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Proceedings of the 20th North American Conference on Chinese Linguistics (NACCL-20). 2008. Volume 2. Edited by Marjorie K.M. Chan and Hana Kang. Columbus, Ohio: The Ohio State University. Pages 1041-1058.

How to Say ‘No’ in Chinese:
A Pragmatic Study of Refusal Strategies in Five TV Series
Jia Yang
The Ohio State University

This paper analyzed situations in which refusal will occur and examined the refusal strategies and corresponding linguistic forms that can be employed to react to various refusal situations in Chinese culture. Since refusal is an act in response to other acts, acts that prompt refusals play an important role in the choices of refusal strategies. Therefore, this paper categorizes situations of refusal according to the initiating acts of refusal. Based on 160 video clips collected from five television series, this paper found that refusal is initiated by four types of acts: request, offer, invitation, and suggestion. Each type can be subcategorized in terms of their different communicative functions. The study can facilitate the instruction of refusal to learners of Chinese from multiple perspectives.

0. Introduction
Although there are a number of studies of refusal, most of them deal with either English or Japanese (e.g., Morrow 1995, Gass & Houck 1999). Only a handful of studies focus on Chinese (e.g., Liao 1994, Chen & Zhang 1995, Chen 1996), and these studies tend to analyze refusal from the perspective of semantic content. Although examples of refusal strategies are given, the contexts in which these strategies were used are not analyzed in detail. For example, they did not study the contextual restriction of each strategy and hence may make over-generalizations. Furthermore, these studies have focused primarily on the person who conducted the refusal so that the party who responded to the refusal is not analyzed. Considering these limitations, it is necessary to examine when, where, and as well as the roles of the interlocutors (“initiator” and “refuser”). This is the kind of knowledge that learners of Chinese most need when they encounter situations of refusals. This paper therefore analyzes situations in which refusal will occur and examines the refusal strategies and corresponding linguistic forms that can be employed to react to certain refusal situations.

Since refusal is an act in response to other acts, acts that prompt refusals play an important role in the choices of refusal strategies. Therefore, this paper categorizes situations of refusal according to the initiating acts of refusal. The data for analysis is collected from five television series. Compared with previous data collection methods,

YANG: CHIINESE REFUSAL

such as discourse completion tests or role plays, this data collection method has its own advantages for pragmatic study (see section 3).
Based on 160 video clips collected from five television series, this paper found that refusal is initiated by four types of acts: request, offer, invitation, and suggestion. Each type can be subcategorized in terms of their different communicative functions. Based on the data, 12 subcategories were identified (solicited suggestions, unsolicited suggestions, requests for favor, requests for permission/acceptance/agreement, requests for information/advice, requests for action, ritual invitations, real invitations, offers of gifts/favors, offers of drinks/foods and offers of opportunities). A pragmatic analysis was conducted to examine the refusal strategies and corresponding linguistic forms employed to deal with different types of initiating acts.

Both Chinese language instructors and learners of Chinese can benefit from this analysis. For Chinese language instructors, this analysis provides a rationale to select, organize and present examples of refusals in classroom instruction. For learners of Chinese, this analysis functions as a guide to learners on differentiating various refusal situations and directs them to make...
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