business meetings 1) Where to sit Shimoza (lower seats) Kamiza (upper seats) How to sit in Japan n Japan

13 Uchi-soto in business meetings 2) Different conflict resolving methods between Americans and Japanese (Black & Mendenhall, 1993) The concepts of uchi-soto and omote (front/public)- ura (back/private) are relevant in conflict resloving methods in Japan “In soto & public context, conflict is avoided. … resloving conflict is easier and more likely to happen in private.” (p.54) “Americans tend to take a direct approach to negotiation… The Japanese deflect direct and confrontational negotiation tactics in this situation by responding with vagueness and periods of silence.” (p.56)

14 What is “politeness”? English speakers’ politeness: Showing politeness in action, rather than in language choice The closer the psychological distance is, the more direct expressions a speaker uses.

15 Politeness for Japanese 1) Formality: How to speak, how to wear, how to behave are highly conventionalized in accordance with occasions. Use of honorific language in public and formal situations Formal clothes in business, weddings, funerals, school ceremonies, etc.

16 An entrance ceremony in Japan

17 The first day of school in Taiwan

18 “Cool Biz” campaign Encourages business people to wear lightly since summer 2005 To reduce electric consumption by limiting air-conditioning

19 Wedding reception in Japan

20 Wedding reception in Taiwan

21 Japanese politeness vs. Taiwanese kindness Being polite =/= Being kind and generous Taiwanese people’s kindness is “nosy” and “pushy”??

22 Politeness as not causing “ Meiwaku ” Meiwaku ( 迷惑 ): trouble, annoyance, inconvenience Blog articles: “My sense of Meiwaku” Controversial disputes over acceptance/resistance of certain behaviors in public places ex) Talking on cell phone in public spaces Use of strollers on public transportations Baby’s crying on public transportations “Japanese people take on a strangely relentless attitude against those who cause disturbance.” (Blog “Reasons why it’s harder to raise kids in Japan than in other countries… or not”)

23 Cell phone manner on train 1 Turn off the power near priority seats 2 Turn the “manner mode” and refrain from talking on the phone

24 The comparative survey about children and family among Japan, USA, and Korea (1995) Table 1. Personality/characteristics that parents want their children to cultivate (%) Japanconsiderat- ion for others 61.9 Follow rules and not causing trouble 44.8 Responsibili- ty 39.5 Politeness 34.4 Ability to insist opinions 29.8 USAResponsibili- ty 49.8 Fairness and justice 32.0 Mental stability 29.4 Considerat- ion for others 26.7 Politeness 25.8 KoreaPoliteness 60.5 Responsibili- ty 57.9 Follow rules and not causing trouble 31.7 Ability to plan and act 29.4 Ability to insist opinions 28.3

25 Politeness Theory Brown & Levinson (1987) “Face ( 面子 )” (Goffman, 1967) : the negotiated public image, mutually granted each other by participants in a communicative event. Positive face & Negative face

26 Politeness Theory Brown & Levinson (1978, 1987) Positive face (Involvement/Solidarity): A need to be involved with other participants and to show them our involvement. Negative face (Independence): A need to maintain some degree of independence from other participants and to show them that we respect their independence.

27 Politeness Theory Brown & Levinson (1987) Negative face Positive face silence taciturnity volubility speaking (speaking little) (being talkative)   Figure 1. Continuum of positive and negative face

28 Examples of positive face politeness strategies Notice or attend to a hearer “I like your jacket.” “Are you feeling better today?” Exaggerate (interest, approval, sympathy with a hearer) “Please be careful on the steps, they are very slippery.” “You always do so well in school.” Claim in-group membership with a hearer “All of us at Chengchi university are…”

29 Examples of positive face politeness strategies Claim common point of view, opinion, attitudes, knowledge, and empathy “I know just how you feel.” Japanese final particle “ ne ” Be optimistic “I think we should be able to finish that annual report very quickly.” Indicate the speaker knows the hearer’s wants and is taking them into account “I’m sure you will all want to know when this meeting will be over.”

