Is the Singaporean Chinese Woman More Polite than her Male Counterpart? A Study of Politeness Patterns in Verbal Behaviour

Koh Lily

English Language Honours AE, NIE, 1998


    This Academic Exercise aims to ascertain whether the Singaporean Chinese female in the 15-30 age range is more polite than her male counterpart, according to the notions of polite verbal behaviour of the relevant community. This paper begins by introducing the framework of politeness theories, notably Leech's and Brown and Levinson's, which form the basis of the data analysis. The Difference and Dominace Approaches are also presented to account for the varying politeness levels and patterns. A questionnaire-cum-discourse completion test (generally based on Leech's Politeness Maxims) is used to elicit data on the parameters of Singaporean Chinese politeness, especially realised in the English language. Based on this, four areas are selected for further investigation: thanking, apologising, generousity and modesty. The results show that females are marginally more polite than the males, although the differences are only statistically significant in the case of modesty. The level of politeness displayed in same-sex or mixed-sex dyads depends on sociocultural factors like gender roles or stereotypes. However, the finding of the highest level of politeness occuring in female-female interaction remains constant.