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Concept of face:
There are many definitions of face. But in general, face is an image of self delineated in terms of approved social attributes. Goffman conceptualizes face as "the positive social value a person effectively claims for himself or herself by the line others assume he or she has taken during a particular contact." He also (1955) also argues that face can be lost, saved and/ or given. He (1967) further suggests two foci of face: self-face (one's own face) and other-face (other's face). One not only defends self-face but also protects other-face during interactions (as cited in "cross-cultural and interpersonal issues", Stella Ting- Toomey, p.49, 1994)
According to George Yule in "pragmatics" (1996), there are two types of face:
Negative face: a person joining in communication needs to be independent and has freedom of action. He or she does not want to be imposed on by others. (George (1996), p.61)
Positive face: a person joining in communication needs to be accepted even liked by others. He or she wants to be treated as a member of the same group, and to know that his or her wants are shared by others (George (1996), p.62)
"Culture is communication and communication is culture" (Hall, 1959).
Cross-cultural communication is communication (verbal and nonverbal) between people from different cultures; cultural values, belief, attitudes, etc has an impact on communication (as cited in "cross-cultural communication", Ho Thi My Hau, 2001). And we can realize cross-cultural communication on people through their reactions and responses to each other.
As James R. Silkena (2009) stated that "Face-saving may be defined as the act of preserving one's prestige or outward dignity" (p.154)
Face-saving is one of the ways to preserve politeness when people joining in conversation. As George Yule (1996) stated that "given the possibility that some action might be interpreted as a threat to another's face, the speaker can say something to lessen the possible threat. This is a face-saving act" (p.61)
Politeness is an act of awareness of other people's face. Brown and Levinson is two major representatives on politeness and when we talk about them we no doubt talk about their model's politeness that is considered as the greatest impact on language research in general and on intercultural communication in particular.
And according to Brown and Levinson, two main sides of politeness include positive politeness and negative politeness.
People joining communication want to be praised and respected.
a. How about lending me some money?
Hey, Bucky, I'd appreciate it if you'd let me borrow you money.
This kind of politeness is seen in every life and the speakers want the others to be pleased and glad. That can lead to be easy for every issue for both speakers and listeners.
In contrast to positive politeness, people joining communication want to be independent and not to be treated.
Could you lend me your money?
I'm sorry to bother you but can I ask you for your money?
Face saving act is more commonly performed via a negative politeness (George, p.64).
In conclusion, in Brown and Levinson's model the complement hope and self-control are the most fundamental force of politeness.
Face-saving function as politeness:
Face-saving has functions as politeness. People in communication consider preserving face-saving as one of politeness's issues. Face-saving is concerned all over the world. And it is a universal one; however, the characteristic of face-saving is so different through the world.
And that is reason why it is concerned as socio-norm view in our society. Preserving face-saving for ourselves and others plays an important role in preserving social relations among people. As a result, people avoid losing face while communicating with others.
Face-saving function as politeness:
Person engaging in communication tries to save his/ her face in front of the others. In this regard, the speakers appreciate their independence or individualism. And preserving their face in front of other people is the most important thing. As a result, they try to avoid being caused to lose face by themselves among people.
Person engaging in communication tries to save the other face in front of the others. Partner avoids lose the politeness and tries to follow the conversational principles.
In communication, other-face may be the most concerned one than self-face. This is one of the important issues in preserving politeness.
In brief, as in a study of Baxter (1984), the Japanese often concerns much more on self-face than others. In contrast, the American people seem to concern much more on other-face than self-face.
"There were also differences in the situations individuals thought maintaining self-face was important. Japanese wanted to preserve self-face inprivate, informal, and intimate situations. North Americans, in contrast, wanted to maintain self-face in public, formal, and nonintimate settings" (The challenge of facework: cross and interpersonal issues, Stella Ting - Toomy, p.55-56)
Socio-cultural impacts on face-saving:
"The positive social value a person effectively claims for himself or herself" (Goffman, 1995, p.213)
The concept of face-saving through is different from cultures worldwide. In such a culture with strong face-saving viewpoint, all business could end up if one side or another is leaded to lose face. In this culture, face-saving plays a more important role than business issues. On the other hand, in such a culture with weak face-saving viewpoint, all business could continue if one side or another is leaded to lose face. In this culture, business issues play more important than face-saving.
In Ho's view, face "is never a purely individual thing. It does not make sense to speak of the face of an individual as something lodged within his (her) person; it is meaningful; only when his (her) face is considered in relation to that of others in the social network (p. 882)" (as cited in The challenge of facework: cross-cultural and interpersonal issues, Stella Ting - Toomy, p. 51)
To Vietnam, although C.kerbrat - orecchioni did not arrange Vietnam as in negative politeness society, we can realize it in some Vietnamese folk verses and proverbs like:
" Ta vá» ta táº¯m ao ta
Dù trong dù Ä‘á»¥c ao nhà váº«n hÆ¡n "
" Trâu ta Äƒn cá» Ä‘á»“ng ta
Tuy ráº±ng cá» cá»¥t nhÆ°ng là cá» thÆ¡m "
The view of face-saving is always associated with face-losing in Vietnamese viewpoint that is performed in:
"Tá»‘t danh hÆ¡n là lành áo"
" NgÆ°á»i ta há»¯u tá» há»¯u sinh,
Sá»‘ng lo xá»©ng pháºn, thác danh tiáº¿ng thÆ¡m "
"Äem chuông Ä‘i Ä‘ánh xá»© ngÆ°á»i
Cháº³ng kêu, cÅ©ng Ä‘áº¥m má»™t há»“i láº¥y danh "
In addition, vietnamese folk verses and proverbs also reflect the reverse side of face-saving like:
"Tá»‘t Ä‘áº¹p phô ra, xáº¥u xa Ä‘áºy láº¡i"
"khi lành không gáº·p, khi rách gáº·p láº¯m ngÆ°á»i quen"
Vietnamese often consider face-saving to be a survival issue of each and vice versa losing face is considered to be more serious than death. And Vietnamese absolutely avoid being lost face or they make all ways to avoid losing other-face that is performed as followed:
"Hoa thÆ¡m ai ná»¡ bá» rÆ¡i
NgÆ°á»i khôn ai ná»¡ náº·ng lá»i vá»›i ai"
"Lá»i nói cháº³ng máº¥t tiá»n mua
Lá»±a lá»i mà nói cho vá»«a lòng nhau"
"Thua trá»i má»™t váº¡n không báº±ng thua báº¡n má»™t ly"
As well as the Vietnamese in particular and in Asian culture in general, the American also have their face-saving. They also do not want to lose face in front of other people. American people appreciate the individualism and they often do not concern on the others 'thought. Saying "no" in front of the others is not considered to be rude that is a necessary demand to avoid misunderstanding tomorrow. A typical example is that in Asian finance crisis in 1997, many Japanese managers suicide because they think their action is one of the ways to protect their human dignity. But to the American, at the same circumstance, they are not to do like that. As a result, they want to make the others progress then.
Through the study, we can realize that American communications in face-saving often appreciate each person's individualism and they seem not to focus on collectivist face-saving. Vietnamese, on the other hand, often appreciate collectivist face-saving than self-face saving. That does not mean I indicate which is better, I want to say in general one issue. That is also appropriate to the two cultural communications American and Vietnam.
If we can understand clearly this face-saving in communication that can help us contribute to having proper communication style and avoid regrettable mistakes and conflicts in a cross-cultural communication.
In this study, I give you the comparison between the two cultures Vietnamese and American that is not to judge which culture is more polite in face-saving while communication. That is the reason why we could not consider this culture to be higher than another one.