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Kinship term generalization as a cultural pragmatic strategy among Chinese graduate students

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A common Chinese addressing practice is to address non-kin people with kinship terms, a phenomenon sometimes described as ‘kinship term generalization’. Previous studies have mainly focused on the characteristics and functions of kinship term generalization, confined to certain specific generalized kinship terms (GKTs for short), and limited to GKTs in some Chinese dialects or certain Chinese literary works. The present study adopts the socio-pragmatic perspective to examine the phenomenon among Chinese graduate students, a social group not heeded in the literature. Based on the analysis of the data collected, we argue that Chinese graduate students’ varying use of GKTs in academic settings is a pragmatic strategy, characterized by the family-centered cultural values of the Chinese society. It is hoped that the present study at the intersection between pragmatics and sociolinguistics may enrich the study of address forms in general, and in particular of Chinese GKTs.

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Keywords: Chinese; academic setting; address forms; family-centered cultural values; generalized kinship terms (GKTs); socio-pragmatics

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 31, 2019

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