Publication details [#67347]

Jiang, Xiaoming and Xiaolin Zhou. 2015. Impoliteness electrified: ERPs reveal the real time processing of disrespectful reference in Mandarin utterance comprehension. In Terkourafi, Marina, ed. Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Im/politeness. (AILA Applied Linguistics Series 14). John Benjamins. pp. 239–266.
Publication type
Article in book
Publication language
Language as a subject


This chapter introduced an event-related potentials (ERPs) experiment that addressed how the disrespectful use of second-person pronoun was processed during online Mandarin utterance comprehension. The consistency between the social status of the addressee and the use of the second-person pronoun was manipulated such that the status of the addressee was either congruent (respectful) or incongruent (disrespectful) with the plainful form of the pronoun ("Ni-de" in Beijing dialect). As compared with the congruent pronoun, the incongruent pronoun elicited an increased N400 which was followed by an increased negativity. Such finding was consistent with the hypothesis that the human cognitive system handles the disrespectful address by engaging a semantic-pragmatic mechanism, instead of treating it as a grammatical error. The individual differences, such as the perceiver's tolerance of the disrespectful use, gender, and social interactive ability, modulated the occurrence and the polarity of the ERP responses. These findings may be accommodated in the conventionalization view in im/politeness theory.