Politeness in institutional elderly care in Japan: A cross-cultural comparison

Peter Backhaus*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)


This paper looks at communication between staff and residents in a Japanese elderly care facility. It discusses the role of politeness in this special type of health care setting from a cross-cultural perspective. Starting with a review of previous literature on the topic, some basic characteristics of communication between staff and residents in nursing homes are outlined. The overall conditions that apply in the caring context with regard to linguistic politeness are described on the basis of Brown and Levinson's framework. The main part of the paper presents speech data from a Japanese nursing home, analyzed in direct comparison with data from other cultural contexts. In so doing, an attempt is made to outline some common communicative features in institutional elderly care. The summarizing discussion focuses on the question of whether the special conditions of institutional elderly care may indeed generate very similar types ofcommunica-tion across different cultural settings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-71
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Politeness Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Compliments
  • Gerontolinguistics
  • Institutional elderly care
  • Japan
  • Joking
  • Politeness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Communication
  • Linguistics and Language


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