This paper investigates cross-cultural variation in the perception of impoliteness.
It is based on 500 impoliteness events reported by students in England, China, Finland, Germany, and Turkey. The main analytical framework adopted is Spencer-Oatey’s (e.g. 2000) “rapport management,” covering various types of face as well as sociality rights. We offer some clarifications of this framework, and explain and demonstrate how it can be operationalized for
quantitative analysis. In general, it offers a good account of our data, though accommodating ambiguous cases proved to be a major challenge. Our quantitative analysis suggests that three of the five categories of Spencer-Oatey’s framework are key ones, namely, quality face, equity rights, and association rights. Furthermore, differences between our geographically separated datasets emerge. For example, the England-based data has a preponderance of impoliteness events in which quality face is violated, whereas the China-based data has a preponderance where equity rights are violated. We offer some explanations for these differences, relating them where possible to broader cultural issues.