The metapragmatics of Taiwanese (im)politeness: Conceptualization and evaluation of limao

Hsi Yao Su*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


In line with the recent waves of (im)politeness research that draw attention to the evaluativity and reflexivity of (im)politeness, this study explores the metapragmatics of (im)politeness as revealed by Taiwanese currently living in China, who are positioned in a cross-cultural setting where discourses concerning (im)politeness often surface. Adopting Kádár and Haugh's (2013) categorization of metapragmatic awareness, this study focuses on how politeness, or limao, is defined and conceptualized and how Taiwanese assess certain acts as polite or impolite. Analysis of questionnaire responses and online forum data reveals that zunzhong ‘respect’, titie ‘consideration’, and zilű ‘self-regulation’ are the most dominant conceptual categories associated with Taiwanese limao, which, in turn, are connected with an array of evaluations of (im)politeness-related behaviors. The contemporary, emic conceptualization of Taiwanese limao shows some difference in emphasis from the scholarly conceptualization of Chinese limao in previous literature, which might be due to the discursive salience of respect and attentiveness to interpersonal boundaries embedded in the modern political agenda. The current study reveals not only how limao is contemporarily conceptualized and evaluated, and how the metalinguistic conceptualization and the metacommunicative evaluations are deeply connected, but also how these conceptualizations and evaluations are situated at a particular socio-historical moment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)26-43
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Jul


  • (im)politeness
  • Chinese
  • Metacommunication
  • Metalanguage
  • Metapragmatics
  • Taiwanese

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence


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