The sequential organisation of gift offering and acceptance in Chinese

Hua Zhu*, Wei Li, Qian Yuan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


This paper reports on a study of gift offering and acceptance (G.O.A.) in the Chinese cultural context. We adopt the 'explore and discover' approach and its two associated principles - the principle of 'holism' which requires that issues concerning communication patterns of a specific group of people are not divorced from the historical development, social experience, cultural beliefs and values of that group generally; and the principle of 'emergence' which requires that we discover structures from empirical evidence rather than pre-assigning or imposing structures. 71 instances of G.O.A. have been recorded, using a specially designed observation sheet. The sequential structure of G.O.A. is analysed, and subsequently interpreted with reference to the Chinese notion of li. It is argued that the Chinese li differs significantly from the western concept of 'politeness' in both content and structure, which manifests itself in the act of G.O.A., and has far-reaching implications for intercultural communication.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-103
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
Issue number1
Early online date5 Apr 0200
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2000


  • Chinese
  • Gift offering and acceptance
  • Politeness
  • Sequential analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence


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