The Use of Disagreement Strategies on Chinese Forums: Comparing Hong Kong and Mainland China

Yike Yang

Research output: Chapter in book / Conference proceedingConference article published in proceeding or bookAcademic researchpeer-review


Disagreement refers to the expression of a different view from that of a previous interlocutor. Prior research on disagreement has mainly focused on its negative impact and has consequently suggested that disagreement should be avoided in communication. Regarded as a negative speech act, disagreement is rarely studied in computer-mediated communication, particularly in the Chinese context. Adopting the interactional approach, this project pioneers the investigation of how disagreement strategies are used on online forums in Hong Kong and Mainland China, in hopes of providing insights into a better understanding of disagreement in the Chinese online context and shedding light on politeness theory in intercultural communication among Chinese people. One popular forum from each region was chosen and two threads with similar topics were selected, from which four hundred comments (two hundred per thread) were collected and annotated for further analysis. The data annotation framework, which is based on previous studies and our own data, consists of the following five strategies of disagreement: 1) giving facts; 2) giving negative comments; 3) giving opposite opinions; 4) making ironic statements; and 5) raising questions. Our results show that, instead of being a face-threating act, disagreement maintained and enhanced the interlocutors’ face and advanced the communication of information within each thread. Moreover, the distribution patterns of disagreement strategies were similar on the two forums, but there were significantly more disagreement tokens and negative comments on the Hong Kong forum. This divergence is interpreted as resulting from the different degrees of collectivism-individualism in the two regions, the Internet censorship in Mainland China, and the nature of the two forums selected. Directions for future research are provided to confirm the proposed explanations.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe 2018 International Conference on Bilingual Learning and Teaching
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2018


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