AbstractPoliteness is such aculturally diverse concept that when Brown and Levinson (1987) introduced theirtheory of politeness, it created much debate amongst academics both for andagainst its claim of being universally applicable(Eckert &McConnell-Ginet, 2015). This paper seeks to establish a connection between theEnglish and Vietnamese languages in terms of their expressions used to conveymessages of welcomes, goodbyes and offers, all of which are produced using thebald on-record politeness strategy, part of the larger politeness theory. Byexamining pairs of equivalent phrases having largely matching structures andvocabularies and employed in performing the same speech acts in the samesocio-cultural contexts, we can arrive at a conclusion that, after all, Brownand Levinson deserve credits for certain aspects of their theory, specificallythose that concern bald on-record expressions being applied in a given pair oflanguages under study such as English and Vietnamese.
It is worth noting thatthe this study discuss only the kind of bald on-record phrases formulated incases where the face threats are implicitly mitigated and thus consideredpolite. Finally, possible implications resulting from the research can beobserved in various areas like language learning, tourism and sociolinguisticcases of studies involving cross-cultural perception of politeness. Key words: politeness theory, baldon-record strategy, face threats A contrastive analysis of English andVietnamese polite expressions formulated using bald on-record politeness strategiesEnglish and Vietnameserepresent quite different cultures and norms, which heavily affects the wayeach people expresses politeness in everyday conversations.
To fully understandeach other, we must first appreciate the influences of our backgrounds and thecontexts in which we are conducting our exchanges. For one thing, Vietnameseculture leans towards Eastern Asian cultures and embraces Confucian values thatcould prove foreign to Westerners, including English people. Take honor or’face’ for instance, and we can easily imagine how different the stances eachside would take on a certain cultural issue.
And in the context of this paper,face happens to represent half of the equation, the other half being baldon-record strategies specifically created to sort out and deal with mostsituations involving speeches whose threats to the hearer’s (H) face have beentacitly reduced.Better knowledge of baldon-record politeness expressions usage in English and Vietnamese not only leadto enhanced comprehension of the similarities and differences between the twolanguages, but also improve awareness of politeness in conversations and reduceinstances of cross-cultural pragmatic failure. This includes appreciating boththe syntactical and semantic aspects of the two languages and the way oneculture perceives concepts of personal dignity, mutual respect and socialcourtesy and manners. LiteraturereviewHow to show politeness whentalking is often one of the most distinguishing features when it comes toexamining a language pragmatically and comparing it to another.
By carefullyconsidering all the works on this issue, we can gradually build a well-informedset of perspectives on the breadth of Brown and Levinson’s politenessstrategies’ validity and usefulness, their shortcomings and areas ofimprovement, which in turn would help to illuminate more clearly the case ofbald on-record strategies employed to formulate polite expressions. Thesubtopics under discussion include definitions of politeness and face,strategies often employed to demonstrate respect and deference, cases offailure and misunderstanding, experts’ views on this phenomenon and suggested remedies.Politeness is an effortmade by the speaker to avoid any unpleasant feelings or damage to self-respectfor the listener (Mills, 2003). Much as politeness is highly valued incivilized societies and high classes, its history dates back to as recent asthe early 18th century. This was when Lord Shaftesbury firstdedicated a number of works to the topic of politeness (Klein, 1994),contributing to a growing awareness of social etiquette in the middle classwhose members aspire to attach themselves to higher social strata.
According toKlein (1984), Shaftesbury defined politeness as the art of beingpleasing in company: “Politeness may be defined a dext’rous management of ourwords and actions, whereby we make other people have better opinion of us andthemselves” (p. 186).A very important view onpoliteness was proposed by Brown and Levinson (1987), which states that thereexist positive politeness strategies and negative politeness strategies. Thesestrategies in turn are meant to deal with two kinds of face: positive face andnegative face. Positive face is defined as “the want of every member thathis wants be desirable to at least some others executors”, and negativeface as “the want of every ‘competent adult member’ that his actions beunimpeded by others” (Brown & Levinson, 1987). These theories werebased on the theory of face introduced by Erving Goffman, claiming that face isone’s perception of self-value and importance to others (Goffman, 1955).
There are four main kindsof politeness strategies: bald on-record, positive politeness, negativepoliteness and off-record. The first type, bald on-record, makes no effort tominimize the damage to the listener’s face, so it is often used when thespeakers know each other well or when speed of exchange is essential. Positivepoliteness is utilized to make the listener feel accepted as part of a group(Foley, 1997). Negative politeness is intended to preserve the hearer’s senseof independence (Maha, 2014). Lastly, off-record strategies are employed to onlymildly refer to the speaker’s intent.
