Kádár, Daniel Z. (2004) The Powerful and the Powerless - A socio-pragmatic analysis of Chinese polite self-denigrating/speech-partner-elevating addressing. In: XVth Biennial Conference of the European Association of Chinese Studies (EACS), 25th-29th August 2004, Heidelberg, Germany.
Abstract

The aim of this presentation is to discuss a socio-pragmatically relevant and unstudied property of the Chinese polite self-denigration and speech-partner-elevation system, that how the whole vocabulary of denigrating/elevating address terms can be categorized. The question is, how many significant social groups existed in the pre-modern China which had their own self-denigrating terminology as speakers, and other-elevating-terminology as hearers.
It is known in general that some of the social groups used to have an independent vocabulary of denigrating/elevating terms. It is clear that some of the major groups, like the officials, possessed an independent denigrating/elevating terminology, but it is a problem that not only the minor but also even some of the major social groups, such as the peasants or the merchants, did not have any kind of specific terminology, i.e. the social distribution of Chinese polite elevating/denigrating terms seems to be unsystematic.
The analysis will show that it is the so-called 'power' semantic – the linguistic manifestation of social power – what formed the socio-pragmatic system of polite denigrating/elevating addressing. It will be discussed that - according to their elevation/denigration use - every Chinese social group can be categorised into one of three major groups, so a concrete socio-pragmatic system of polite elevation/denigration exists. The speech-partner-elevation and self-denigration implicated within and without these groups is controlled by the 'power' semantic. And the whole denigration/elevation terminology can be ranged into these three groups.
As a conclusion, a model of the socio-pragmatic system of polite elevation/denigration will be created.

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