First Advisor

Suwako Watanabe

Date of Publication

Spring 1-1-2012

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in Japanese


World Languages and Literatures




Compliment topic, Self-praise avoidance, Speech act, Language and languages -- Usage, Speech acts (Linguistics), Japanese language -- Discourse analysis, English language -- Discourse analysis, Compliments -- Usage



Physical Description

1 online resource (viii, 87 p.) : ill.


This study examines the role of compliment topic by analyzing compliment responses by Japanese and American college students. Compliment responses can be seen as solutions for maintaining a balance between (1) a preference to avoid self-praise and (2) a preference to accept or agree with the compliment (Pomerantz 1978). Building on studies showing that response strategies can be influenced by compliment content and context, the study analyzed responses to compliments on ability, achievement, belongings, appearance, and personal characteristics by determining the subjects' choice of response strategy--categorized as acceptance, avoidance, or rejection--for each compliment topic. Compliment responses were elicited in a recorded, free-flowing conversation by the researcher or the English-speaking research assistant's issuing of compliments on traits of the participants based on information collected prior to the conversation by e-mail. Compliments were subtly dispersed throughout the conversation. Each compliment response was coded according to whether the overall response accepted, avoided, or rejected the credit attributed by the compliment, while the component parts of each response were coded by semantic formulas. The American group accepted compliments more often than the Japanese group and the Japanese group avoided and rejected compliments more often than the English group. But, contrary to a commonly held belief, the Japanese speakers did not overwhelmingly reject compliments, and instead used all three response types with a substantial frequency. The American participants overwhelmingly accepted compliments and almost never rejected compliments, but avoidance strategies were also commonly observed and should not be overlooked in the discussion of American English compliment response patterns. Furthermore, the study found relations between the content and structure of compliment responses and the type of compliment topic. Overall response strategies varied relative to compliment topic, as compliments on personal appearance were overwhelmingly rejected or avoided by both groups while those on belongings were largely accepted by both groups. Some response structures were also unique to a type of compliment topic, including the use of "wa" as a limit on the credit accepted in response to compliments on achievements or the use of "`a' + gratitude" as a means of demonstrating modesty in response to compliments on belongings.


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Portland State University. Dept .of World Languages and Literatures

Persistent Identifier