Despite the desire of mostpeople that their face wants be respected, the decisive factor here remainstheir unique upbringing, societal backgrounds and norms, which dictate whatqualify as “politeness” (Mao, 1994). For example, use of the Japanese honorificsystem is not necessarily related to avoiding a face threatening act (Fukada& Asato, 2004). Opinions to the contrary, however, cite the difference inhow Japanese and Westerners define “politeness”, a concept whose core theformer base heavily on group belonging while the latter on individualism (Mao,1994).
Thus, considering the Japanese context where a distinct set ofpoliteness rules apply, failure to properly use these terms of address doesconstitute a positive face-threating act, thereby rendering the honorificssystem compatible with Brown and Levinson’s politeness paradigms.Other points of contentionon this matter have to do with the four politeness strategies overlapping eachother in terms of usage and their effects on both the positive and negativeface of the hearer (Johnson, Roloff, & Riffee, 2004). Moreover,various factors play a part in determining the effectiveness or choice of apoliteness strategy and also the perceived severity of a face threat, namelybody languages, the order of conversations and each person’s particular styleof communication dependent on their habits and emotions (Goldsmith,2000). In summary, all argumentsand viewpoints considered, a number of weaknesses in Brown and Levinson’spoliteness strategies stand out as most prominent: a certain lack ofcross-cultural applicability and oversight of contributing aspects apart fromthe isolated speech acts themselves. Still, the point stands that credits areawarded to Brown and Levinson for inspiring further research into this area ofcommunication studies by acting as pioneers and inviting others to search foralternate theories that seek to improve on theirs where there existshortcomings. Furthermore,individuals stand to benefit from attempting to follow the guidelines set forthin the politeness theory as a way of elevating their speeches’ quality andpropriety (Whaley &Samter, 2010). This paper’s primary stanceis that of an observer absorbing the contributions of all sides, all the whilefocusing predominantly on comparing the bald on-record politeness strategiesutilized by English and Vietnamese in light of the literature dedicated to thissubject.
The final outcome derived from this research may help to shed morelight on how similar or different politeness strategies are used in English andVietnamese against their distinct sociolinguistic and cultural backdrops. Contrastive AnalysisAlthough bald on-recordstands out as the only politeness strategy to not have any concern for threatmitigation, there are circumstances when the straight utterances actually serveto relieve the hearer’s anxiety about encroaching on the speaker’s free will.Such situations entail welcomes, farewells and offers, where the hearer (H) ismost likely to threaten either the speaker’s (S) positive or negative face, andwhere the bolder and firmer the expressions are, the more polite they will be(Brown & Levinson, 1987).Brown and Levinson listsome prime examples of bald on-record usage in everyday English conversationswhich, together with their Vietnamese equivalents, form the basis of thecontrastive analysis model that follows. As stipulated above, the politeexpressions employed in this comparison fall under three categories, which willbe discussed, illustrated, and compared in turn.
First and perhaps mostcommon in all languages are cases of welcoming phrases that, according to Brownand Levinson (1987), invite H to trespass on S’s negative face by allowing H toenter into S’s premises, space and hospitality. And most often used of all thedifferent ways of extending one’s welcome to others is probably ‘Come in'(Brown & Levinson, 1987), a typical bald on-record imperative in bothEnglish and Vietnamese used to signal that H are received as guest of S. Situations of use English phrases Vietnamese phrases S and H knows each other quite well Come in. Vào ?i em. Come on in. M?i vào. H has high social status Please come in, (Sir/Madam).
Xin m?i Ông/Bà vào. Formal welcoming phrases for important guests or people. Welcome to our restaurant. Chào m?ng ??n nhà hàng chúng tôi.
A very warm welcome to all of you. Xin g?i l?i chào n?ng nhi?t ??n t?t c? quý khách. As can be seen, bothEnglish and Vietnamese contain such phrases frequently reserved forinvitations, and most often they are uttered baldly on record by S to minimizeH’s reservation. The imperative mood is usually utilized to deliver these kindsof polite commands, as they are well suited to circumstances where S and H knoweach other well.
