Publication Details

Chang, W. and Haugh, M. (2011). Evaluations of im/politeness of an intercultural apology. Intercultural Pragmatics, 8 (3), 411-442.


This study examines variation in evaluations of im/politeness of a recording of a naturally occurring intercultural apology, focusing in particular on potential cultural differences in these evaluations across speakers of (Australian) English and (Mandarin) Chinese. We first closely analyse the apology itself as a form of social action, and suggest in the course of this analysis that evaluations of im/politeness are closely tied to converging and diverging interpretations of actions and meanings that are interactionally achieved in situated discourse. The results of a survey of evaluations of the apology and follow-up interviews with Australian and Taiwanese informants are then discussed. A comparison of ratings of im/politeness of the intercultural apology between Taiwanese and Australians suggests that there are indeed significant differences in evaluations of im/politeness between members of these two cultural backgrounds. We trace this through our analysis of metadiscursive commentary to differences in the ways in which “sincerity” is conceptualised in (Australian) English and Taiwanese Mandarin. In doing so we propose a firmer empirical basis for the analyst to make inferences about whether the interactional achievement of diverging interpretations of meanings and actions in intercultural discourse is culturally motivated or simply idiosyncratic to the situation or individual participants. We conclude, however, that while evaluations of im/politeness are indeed influenced by the cultural background of respondents, developing a more fine-grained understanding of cultural influences on evaluations of im/politeness is necessary.



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