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Indirect Complaints in Japanese and English


This paper looks at indirect complaints in Japanese and English from a conversational analysis perspective. It is a study of 83 indirect complaints from Japanese and English conversations. In section one, I will discuss how complainers deal with the negativity that is associated with indirect complaints. Issues of face and self-presentation will be discussed. Section two examines the role that the non-affected party of a complaint has in the construction of complaints. It looks at their responses as well as other ways in which they contribute to complaints. I will talk also about conversational preference in section two and will look at what happens when multiple preferences in regards to responses to complaints are at variance with each other. Furthermore, I will discuss how knowledge functions in indirect complaints. Section three focuses on how complaints are not limited to one complainer or one complaint at a time. Complaints may consist of multiple complainers. Furthermore, separate but related complaints may occur simultaneously or in succession. In the final section, I will talk about the function of complaints and explore how complaints do conversational work beyond venting frustrations. It will be seen that though complaining in itself is an action, other actions can be performed as well when complaining.

Some of the general findings of this dissertation are as follows. Indirect complaints are the result of co-construction between the parties involved and their outcome is highly subject to negotiation between these parties. Both complainers and addressees may adjust their tone and stance as they negotiate the complaint. Furthermore, this study reveals how indirect complaints fit within the scheme of negative and positive conversational acts. While speakers approach complaints as if they are doing a negative conversational act, complaints are actively pursued by speakers as they have positive aspects as well. Finally this dissertation shows that interpretation stands as an integral part of the construction of complaints. While a particular speech phenomenon may consistently appear in the context of complaints, the function of that phenomenon may vary greatly from complaint to complaint and is subject to interpretation.

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