Cultural Differences on Speech Act Between Chinese and English in both Aspects


校园英语·中旬 2018年1期

【Abstract】Through comparative analysis of Several kinds of speech acts between English and Chinese, this paper enables learners to learn foreign languages from the perspective of language differences and deepen their understanding of different cultures.

【Key words】Speech Act; Cultural Differences; Communication


1. Introduction

With the accelerating pace of globalization and the deepening of Chinas reform, Chinese have been affected on many aspects from western culture in different degrees. But nowadays, our traditional culture still plays an irreplaceable role in our daily life. Cultural differences appear increasingly. And, cultural differences on speech are the most obvious manifestation.

2. Culture differences on speech act between Chinese and English in both aspects

2.1 Request

2.1.1 In Chinese Way

According to the traditional culture and the different patterns, the sentences which used by Chinese people are too direct, especially in the requests between the people of high status to the people of low status; or too indirect, people usually use a way with hint to ask for others to do things. In Chinese society, the people of high status, the elderly, superior requests the people of low status, youngling, junior to do things is quite reasonable. And there is no necessary to make it too indirection. For example, a CEO would say to his personal secretary, “小張, 把这份材料给我复印一下。”A father should say to his son, “儿子, 出去给爸买包烟。”The requests between solidarity, in-groups, classmates, or friends are straightforward. The direct requests usually use the structure of imperative sentence. For instance, “过来一下!”“把酒打开!”“帮个忙!”This kind of requests will make westerners feel impolite and unexpected.

2.1.2 In Western Way

Nevertheless, the very indirect ways which used by Chinese people make westerners feel difficult to comprehend, even they could think they would reach some ulterior purposes.

Westerners use different indirect speech act to express their politeness. The degrees of directness and indirectness are mainly depending on social status, gender, age, content of the request, and difficulty of the request. Besides, it is also affected by the elements of environment, occasion, body-distance, and atmosphere. For example, if someone wants to borrow a pen, according to the degrees, it could be:“Give me a pen.” “Lend me a pen, please.” “Hi, buddy, I would appreciate if youd let me use your pen.” “Would you please lend me a pen?” “Im sorry to bother you, but can I ask you for a pen?”

2.2 Refusal

2.2.1 In Chinese Way

Social status is a main social element of effecting Chinese refusal act. When the people of low status refuse the requests, invitations, and suggestions from the people of high status, they usually use the sentences with apology and regret. But in the opposite situation, apology or regret is not very necessary. For instance, a boss invites an employee to have dinner, he would say, “實在对不起, 我今天有点事, 去不了, 真是太遗憾了。” If an employee invites his boss to have dinner, he would say, “哎哟, 我今天有事, 去不了, 改天吧。”

2.2.2 In Western Way

Western people are not so sensitive to the people of high status because of the equal communicative relationship. In contrast, they are more interested in the phenomenon about solidarity. People who have different social status use the same sentences with apology and regret, as well as people who have the same social status. Between close friends or people who have a larger social status distance, westerners always say, “I refuse” or “No”, directly; however, between the people who are lack of clarity in relations, and have the same social status, people are tending to use indirect refused way.

3. Conclusion

So, Whether we speak in a first or second language, we are influenced by socio-cultural norms and constraints that affect the way we communicate.


[1]Chang Zonglin,Comparative Studies in Language and Culture[M].Ocean University of China press,2004.