First Advisor

Suwako Watanabe

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in Japanese


World Languages and Literatures




Cooperative principle, Institutional talk, Semantic formulas, Customer services -- Social aspects -- United States -- Cross-cultural studies, Customer services -- Social aspects -- Japan -- Cross-cultural studies, Speech acts (Linguistics) -- Cross-cultural studies, Politeness (Linguistics) -- United States -- Cross-cultural studies, Politeness (Linguistics) -- Japan -- Cross-cultural studies



Physical Description

1 online resource (vii, 131 p.) : ill.


This study examines how people compensate for their inability to accommodate the needs of others in service encounters. Being unable to meet others' needs violates the positive face of one of the participants in a discourse. Many previous studies on speech acts demonstrate how people control their utterances to avoid causing a face-threatening act. However, the language behavior that follows a face-threatening act has not yet received much focus. This paper looks at two different kinds of data in Japan and the United State (hereafter "U.S.") using two different approaches: observation and role-play. In the first, the observational phase, the author acted as a customer in several convenience stores in Japan and asked for an item that they did not carry. In the U.S., a native English speaker interacted with the salesclerk as the customer. (No recording device was used in either situation.) All exchanges were immediately recorded by hand and later coded by semantic formulas. In the second, the role-play phase, native speakers were asked to role-play a parallel situation in which they acted as a salesclerk and had to react to not being able to satisfy customers' requests. The results demonstrate that Japanese sales clerks compensate in the face of their inability to meet another's need (they avoid a direct face-threatening act) whereas most U.S. sales clerks do not attempt to compensate for their inability. These behaviors correlate with social expectations of the participants within both respective service encounters. Moreover, the results also suggest a re-thinking of speech acts and emphasize the importance of natural data.


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Portland State University. Dept. of World Languages and Literatures

Persistent Identifier