Disagreeing without a ‘no’: How teachers indicate disagreement in a Hong Kong classroom

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10 Citations (Scopus)


In traditional politeness theories, disagreements are face threatening acts, regarded as dispreferred options from a conversation analysis approach. However, in the classroom context, specifically in Language Education, it is often necessary for teachers to disagree with students. Previous studies of classroom disagreement have shown that teachers use linguistic markers to mitigate the face threat inherent in disagreements. In Hong Kong, we would also expect a significant use of mitigating lexical strategies as Asian cultures are typically regarded as being conflict-avoiding. However, as hand gestures and head movements have been observed to accompany negative linguistic markers to stress the lexical or pragmatic meaning of the utterance, they could be an alternative modality to communicate disagreement in the Hong Kong classroom. This study analyzed teacher disagreements in 10 h of Language Education classroom teaching in a Hong Kong higher education institution. The results suggest that disagreements are indeed dispreferred options in this particular context and that the salience of the act itself is minimized by avoiding negative gestures or head movements. As this behavior was observed among all teachers who disagreed, it is proposed that this behavior has been conventionalized within this community of practice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2018


  • Classroom
  • Conventionalized politeness
  • Disagreement
  • Gestures
  • Head movements

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence


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