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Exercise 5: Cross-Cultural Comparison of Compliments

Red Core Strategy
Blue Important Supporting Strategy
Black Aditional Strategies
Green General Strategies

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  • The first sample dialogue may represent a somewhat more formal occasion than in the second dialogue.  The husband in the first dialogue, even if he likes the meal, seems to have avoided complimenting his wife in the presence of the guests.  He would see his wife is an ‘insider’ (uchi) and his guests as ‘outsiders’ (soto).  In Japanese, compliments to ‘insiders’ in front of ‘outsiders’ are likely to be considered self-praising and are therefore avoided. 

  • In the second dialogue, however, the husband joins his guest in complimenting his wife (though not profusely).  Perhaps here, the occasion is informal and the husband can be more honest with the guests who are probably fairly close to the hosts. 

  • The third and fourth sample dialogues are typical of traditional family interactions, where an attempt is made to avoid being perceived as conceited.  Compliments about their family members’ performance, personality traits, or skills are often refused as in these dialogues, although the speaker does not necessarily mean that their family members are unworthy of praise.  The strategy in this exercise is to find out the cultural norms for complimenting behavior and to interpret the use and non-use of compliments accordingly.

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