Could you pass the salt-juseyo? A Comparison of Politeness Strategies in American English and Korean

Verania Amaton, Kimberly Maynard, YueYan Kong, Yi Wang

BTS. Gangnam Style. K-dramas. Korean culture has been steadily making its way into the United States’ mainstream culture leading to more contact between the cultures and languages. Any fan of Korean media knows that Korean has built-in formality tiers, a tricky part for native speakers of English to master when learning Korean. But does the English language really lack levels of formality just because they aren’t built into its grammar? In this study, we look into alternate ways of expressing politeness in both American English and Korean. By looking at how speakers of both languages make requests, refusals, and apologies, we were able to find what types of strategies they use outside of the expected word choice and grammar. Based on our data, there are more similarities than one might expect in terms of how speakers of these languages use politeness strategies. Continue reading to learn more about how we approached a cross-cultural comparison of the politeness strategies in the U.S. English and Korean!

Figure 1 and 2: The TV series posters for Never Have I Ever, an American show, and Inheritors, a Korean drama.

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