Purdue University Graduate School
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Pragmatic Analysis of Compliment Responses by Gen-Z: Focusing on differences between Japanese and American women and the gender of the complimenter

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posted on 2024-05-15, 12:35 authored by Hitomi KuritaHitomi Kurita

In many Japanese language textbooks and classes, instruction often advocates for responding to compliments with modesty, typically through a negative response. However, previous research by Tatsumi (2013), Shimizu (2007), Terao (1996), and Hirata (1999) suggests that Japanese individuals do not exclusively rely on negative responses when receiving compliments. Moreover, prior studies have predominantly examined the gender of the recipient of the compliment, overlooking the significance of the gender of the person giving compliments. With respect to the topic of compliment responses, previous research has found the following two points. First, Holmes (1988), Herbert (1990), and Matsuura (2004) found that compliment exchanges frequently occur among the younger generation. Second, Itoi (1999), Shimizu (2017) Takamiya (2022) and, Ang (2023) found that the compliments among younger generations are likely to be accepted.

This study aims to investigate potential differences in compliment responses between Japanese and American women who fall into Generation Z, while also considering the influence of both the gender of the person giving the compliments and the topic of the compliments. A survey was conducted involving 30 Japanese women residing in Japan and 32 American females living in the U.S. Participants submitted their responses online, using either Japanese or English, their native languages. These responses were elicited as reactions to scenarios wherein they received compliments, accompanied by written explanations for their responses.

The compliments were given by classmates with a relationship of acquaintance who were not yet close, with variations in the gender of the complimenter (male vs. female) and the type of compliment (appearance vs. skill), totaling four distinct scenarios. Their responses were recorded both orally and through written response to share intention. On top of these records, analysis required taking into account the tone of voice and nonverbal cues such as pauses, and hesitations when analyzing and discussing the impact of the complimenter’s gender and the topic of the compliment on the response. Study results show that almost all the compliments were accepted with appreciation by both American and Japanese participants with no difference observed in macro strategies and minimal differences observed in micro strategies. However, this lack of difference is discussed as evident of global influences on pragmatics of different cultures. The findings of this study have implications for communication strategies related to compliments and for pragmatic instruction in teaching Japanese as a second/foreign language.


Degree Type

  • Master of Arts


  • Languages and Cultures

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Dr. Atsushi Fukada

Additional Committee Member 2

Dr. Mariko Wei

Additional Committee Member 3

Dr. Lori Czerwionka

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