Vietnamese politeness in Vietnamese - Anglo-cultural interactions: A Confucian perspective
Author(s)PHAM Thi Hong Nhung
KeywordsPoliteness, intercultural communication, Vietnamese – Anglo-cultural interaction, face, imposition, Confucianism, cultural values, intercultural workplace, politeness motivations
420000 Language and Culture
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AbstractAs a fundamental concept in communication in general and intercultural communication in particular, politeness has become a central topic in the research literature. The critical review of the relevant literature shows that the existing theories of politeness do not satisfactorily explain politeness behaviour across cultures, especially politeness behaviour of people in Asian Confucian cultures. Influential theories of politeness have so far focused primarily on the linguistic presentation of politeness (i.e., linguistics politeness) and viewed the individual desire to be free from imposition as the main motivation for politeness, whereas other social and interpersonal motivational concerns for politeness behaviour and the cultural values underlying politeness behaviour are marginalised in the current literature. Additionally, existing theories of politeness are more centred on Anglo-cultural language, particularly English and English-speaking cultures. Intercultural contexts where misunderstandings most probably occur as a result of the differences in cultural values are under-represented in the literature on communication and politeness. Given the widely recognized influence of Confucianism on communication in major Asian cultures, the present study aims to explore how well Confucian theory and principles are able to describe and elucidate Vietnamese politeness in Vietnamese – Anglo-cultural interactions. The goal of the study is to show how an alternative value system can operate in politeness in intercultural communication contexts. It helps bridge the gap in the literature by exploring Vietnamese politeness motivational concerns and their (non)imposition acts in their interactions with Anglo-culturals in intercultural workplace contexts in non-governmental organizations in Vietnam. The results show that the politeness behaviour of Vietnamese working in intercultural contexts is more influenced by their Confucian orientation to interpersonal harmony rather than by their desire to be free from imposition. In addition, the Vietnamese decision to perform an imposition act on their Anglo-cultural colleagues, and about the level of imposition, is significantly influenced by their perception of the potential benefit of their act toward the Anglo-cultural, and by their perception of the social distance between themselves and the Anglo-cultural with whom they are interacting. On the basis of its findings, the present study supports the need for major amendments to the current literature on politeness. It also proposes further implications for more effective communication between Vietnamese and Anglo-culturals in intercultural workplace contexts, and for language teaching.