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Compliment responses in Hong Kong: An application of Leech’s Pragmatics of Politeness

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>26/10/2021
<mark>Journal</mark>Text and Talk
Issue number5-6
Number of pages24
Pages (from-to)667-690
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date23/08/21
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This paper focusses on compliment responses in the context of group undergraduate student projects, in a university in Hong Kong. It applies Geoffrey Leech’s model of politeness. Although less well known than some other politeness models, it has proved relatively popular in studies of compliment responses, which are often said to involve a clash between the Maxim of Agreement (achieved by agreeing with the complimenter) and the Maxim of Modesty (achieved by mitigating the compliment, thereby disagreeing with the complimenter). This study deploys Leech’s most recent work on politeness in the study of compliment responses. Using an innovative variant of the discourse completion task adapted to WhatsApp to collect text messages and metapragmatic comments from undergraduate students in Hong Kong on their messages, it reveals that acceptance strategies are overwhelmingly the most frequent type. This finding adds to the small body of work on compliment responses in Hong Kong cultures, and, more generally, to cross-cultural pragmatics studies on compliment responses. However, the interpretation of this result needs to attend to the detail. The key specific acceptance strategy in our data is the expression of gratitude, and this, we argue, is best accounted for through the Maxim of Obligation, a maxim proposed in Leech’s more recent work.