A cross-cultural analysis of apology strategies: Chinese and British

Xiang, Catherine Hua (2008). A cross-cultural analysis of apology strategies: Chinese and British. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000ea4e


This study aims to explore cross-cultural differences in the ways that native British and Chinese people apologise. It attempts to further our understanding of deep sociocultural values underpinning such differences. The study is based on three sets of data (an open role-play, an evaluative questionnaire and an interview) and provides a comparative analysis of apology production and evaluation by native speakers of British English and Mandarin Chinese, as well as by language learner groups of these two target languages.

Apologies are chosen because of their crucial importance in maintaining social relationships and face needs. The findings reveal different characteristics of Chinese and British apology, reflecting cross-cultural differences in social norms and value systems, as well as in perceiving face and social rights. The findings are interpreted within pragmatic and sociolinguistic theoretical frameworks, and are discussed in the following format: apology conceptualisation; apology realisation; individualism vs. collectivism; perception of face, politeness and rapport; perception of contextual variables. The performance of the two language learner groups is discussed in terms of pragmatic transfer, cross-cultural accommodation and potential causes of miscommunication.

This study examines theoretical and pedagogical implications of cross-cultural differences in apology strategies, and so is useful for various groups who participate in intercultural communications between China and Britain, such as businessmen, linguists, language teachers and students.

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