Volume 15, Issue 3
  • ISSN 1878-9714
  • E-ISSN: 1878-9722
Buy:$35.00 + Taxes



Speech acts in CMC (Computer Mediated Communication) have been receiving increasing attention in recent years. This study attempted to make a cross-cultural comparison of Chinese and American online complaints of restaurants from the perspective of speech act structure in relation to face management. In spite of likeness in the general taxonomy of retrospective and prospective speech acts between the two corpora, addressivity appeared to be a strong factor affecting how face was managed in the specific construction of complaints as speech act sets in the Chinese data set, while such a discrepancy was absent from the American reviews where the face of restaurants and fellow consumers was not handled with much distinction and discretion. These findings in terms of the level of sensitivity and adaptation to the context seem to imply that the generally-recognized distinction of high-context vs. low-context between the two cultures is also manifested in online reviews.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


  1. Anzilotti, Gloria
    1982 “The rhetorical question as an indirect speech device in English and Italian.” Canadian Modern Language Review381: 290–302. 10.3138/cmlr.38.2.290
    https://doi.org/10.3138/cmlr.38.2.290 [Google Scholar]
  2. Brown, Penelope, and Stephen Levinson
    1987Politeness: Some Universals in Language Usage. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 10.1017/CBO9780511813085
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511813085 [Google Scholar]
  3. Cenni, Irene, and Patrick Goethals
    2017 “Negative hotel reviews on TripAdvisor: A cross-linguistic analysis.” Discourse, Context & Media161: 22–30. 10.1016/j.dcm.2017.01.004
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dcm.2017.01.004 [Google Scholar]
  4. Copeland, Lennie, and Lewis Griggs
    1986Going international. New York, N.Y.: Random House.
    [Google Scholar]
  5. Chang, Yuh-Fang, Ren Wei
    2020 “Sociopragmatic competence in American and Chinese children’s realization of apology and refusal.” Journal of Pragmatics1641: 27–39. 10.1016/j.pragma.2020.04.013
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2020.04.013 [Google Scholar]
  6. Decock, Sofie, and Ilse Depraetere
    2018 “(In)directness and complaints: A reassessment.” Journal of Pragmatics1321: 33–46. 10.1016/j.pragma.2018.04.010
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2018.04.010 [Google Scholar]
  7. 2017 “Customer complaints and disagreements in a multilingual business: A discursive and pragmatic Analysis.” Intercultural Pragmatics14(1): 77–115. 10.1515/ip‑2017‑0004
    https://doi.org/10.1515/ip-2017-0004 [Google Scholar]
  8. Depraetere, Ilse, Sofie Decock, and Nicolas Ruytenbeek
    2021 “Linguistic (in)directness in twitter complaints: A contrastive analysis of railway complaint interactions.” Journal of Pragmatics1711: 215–233. 10.1016/j.pragma.2020.09.026
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2020.09.026 [Google Scholar]
  9. Drew, Paul
    1998 “Complaints about transgressions and misconduct.” Research on language and social Interaction31(3): 295–325. 10.1080/08351813.1998.9683595
    https://doi.org/10.1080/08351813.1998.9683595 [Google Scholar]
  10. Du, Jinwei
    1995 “Performance of face-threatening acts in Chinese: Complaining, giving bad news and disagreeing.” InPragmatics of Chinese as native and target language, ed. byGabriele Kasper, 165–206. Honolulu: University of Hawaii, Second Language Teaching and Curriculum Center.
    [Google Scholar]
  11. Eggins, Suzanne, and Diana Slade
    1997Analyzing causal conversation. London: Equinox
    [Google Scholar]
  12. Emerson, Robert, and Sheldon Messinger
    1977 The micro-politics of trouble. Social Problem251: 121–134. 10.2307/800289
    https://doi.org/10.2307/800289 [Google Scholar]
  13. Eisenlauer, Volker
    2013 “A critical hypertext analysis of social media – The true colours of Facebook.” London and New York, N.Y.: Continuum.
