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A Pragmatic Study of Strategies for Conflict in Mandarin Chinese
Verbal conflicts could emerge as diurnal discourse between strangers, classmates, coworkers and even family members around us in life. The strategies in their interactions involving issues of social distance and social power serve the motive of the present study, especially in discourse between intimates and acquaintances. The study investigated fifty-six Taiwanese aged 25 or over with working experiences, including 28 males and 28 females. They participated in the Discourse Completion Tests and answered open-end questions in ten threatening scenarios. The analysis of the participants’ responses indicate that the strategy of threat is relatively frequent for Taiwanese respondents in interaction with intimates, implying that the intention of threatening is related to affection and parenting. Besides, the interaction effect of social distance and social power greatly determines the choice of strategy. Accordingly, there is a distinct tendency for opposition between intimates and acquaintances. As the threatenee is with high social power, the results of intimates present high frequency of threatening, while the results of acquaintances are inclined to make request and indirect request in conflicts. By contrast, as the threatenee is with low social power, there is little likelihood for the respondent to use threats; instead, milder strategies such as compliance, request, indirect request, plea and apology are favored by intimates and acquaintances. Last, the gender-specific strategies are context-dependent. Males tend to adopt aggressive strategies, whereas females prefer milder strategies in interaction with intimates, which is specifically conspicuous as they possess high social power. However, the preferred strategy in the workplace setting is consistent for both groups. In general, the study suggests that there is an intricate relation among power, distance and gender in the speech act of threatening in conflict discourse.
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