The Role of Compliment Topics in Compliment Response [report]

Hiroko Katsuta
2000 unpublished
This study examines the role of compliment topic by analyzing compliment responses by Japanese and American college students. Compliment responses can be seen as solutions for maintaining a balance between (1) a preference to avoid self-praise and (2) a preference to accept or agree with the compliment (Pomerantz 1978) . Building on studies showing that response strategies can be influenced by compliment content and context, the study analyzed responses to compliments on ability, achievement,
more » ... ity, achievement, belongings, appearance, and personal characteristics by determining the subjects' choice of response strategy-categorized as acceptance, avoidance, or rejection-for each compliment topic. Compliment responses were elicited in a recorded, free-flowing conversation by the researcher or the English speaking research assistant's issuing of compliments on traits of the participants based on information collected prior to the conversation by e-mail. Compliments were subtly dispersed throughout the conversation. Each compliment response was coded according to whether the overall response accepted, avoided, or rejected the credit attributed by the compliment, while the component parts of each response were coded by semantic formulas. The American group accepted compliments more often than the Japanese group and the Japanese group avoided and rejected compliments more often than the English group. But, contrary to a commonly held belief, the Japanese speakers did not overwhelmingly reject compliments, and instead used all three response types with a substantial frequency. The American participants overwhelmingly accepted compliments and almost never rejected compliments, but avoidance strategies were also commonly ii observed and should not be overlooked in the discussion of American English compliment response patterns. Furthermore, the study found relations between the content and structure of compliment responses and the type of compliment topic. Overall response strategies varied relative to compliment topic, as compliments on personal appearance were overwhelmingly rejected or avoided by both groups while those on belongings were largely accepted by both groups. Some response structures were also unique to a type of compliment topic, including the use of "wa" as a limit on the credit accepted in response to compliments on achievements or the use of "'a' + gratitude" as a means of demonstrating modesty in response to compliments on belongings. iii DEDICATION To my mom, Midori Ikeda, for her endless love and support. iv ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I would like to express my deep appreciation to the following people: My thesis advisor, Dr. Suwako Watanabe, for selflessly providing so much of her time, knowledge, and warm support. She was truly willing to offer her assistance anytime I needed it. I am amazed by her boundless energy for developing her knowledge and for her willingness to impart it to her students. I could not have completed this project without her guidance, kindness, and encouragement. Dr. Patricia J. Wetzel, who gave me the opportunity to teach and study Japanese at PSU. It has been an inspirational and exciting experience. Thank you for patiently pushing me through the basics of sociolinguistics, for challenging me, for helping me to develop my thought processes as I (endlessly) searched for a thesis topic, and for being an all-around source of energy and inspiration. I was always cheered up after visiting her office and her scholarship taught me that linguistics can be intellectually rigorous but also sometimes fun. Dr. Laurence Kominz for his kind words and care throughout the thesis writing process and throughout my time at PSU. His thoughtful comments and insights were invaluable in revising this thesis and helped me to understand it in new ways. Dr. Emiko Konomi for being a model of how to be a tremendous teacher and scholar. Thomas Mason Jr. for allowing me to participate in the ALLEX program and for training me as a Japanese teaching assistant. Jessica Kindler for taking so much time out of her busy schedule to help me gather the English data. Ryan Delatorre for helping me so patiently and kindly with my writing, his thoughtful advice through the whole process, and for his warm support. Larry Crawshaw and Douglas Walker for their very thoughtful and very careful feedback to my earlier v
doi:10.15760/etd.466 fatcat:2jl6l6mdrbaojjhwvu3kv4fq7y