Politeness as signs of difference: Semiotic differentiation and identity among Taiwanese in China

Hsi Yao Su*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study examines a prevalent discourse on Taiwanese politeness as part and parcel of identity and ideological work among Taiwanese residing in China. Using as data spontaneous discussions about politeness in interviews and online forum posts that evaluate politeness, this study explores how politeness is taken up as a sign to index Taiwan–China differences and how identity is simultaneously constructed throughout this ideological work, focusing on the succession of semiotic differentiations within or across talks and texts. Throughout this process, various qualitative contrasts are made and grouped by the soft/hard schema, and differentiation between Taiwan and China is constructed. The study also considers relevant historical and social conditions and explores how the complex Taiwan–China relations may give rise to the prevalence of such a discourse.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)66-86
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Sociolinguistics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2023 Feb


  • Taiwan–China relations
  • identity
  • language ideology
  • metapragmatics
  • politeness
  • semiotics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Philosophy
  • Linguistics and Language
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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