Mianzi/lian: Chinese notions of face

Ling ZhouShaojie Zhang
Northeast Normal University, Changchun
Table of contents

Face in Chinese is semantically and pragmatically different from its counterpart in English. Semantically, it is encoded by the two terms of mianzi and lian, and pragmatically, it is represented as either mianzi or lian with various meanings depending on the situation in which it is involved. In Chinese, there are a great variety of explicit expressions of mianzi and lian, for example, “have mianzi/lian”, “lose mianzi/lian”, “don’t want mianzi/lian”, or “give mianzi/lian”, which are often used in social interaction, just to mention a few. Apart from mianzi and lian as the primary terms, there are a good many secondary terms used for face in Chinese, such as guangcai, zhengqi, diuren and the like, which can be equivalents of mianzi or lian in specific situations.

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