When welcoming, saying goodbye or making offers tounacquainted guests or those with higher social statuses, hedges and termsshowing respect such as “please”, “sir” or “madam” should be utilized to softenthe threat to H’s positive and negative faces (Brown & Levinson, 1987).Last but not least, a small difference is that Vietnamese welcomes cansometimes include pronouns like “anh”, “b?n”, “em”, “ch?”, etc., at the end ofthe phrase to denote closeness and regard to H’s presence, which is oftenunnecessary in English. Quite similar to welcomesare farewells, which S uses to make H less uncomfortable impinging on S’spositive face by leaving S’s company. A variety of expressions in the form ofimperatives are available for S’s use to indicate that he has no problem with Htaking his leave, chief among which are: Situations of use/ Context English Vietnamese Partings/ Departures Goodbye/ Bye-bye/ Bye. T?m bi?t/ Chào nhé. Partings See you (later)/ Later. H?n g?p l?i/ H?n d?p khác.
Used to say goodbye to those about to go on vacations Have a nice/safe trip. ?i ch?i vui v?/ Th??ng l? bình an. Informal parting phrases, showing care for H’s well-being Take care/Be safe. B?o tr?ng. Said to those about to do something difficult or dangerous. Good luck/Best of luck.
Chúc may m?n. English and Vietnameseshare plenty of farewell phrases that are prototypically associated withcertain common situations of use as illustrated in the above examples rangingfrom general partings to well-wishing before a trip. Bald on-record directionsare aimed at H as S attempts to be polite by insisting that H can leave withoutbeing concerned about S’s feelings.
Several structures with largely identicalmeanings demonstrate the universality of these instances in both languages,with the exception of some inherent syntactical distinctions setting themapart. The third category of bald on-record messageswith implicitly redressed negative face threats are offers. Some Englishexamples are from Brown and Levinson, together with their Vietnameseequivalents: Situations of use/ Contexts English phrases Vietnamese phrases S signal that H need not need care about certain Don’t bother, I’ll clean it up. Kh?i m?c công, ?? tôi d?n cho.
S relieves H of a duty. Leave it to me. ?? ??y cho t?. S wants H to continue receiving S’s hospitality Have some more cake. ?n thêm mi?ng bánh n?a ?i. S invites H to a close occasion. Have dinner with us. ?n t?i v?i chúng tôi nhé.
Looking at these samplessyntactically, one cannot but notice the addition of words like “?i”, “nhé”,”cho”, etc., at the end, serving as typical function markers of offers andwithout which the Vietnamese phrases would lost their pleading character.English offers do not need such extra words to convey otherwise similarmeanings.
Other than this issue, it can be said that some English andVietnamese expressions of offer quite match each other in terms of where andwhen they are used, given their diverse nature as opposed to welcomes orfarewells, which are relatively less abundant.ConclusionTo best sum up the findingsof this contrastive analysis, we should note the following main similaritiesand differences as pointed out earlier. First, it is safe to say that, despiteother distinct features native only to either English or Vietnamese, bothlanguages seem to behave in a fairly corresponding fashion when it comes toexpressing and perceiving bald on-record polite expressions. Many common socioculturalcontexts can be identified in which semantically identical set phrases inpopular use are closely linked with particular settings. This leaves only somesyntactical and grammatical discrepancies to be cited as unique to eachlanguage. Most importantly, the universal validity can be said to be bestmanifest in these specific aspects of English and Vietnamese, lending some moresupport to Brown and Levinson’s politeness theory to say the least. DiscussionBy realizing and takingadvantages of similarities in the ways both peoples show their welcomes, bidfarewells and offer to help, teachers can begin familiarizing English andVietnamese learners with the new language through highlighting common simplephrases with similar grammatical structures and directly translatedvocabularies.
This not only helps with easier association and comprehension ofnew knowledge, but it also makes for a faster establishment of basicconversational skills, especially in uncomplicated situations such as whenpeople first met, take their leaves or simply make short, straightforwardoffers. Provided the appropriate circumstances apply, beginners benefit fromthe simple sentences and expressions that helps them state clearly theirintentions without risking making errors or being misunderstood by foreigners,which is often the case as they try using more complex, polite expressionsusually found in positive or negative politeness strategies, and especiallyoff-record messages. For those working inhospitality or the tourism industry, specifically the ones serving as the firstpoints of contact with foreign tourists such as hotel receptionists or tourguides, it is vital to make a good first impression by making guests feelwelcomed, through the proper use of welcoming phrases.
Also, as tourists leaveafter their stay, their last encounters with hotels’ or resorts’ staff shouldbe marked with well-placed, well-timed parting remarks. It goes without sayingthat all personnel’s offers of help, service or assistance during guests’ staysmust be accompanied by hedges or produced in a way that display respectful andpolite manners.