Chapter published in:Questioning and Answering Practices across Contexts and Cultures
Edited by Cornelia Ilie
[Pragmatics & Beyond New Series 323] 2021
► pp. 285–312
Question–answer sequences in Japanese first encounters
Wishing to get to know new persons vs. dispreferred behavior of asking questions
The aim of this investigation is to examine the relationship between information-eliciting questions and their corresponding answers that occur in first encounters between male interlocutors in a Japanese semi-formal academic context. This topic acquires a special significance in the context of Japanese culture, where asking questions is regarded as dispreferred verbal behavior. Five types of constraints on initiating question-based conversations in a Japanese social-cultural context have been identified: (i) questions may compel the recipient to speak; (ii) questions may invade the recipient’s personal territory; (iii) questions may reveal conflict between interlocutors; (iv) questions may interrupt someone’s ongoing talk; and (v) questions may reveal the respondent’s inability to answer. The analysis points to a paradox regarding the discursive behaviour of Japanese males: they show a desire to get acquainted with each other, while at the same time they are reluctant to ask questions which might cause uncomfortable feelings.
Keywords: question, answer, sociocultural background, Japanese, male, first encounters, dispreferred behavior, personal territory, social etiquette
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