Publication Details

Chang, W. (2008). Australian and Chinese Perceptions of (im)politeness in an intercultural apology. Griffith Working Papers in Pragmatics and Intercultural Communication, 1 (2), 59-74.

Link to publisher version (URL)

Griffith University – Working Papers


This study aims to explore the variables in perceptions of (im)politeness in an intercultural apology, focusing on discussion of the cultural and gender differences. Through the study’s instrument, a conversation between an Australian and a Taiwanese Chinese speaker, the study suggests that there are indeed some differences in perceptions of (im)politeness across different cultural groups, since the participants from these two backgrounds tend to use distinctive strategies to make apologies. The study’s findings indicate that the cultural factor is more influential in the perceptions of (im)politeness than the gender factor. The gender differences found in these perceptions require further investigation with a bigger sample. Regarding the cultural factor, a polite apology perceived by Australian speakers emphasises expressions of friendliness in the interaction, whereas a polite apology perceived by Taiwanese speakers focuses on showing chengyi ‘sincerity’ from the apologiser towards the recipient. Specifically, the study’s implication is that different perceptions of (im)politeness may result in communication breakdown or misunderstanding and thus may bring up the awareness of cultural differences in intercultural communication. Based on the empirical data from the native informants, the study concludes that the perception of (im)politeness is culturally determined, indicating the significance of the appreciation of cultural difference in order to avoid communication breakdown.