Macquarie University
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The pragmatics of face as a means of revealing Japanese student identities in the context of classroom English language learning

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posted on 2022-03-29, 00:42 authored by Joshua Alexander Kidd
Factors of face and identity influence the complex and dynamic ways in which individuals present themselves verbally and non-verbally during communicative exchanges. While face research has addressed issues such as the degree to which face is individual or relational, public or private, and situation-specific or context-independent, there has been a lack of attention to the central issue of its relationship to identity (Spencer-Oatey, 2007:639). This thesis explores the construction of student identities as revealed through the pragmatics of face in the context of second language classroom interaction between Japanese students and their non-Japanese English teacher. In exploring such interaction and its implication for identity construction, it draws extensively on the voices of students during retrospective interviews following English learning activities with a native-speaker teacher. Retrospective data is closely linked to the analysis of the classroom interactions themselves. Results of the analyses are then directed at the construction of an innovative language teacher development curriculum. Classroom recordings together with retrospective interviews with both teacher and students reveal specific points during learning activities when the students’ and their teacher’s interpretations of classroom communication deviate from the teacher’s communicative intentions. Such student feedback allows access to pervasive patterns of language use, attitudes, and behaviour from which an understanding of Japanese students’ perceptions of issues of face as impinging on their construct of identity begins to materialise. Analysis of the data, structured around four recurring themes, explores issues of cross-cultural pragmatic divergence from the perspective of the students in relation to; (a) peer collaboration, (b) characteristics of Japanese identities, (c) use of the mother tongue, and (d) recourse to, and the maintenance of silence. Such analysis of the classroom interaction and student reflection draws on the multi-dimensional construct of face duality proposed by Brown and Levinson (1978) combined with theories of politeness and face proposed by Japanese scholarship. Specifically, it draws on Hill et al.’s (1986) examination of volition and discernment in Japanese politeness, Haugh’s(2005) theory of place in relation to Japanese society, consisting of the dual concepts of the place one belongs (inclusion) and the place one stands (distinction), Ide’s (1989) theory of wakimae (discernment) politeness, and Matsumoto’s (1988) theory ofinterdependence. The results of the analysis of the data indicate how within the classroom context, even an experienced and well-intentioned English language teacher’s verbal and non-verbal interaction with students may, unintentionally, interfere with the students’ management of face and their enactment of their identities as students. Pedagogically, this thesis underscores the importance of building teachers’ and students’ mutual capacity to recognise and subsequently negotiate pragmatic meaning beyond the literal interpretation of what is said. In pursuit of such inquiry, the thesis provides an account of some detailed objectives for professional development for non-Japanese English language teachers at school level based in Japan, with the objective of encouraging such teachers to modify existing pedagogic practices so as to better meet students’ aspirations and needs.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction -- Chapter 2. English education in Japan -- Chapter 3. Pragmatics -- Chapter 4. Face/identity and politeness theory -- Chapter 5. Methodology and data collection -- Chapter 6. Overview of results and discussion -- Chapter 7. Face as managed through peer collaboration -- Chapter 8. Classroom acts of alignment to Japanese identities -- Chapter 9. Teacher use of Japanese in the English classroom -- Chapter 10. The right to silence : silence as an act of identity -- Chapter 11. Conclusions and implications.


Theoretical thesis. Bibliography: pages 546-579

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Human Sciences, Department of Linguistics

Department, Centre or School

Department of Linguistics

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Christopher N. Candlin

Additional Supervisor 1

Jill Catherine Murray


Copyright Joshua Alexander Kidd 2014. Copyright disclaimer:




1 online resource (xiv, 608pages)

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