30 Examples of positive face politeness strategies Assume or assert reciprocity “I know you want to do well in sales this year as much as I want you to do well.” Use given names and nicknames “Bill, can you get that report to me tomorrow?” Be voluble (talkative) Use the hearer’s language or dialect

31 Examples of negative face politeness strategies Make minimal assumptions about hearer’s wants “I don’t know if you want to send this by air mail or by express.” Give hearer the option not to do the act “It would be nice to have tea together, but I am sure you are very busy.” Minimize threat “I just need to borrow a little piece of paper, any scrap will do.”

32 Examples of negative face politeness strategies Apologize “I am sorry to trouble you, could you…?” Be pessimistic “I don’t suppose you’d know the time, would you?” Dissociate the speaker and the hearer from the discourse “This is to inform our students that …” State a general rule “Company regulations require an examination…”

33 Examples of negative face politeness strategies Use family names and titles “Mr. Lee, there’s a phone call for you.” Be taciturn (talk little) Use own language or dialect

34 Paradox of positive face & negative face Emphasizing one face threats the other. Showing too much involvement  Risk independence, and vice versa. Granting one’s own face  Threatening other’s face In any human communication in any culture, both sides of face must be projected simultaneously.

35 Three factors to affect the (positive/negative) politeness strategies 1.Power 2.Distance 3.Weight of imposition How exactly each factor affects the use/degree of positive/negative politeness varies depending on the culture.

36 Actions out of positive/negative face? A Taiwanese couples offering help to a Japanese woman on the street

37 Actions triggered by positive/ negative face A Taiwanese couples offering help to a Japanese woman on the street = Positive face

38 Actions triggered by positive/ negative face A Taiwanese couples offering help to a Japanese woman on the street = Positive face Not offering help since you don’t want to offend the person

39 Actions triggered by positive/ negative face A Taiwanese couples offering help to a Japanese woman on the street = Positive face Not offering help since you don’t want to offend the person = Negative face

40 Actions triggered by positive/ negative face A Taiwanese couples offering help to a Japanese woman on the street = Positive face Not offering help since you don’t want to offend the person = Negative face A stranger who lets a crying baby grab a candy

41 Actions triggered by positive/ negative face A Taiwanese couples offering help to a Japanese woman on the street = Positive face Not offering help since you don’t want to offend the person = Negative face A stranger who lets a crying baby grab a candy = Positive face

42 Actions triggered by positive/ negative face A Taiwanese couples offering help to a Japanese woman on the street = Positive face Not offering help since you don’t want to offend the person = Negative face A stranger who lets a crying baby grab a candy = Positive face Japanese mother who is annoyed by such a stranger’s action

43 Actions triggered by positive/ negative face A Taiwanese couples offering help to a Japanese woman on the street = Positive face Not offering help since you don’t want to offend the person = Negative face A stranger who lets a crying baby grab a candy = Positive face Japanese mother who is annoyed by such a stranger’s action = Negative face

44 Value of Negative face (=not causing meiwaku ) in Japan ex) Great East Japan Earthquake 2011, 3,11

45 Conclusion: Taiwanese people tend to appeal positive face when they communicate with others. In Japan, negative face politeness operates more powerfully on people’s behaviors and way of thinking.

46 Bibliography Black, S. J. & Mendenhall, M. (1993). Resolving Conflicts with the Japanese: Mission Impossible? Sloan Management Review, Spring, 34(3), Brown, P. & Levinson, S. C. (1987). Politeness. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Goffman, E. (1967). Interaction Ritual. Garden City, NY: Anchor Books. Kagawa, H. (1997). Gokai Sareru Nihonjin. “The Inscrutable Japanese.” (Kodansha bilingual books) Kodansha International. Scollion, R. & Scollion, S. W. (2001). Intercultural Communication. second edition. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

47 Thank you very much!


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