    [Google Scholar]
  14. Frank, Jane
    1990 “You call that a rhetorical question? Forms and functions of rhetorical questions in conversation.” Journal of Pragmatics14(5): 723–738. 10.1016/0378‑2166(90)90003‑V
    https://doi.org/10.1016/0378-2166(90)90003-V [Google Scholar]
  15. Frobenius, Maximiliane, Volker Eisenlauer, and Cornelia Gerhardt
    2014 “Participation framework revisited: (new) media and their audiences/users.” Journal of Pragmatics721: 1–4. 10.1016/j.pragma.2014.08.011
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2014.08.011 [Google Scholar]
  16. Garcés-Conejos Blitvich, Pilar
    2015 “Setting the linguistics research agenda for the e-service encounters genre: natively digital versus digitized perspectives.” InA Multidisciplinary Approach to Service Encounters, ed. byMaría de la O. Hernández-López and Lucía Fernández-Amaya, 13–36. Leiden: Brill.
    [Google Scholar]
  17. Hardaker, Claire, and Mark McGlashan
    2016 “‛Real men don’t hate women’: Twitter rape threats and group identity.” Journal of Pragmatics911: 80–93. 10.1016/j.pragma.2015.11.005
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2015.11.005 [Google Scholar]
  18. Heinemann, Trine, and Véronique Traverso
    2009 “Complaining in interaction.” Journal of Pragmatics121: 2381–2384. 10.1016/j.pragma.2008.10.006
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2008.10.006 [Google Scholar]
  19. Hennig-Thurau, Thorsten, Kevin Gwinner, Gianfranco Walsh, and Dwayne Gremler
    2004 “Electronic word-of-mouth via consumer-opinion platforms: What motivates consumers to articulate themselves on the Internet?” Journal of Interactive Marketing18(1): 38–52. 10.1002/dir.10073
    https://doi.org/10.1002/dir.10073 [Google Scholar]
  20. House, Juliane, and Gabriele Kasper
    1981 “Politeness markers in English and German.” InConversational Routine, ed. byFlorian Coulmas, 157–185. The Hague: Mouton. 10.1515/9783110809145.157
    https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110809145.157 [Google Scholar]
  21. Ilie, Cornelia
    1994What else can I tell you? A pragmatic study of English rhetorical questions as discourse and argumentative acts. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell International. (Stockholm Studies in English 72)
    [Google Scholar]
  22. Koshik, Irene
    2005Beyond rhetorical questions: Assertive questions in everyday interaction. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 10.1075/sidag.16
    https://doi.org/10.1075/sidag.16 [Google Scholar]
  23. Li Ping, Zheng Shutang, and Yang Xiaohu
    2006 “Factors affecting the degrees of severity in the realization of the speech act of complaint.” Foreign language teaching and research38(1): 56–61.
    [Google Scholar]
  24. Markus, Hazel, and Shinobu Kitayama
    1991 Culture and the self: Implications for cognition, emotion, and motivation. Psychological Review981, 224–253. 10.1037/0033‑295X.98.2.224
    https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-295X.98.2.224 [Google Scholar]
  25. Marley, Carol
    2002 “Popping the question: Questions and modality in written dating advertisements.” Discourse Studies4(1): 75–98. 10.1177/14614456020040010401
    https://doi.org/10.1177/14614456020040010401 [Google Scholar]
  26. Meinl, Marja
    2014Electronic complaints: An empirical study on British English and German complaints on eBay. Berlin: Frank & Timme.
    [Google Scholar]
  27. Marquez-Reiter, Rosina
    2005 “Complaint Calls to a Caregiver Company: The case of desahogo.” Intercultural Pragmatics2(4): 281–513.
    [Google Scholar]
  28. Monzoni, Chiara
    2009 “Direct complaints in (Italian) calls to the ambulance: The use of negatively framed questions.” Journal of Pragmatics411: 2465–2478. 10.1016/j.pragma.2008.09.042
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2008.09.042 [Google Scholar]
  29. Mulamba, Kashama
    2009 “Social beliefs for the realization of the speech acts of apology and complaint as defined in Ciluba, French and English.” Pragmatics191: 543–564.
