Manifesting Politeness in Children Cross-Culturally

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Rebekah Wong


This paper was originally written for Trevor Block’s Linguistics 350 course, First Language Acquisition. The assignment asked students to write a literature review on any topic within first language acquisition with sections on background, relevant research, and a conclusion with implications for the field. The paper uses APA citation style.

Politeness manifests itself in many ways across different languages and cultures—whether it be non-verbal gestures such as bowing to show respect in Japanese, or verbal utterances of “please” and “thank you” in English. Yet, if politeness is more of a societal expectation than a fundamental necessity to communicate with others, then how do young children develop their language abilities and pragmatic knowledge to be polite? This literature review aims to provide a cross-cultural summary of politeness acquisition in children across a selection of first languages, namely English and Japanese. While the timeline of politeness acquisition is similar between English and Japanese, each language has its own intricacies in how politeness is learned among children.

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Plurilingual Prize Category (open to all undergrad students)