Volume 1995 (1995) Issue 108 Pages 24-45
"Golden Lotus" is one of the most remarkable Chinese novels that depicts the daily life of common Chinese citizens in the seventeenth century. This paper intends to demonstrate the relationship between theapplication of polite expressions in modern Chinese and other social factors such as social status, sex and age through the analysis of various different expressions of asking about the age in the novel.
First, all the thirty two cases of the speech act of asking about the age in the novel are enumerated and are categorized into eight types: 1.propositional content (ji sui). 2. propsitional content+fuzziness (duo da nian ji). 3. propositional content+fuzziness+metaphor (dou shao qing chun). 4. propositional content+elderliness(duo da nian ji). 5. propositional content+polite word(gui geng). 6. propositional content+polite word+senility (gao shou). 7. propositional content+metaphor+indirect speech act (qing wen•••duo da nian ji). 8. propositional content+metaphor+indirect speech act+negation(bu gan qing en•••qing chun duo shao).
Then, every speech act is analysed with regard to the social context, i.e. the social relationship between the speakers and hearers, and the people mentioned in the conversation in terms of their social status, sex and age. The result of this analysis indicates that eight types of expressions evidently correlate with some of these social factors. Types5-8 which imply a high degree of respect possess these notable features as follows:
1. Type 5 which contains "gui-" is mainly used to inquire about the age of those whose social status are higher than speaker's.
2. Type6which contains "gui-" used to inquire about the age of old people.
3.Type7and8which employ the indirect speech act are used to inquire about the age of women.