    [Google Scholar]
  30. Murphy, Beth, and Joyce Neu
    1996 “My grade’s too low: the speech act set of complaining.” InSpeech acts across cultures, ed. bySusan M. Gass and Joyce Neu, 191–216. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
    [Google Scholar]
  31. Olshtain, Elite, and Liora Weinbach
    1987 “Complaints: A study of speech act behavior among native and nonnative speakers of Hebrew.” InThe pragmatic perspective: Selected papers from the 1985 International Pragmatics Conference, ed. byJef Verschueren and Marcella Bertuccelli Papi, 195–208. Amsterdam: Benjamins. 10.1075/pbcs.5.15ols
    https://doi.org/10.1075/pbcs.5.15ols [Google Scholar]
  32. 1993 Interlanguage features of the speech act of complaining. InInterlanguage pragmatics, ed. byGabriele Kasper and Shoshana Blum-Kulka, 108–137. New York: Oxford University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  33. Rasekh, Zoreh Eslami
    2004 Face-keeping strategies in reaction to complaints: English and Persian. Journal of Asian Pacific Communication14(1): 181–197.
    [Google Scholar]
  34. Ren, Wei
    2018 Mitigation in Chinese online consumer reviews. Discourse, Context & Media261: 5–12. 10.1016/j.dcm.2018.01.001
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dcm.2018.01.001 [Google Scholar]
  35. Ruytenbeek, Nicolas, Marie Verschraegen, and Sofie Decock
    2021 “Exploring the impact of platforms’ affordances on the expression of negativity in online hotel reviews.“ Journal of Pragmatics1861: 289–307. 10.1016/j.pragma.2021.10.004
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2021.10.004 [Google Scholar]
  36. Tatsuki, Donna
    2000 “If my complaints could passions move: An interlanguage study of aggression.” Journal of Pragmatics32(7): 1003–1017. 10.1016/S0378‑2166(99)00076‑4
    https://doi.org/10.1016/S0378-2166(99)00076-4 [Google Scholar]
  37. Thurlow, Crispin, and Kristine Mroczek
    2011Digital discourse: Language in the new media. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199795437.001.0001
    https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199795437.001.0001 [Google Scholar]
  38. Trosborg, Anna
    1995Interlanguage pragmatics. Requests, complaints and apologies. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. 10.1515/9783110885286
    https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110885286 [Google Scholar]
  39. Van Herck, Rebecca, Sofie Decock, and Bernard De Clerck
    2020 “‘Can you send us a PM please?’ Service recovery interactions on social media from the perspective of organizational legitimacy.” Discourse, Context & Media381, 100445. 10.1016/j.dcm.2020.100445
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dcm.2020.100445 [Google Scholar]
  40. Vásquez, Camilla
    2011 “Complaints online: The case of TripAdvisor.” Journal of Pragmatics431: 4307–4317. 10.1016/j.pragma.2010.11.007
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2010.11.007 [Google Scholar]
  41. Vladimirou, Dimitra, Juliane House, and Daniel Kadar
    2021 “Aggressive complaining on Social Media: The case of #MuckyMerton.” Journal of Pragmatics1771: 51–64. 10.1016/j.pragma.2021.01.017
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2021.01.017 [Google Scholar]
  42. Wang, Xiaolei, Ronan Bernas, and Philippe Eberhard
    2011 “When a Lie Is Not a Lie: Understanding Chinese Working-Class Mothers’ Moral Teaching and Moral Conduct.” Social Development21(1): 68–87. 10.1111/j.1467‑9507.2011.00619.x
    https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9507.2011.00619.x [Google Scholar]
  43. Wang, Jinjun
    2006 Questions and the exercise of power. Discourse & Society17(4): 529–548. 10.1177/0957926506063127
    https://doi.org/10.1177/0957926506063127 [Google Scholar]
  44. Wang, Jinni, and Li Lin
    2015 “Comparative Study on Online Shopping Complaints and the Directness and Severity Levels of Complaint Response Realizations in China and America.” Journal of Guiyang University10(3): 88–91.
    [Google Scholar]
  45. Zhang, De
    2001 The speech act of complaining: a cross-cultural comparative study of Chinese and American English speakers. Thesis, Iowa State University.
    [Google Scholar]
  46. Zhang, Huifang, and Gu Xinyu
    2013 “A Comparative Study of Expression of dissatisfaction between the Chinese and Japanese: The case on online negative evaluation.” Journal of Xi’an International Studies University21(4): 41–44.
    [Google Scholar]
  47. Zhu, Xiaoshu
    2008 “Comparison of complaints between Chinese and American students.” Journal of Xi’an International Studies University16(1): 51–55.
    [Google Scholar]

Data & Media loading...

  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): context; cultural comparison; face; online complaints; speech act
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was successful
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error