Acknowledging a debt of gratitude in Japanese persuasive discourse: an interpersonal pragmatic perspective

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper explores the construction of Japanese politeness, through consideration of 'on' (恩) or a debt of gratitude, in Japanese persuasive discourse. 'On' is considered a core Japanese cultural value, which forms a basis for morality, social norms and expectations in Japanese culture. Drawing on the discursive approaches to politeness which focus on a localised and context-focused form of analysis, the paper is an attempt to illustrate how the concept of 'on' is pragmatically exercised in the social interaction, and how it constructs the social relationship between the discourse participants through the speech act realisation. The analysis reveals that 'on' is a communicative norm that significantly contribute to ideological linguistic politeness in Japanese discourse. It is employed in conveying deference and respect, as well as demonstrating a sense of identification and relative social standings between the discourse participants, in order to realise the communicative goals. Demonstration of 'on', together with an appropriate use of honorifics in Japanese discourse, is considered a vital key in lubricating social interaction, minimising friction, and allowing a smooth communication flow.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)54-70
Number of pages17
JournalInternet journal of language, culture and society
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • politeness
  • discourse
  • Japanese
  • honorifics
  • benefactives


Dive into the research topics of 'Acknowledging a debt of gratitude in Japanese persuasive discourse: an interpersonal pragmatic perspective'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this