He, Yun (2011) Constructing group identity through politeness strategies in dinner party conversations. In: 12th International Pragmatics Conference, 3rd - 8th July 2011, Manchester, UK. (Unpublished)

In the Chinese cultural context, dinner parties have been identified as an ideal venue to observe the dynamic ways in which mianzi or face is discursively enacted and negotiated in daily interaction (see e.g., Chen 1990). And recent studies (e.g., Spencer-Oatey 2007) show that scholars interested in the field of identity and researchers with a bent towards face and politeness can benefit from a greater cross fertilization. Yet, a cursory review of relevant literature shows that previous studies overwhelmingly explore the interrelationship between face and identity in the context of intercultural communication (e.g., Imahori and Cupach 2005, Ting-Toomey 2005). Moreover, the existing literature seems to be more concerned with social identities such as gender, ethnicity, race, etc. which have enjoyed a substantial history of academic interest. Comparatively, much less attention has been given to the research on identity which is discursively constructed in the course of interaction in intracultural settings. This paper therefore examines the interaction between doing facework and construction of group identity in the social event of dinner parties among native speakers of Chinese. It focuses on the ways in which a special group identity is constructed by participants of multiparty conversations at table in Mainland China.
The paper is based on a corpus of approximately 30 hours of audio-recorded spontaneous naturally occurring conversations and follow-up interviews.Applying such notions as membership categorization (Sacks 1992) and self-categorization (Tajfel 2010[1982], Turner et al 1987), I argue that a group identity is being constructed in the course of conversation over dinner. I maintain that although linguistic resources at the participants’ disposal may differ, they are generally all concerted in their efforts to establish an in-group identity by creating a congenial social atmosphere. I show that such an identity is dynamically constructed in the conversation by building a harmonious interpersonal relationship. And for this purpose, a wide range of politeness strategies such as complimenting, congratulating, addressing, laughing, and joking are frequently employed by the participants.
This paper is hoped to extend our understanding of politeness as a social phenomenon and the construction of identity through politeness strategies. It concludes by outlining the implications for the way that findings in politeness research can inform research on social identity.

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