Chinese idea of face vs. the politeness theory

Shengwen Xu

In our textbook, the politeness theory is introduced. Brown and Levinson’s politeness theory (1987) analyzes how we deal with each other’s face wants. They divide people’s face wants into two types, negative and positive. Negative face is “the want of every competent adult member of a community that their actions be unimpeded by others”; while positive face is “the want of every member that their wants be desirable to at least some others.” (Brown & Levinson 1987:62) They assume not only that these operate in almost all languages and cultures, but also that the need to protect alter’s negative face and to defend ego’s positive face are important functions of politeness in all languages and cultures. (Nwoye, B. G., 1992)

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What makes dialects in South China much more diverse than in the North?

by Haoqiu Zhang

Yesterday on the way to the supermarket, my friend and I talked about our hometown and dialects. It seems to be the right and typical time to get a little bit homesick seeing that many of our other friends have already flown back home.

My friend is from Heilongjiang province in the northern part of China and I am from Jiangsu province in the south. After exchanging ideas, we surprisingly find something we had never paid attention to. She said a sentence in her hometown dialect. But I could barely find its difference from Mandarin except the change in the tones of the words. So I had to ask her, “that’s it”? “That’s it!” She replied without hesitation. She added that the dialects in the whole northern region in China sound almost the same, just with slight difference in tones or intonation from Mandarin. Therefore, it would not be a problem for people to understand northern dialect so long as they can understand Mandarin. So the northern dialect seems quite monotonous and dull.

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Language Learning Outside Classroom

Jamie (Xuan Zhao)

Recently I read about a study about how people learn a second language outside classroom; it is quite inspiring and really made me think about what contributes to our learning outcomes beyond classroom in learning a second language.

The study is entitled “From milk cartons to english roomates: context and agency in L2 learning beyond the classroom” (P. Kalaja et al., 2011), aiming to “examine the relationship between agency and contexts for learning, in the hope to show how the students’ capacity to act was, mediated by the tools and resources of the context” (P. Kalaja et al., 2011). Agency here means the “socioculturally mediated capacity to act”, defined by Ahearn (2001). They gave questionnaires to Finnish college students, whose first language is Finnish, asking about their experience in learning both English and Swedish as their second languages.

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No, I am not shy: reflecting on my non-participation in language use

The research study articles we read for this course employ various theoretical frameworks to explain phenomena related to additional language learning and use. Whether it is based on the critical race theory or the post-structuralist identity theory, they all share an underlying assumption that people do something with language in social contexts. That is, every study we read thus far suggests that examining learner’s participation or non-participation in social interaction holds the key to understanding these phenomena. In this light, I reflected on my non-participation in French language use.

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Montreal, Identity, Language, and Isolation

Maxime Lavallee – Post 3

I had an interesting discussion with someone the other night on the subject of English-speakers in Montreal. We were speaking about Quebecois theater and movies, and fell into a discussion about English-speakers in Montreal. We had found that a significant portion (not all of them!) of individuals we know, who had grown up in English-speaking families in Montreal, are completely disconnected from Quebecois culture. They don’t have French-speaking friends with whom they speak French, they don’t listen to French music, they don’t read French literature, they don’t watch French movies, or partake in any other Quebecois French cultural activity. We found it interesting that these individuals, most of whom are able to speak French, seemingly make no attempt to connect with French-language culture. Why is it that in a city, surrounded by so many French speakers, they haven’t made those connections?

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Language integration of anglophones in the Québec French school system: a missed opportunity for research?

Back in September, my group and I presented an article (Allen, 2006) on the integration of immigrants into Québec high schools via the ‘Classe d’Accueil’ program. The article stood out as it highlighted many issues facing how our province handles linguistic diversity and language integration in an ever-changing, multicultural city. It also allowed me to reach out to a friend who teaches ‘Classe d’Accueil’ and get some much needed insight into how difficult it can be for students and teachers alike.

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You Must Be Good at English Because You Are Studying in Canada


“How’s your study in Canada?”

“It’s good. And the people here are very nice to me.”

“So you must be very good at English because you are studying in Canada.”

“Emm … Not exactly. Academic writing is a great challenge for me. And I feel that I cannot involve in Montreal because it’s kind of like a French monolingual city.”

“Oh! I see, so you must be very good at French!”

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