Compliments and compliment responses in Kunming Chinese

Yi Yuan

Abstract

This article describes the way compliments and compliment responses are executed in Kunming Chinese, a Mandarin dialect spoken in Kunming, China. By looking at data collected through DCT questionnaires and natural observations, the author examines the semantic formulas used in forming compliments and compliment responses and the syntactic patterns of compliments in the two types of data. It is found that explicit compliments are the most common form of complimenting in the dialect. Implicit compliments, on the other hand, are much rarer and tend to occur by themselves. Syntactically, over 90% of the compliments fall into one of 4 syntactic structures paid through the third person/impersonal or second person perspectives. In replying to a compliment, speakers of Kunming Chinese are found to be drifting away from the tradition of rejecting compliments outright. They are more willing to accept compliments now although often indirectly. A quarter of the time, in real life situations, they just smile away a compliment they receive. While the DCT data and natural data are similar in the use of a majority of the semantic formulas, some differences are also found between the two types of data. Some methodological and cross-cultural implications are discussed at the end of the article.

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