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Face representation in interpreting politician-journalist interactions.


Over the last two decades, on a par with the rapid growth in the interest of linguistic politeness research, studies on the representation of politeness or face in the translation and interpreting area are also burgeoning rigorously.

Notably, in audio-visual translation, investigations into the representation of face features in subtitling find that face markers are often omitted due to temporal and spatial constraints, (Hatim and Mason 1997, Kovacic 1996b, Yuan 2012), and politeness may be changed into impoliteness in the subtitles (Bruti 2009). Particularly, through audience response experiments with British and Chinese viewers, Yuan (2012) finds that change of face strategies and omission of face markers in subtitling affect the two groups of viewers in their significantly different impressions of an interlocutor's personality, attitude and intentions since the interlingual subtitling has presented a different joint construction of interpersonal relationship between the interlocutors. Drawing from this, Yuan (2012) highlights the importance of adequate representation of face features in subtitling in order to facilitate viewers' understanding of interpersonal interactions presented in films.

In literary translation, Hickey (2000) concludes from his experiment (1) with English and Spanish subjects that the English group is able to quickly identify and recognise the negative politeness strategies manifested in the original English texts, while the Spanish group does not seem to perceive the linguistic behaviour in the literally translated texts to be politeness-related. In other words, the negative politeness expressions in the Spanish texts that are translated literally become unmarked for the Spanish readers. In the light of this finding, Hickey stresses the importance of communicating and making salient the illocutionary dimension of texts, including politeness markers, in translation activities so as to achieve functional equivalence (House 1998) in cross-cultural contexts.

On face representation in interpreting, Angermeyer (2005) investigates the use of forms of address by court interpreters and finds that interpreters design their utterances primarily to conform to institutional norms and not to the expectations of target recipients, who rely on face features as cues for their participant status. Examining authentic interpreter-mediated interactions in the medical context, police interrogations, and immigration interviews, Wadensjo (1998) draws seminal perspective of the interpreter as an engaged actor solving not only problems of translation but problems of mutual understanding in situated interactions. Later, Angelelli (2004) examines a medical interpreter's role manifested through evidence of their visibility and their voices during the efforts of facilitating successful bi-lingual healthcare communication between doctors and patients. Nevertheless, little work has been undertaken so far to investigate how face features may be manipulated by interpreters as an effective means to take stance with institutions or individuals.

In this paper, I intend to illustrate how fruitful and relevant studies on face management in interpreting politician-journalist interactions can be to our understanding of how interpreters mediate interactions which are underpinned by power imbalance between the participants. This can shed light on future work in the area of using interpreters in mediation interactions.

This paper includes 5 sections in total. In section 2, the strengths and the weaknesses of two key theories in the area of face, namely, Brown and Levinson's (1987) framework and Spencer-Oatey's (2008) conceptualisations are reviewed critically to illustrate the reason and the necessity for developing the Composite Model of Face Management for data analysis. This is followed by detailed expositions of the model and its main components, including the notion, the strategies, the cultural and the contextual variables within the model. This constitutes the theoretical framework applied in this study. Attention in section 3 then turns to the investigation of how face may be manipulated by the interpreter in the press conference setting to achieve taking stance and professional competence. Section 4 discusses the findings and draws relevant conclusions from the analysis undertaken in part 3. Finally, the implication of current research on face management in interpreting for examining the use of interpretation in mediation is suggested in section 5.

In Search for a Framework Analysing Face Management in Translation and Interpreting

Development of the theory of face management

Face management is oriented to politeness studies (2). The milestone theories in this area are Brown and Levinson's (1987) face model and Spencer-Oatey's (2000) rapport management framework. Brown and Levinson (1987) propose that all competent adult members have two intrinsic wants of individual freedom and social recognition and inclusion. Departing from the wants, they set up three super-strategies that people adopt when negotiating wants with one another in order to build and maintain social harmony. For the first time, a descriptive theory is formulated to explain how language is used in social interactions to achieve politeness, which is much more dynamic, and powerful for analysing interactions than prior prescriptive rules of politeness (Lakeoff 1973) and politeness maxims (Leech 1983). In those rules and maxims, guidance and desirable behaviour are simply laid out without much capacity for investigating what and how people interact, verbally and in body language, in social encounters.

Nevertheless, this theory suffers from two major drawbacks. Firstly, in terms of the scope of the super-strategies in the theory, they focus solely on interactions conducive to social harmony while behaviour that is intended to cause and augment friction and disharmony between interactants is not taken into account. This is rectified by Culpeper (1996) and Culpeper et al.'s (2003) impoliteness super-strategies which are devised in line with Brown and Levinson's (1987) framework, and, therefore, can be perceived as an extension of the latter.

Secondly, with respect to the scope of the notion in Brown and Levinson's (1987) theory, the two intrinsic wants cannot encompass the role of identity and that of sociality rights and obligations in relationship management, and neither do they acknowledge any cultural underpinnings. In comparison, Spencer-Oatey's (2000) rapport management notion proves to be more enriched and inclusive since it explores not just face wants, but also social rights and interactional goals in its conceptualisation. Moreover, important contextual factors that may influence the interaction and its outcome are investigated, including participant relations in power (P), distance (D), and the severity of an imposition (R), number of participants, associated rights and obligations in social roles, and the nature of a communicative activity. However, in spite of these strengths, the rapport management theory is limited in its applicability to data analysis due to a lack of a set of pragmatic strategies that are capable of unpackaging ongoing interactions.

In Search of an Analytical Framework

In view of the above, a Composite Model of Face Management (CMFM) (Yuan 2012:77) is established as an overarching theoretical framework for analysing face features in interactional discourse and the representation of face characteristics in translation. CMFM can be illustrated as follows:

CMFM draws upon the strengths of Brown and Levinson's theory and Spencer-Oatey's rapport management notion. Specifically, the notion of face in CMFM denotes both the public self-image and the fundamental sociality rights that every competent adult member effectively claims in their interactions with others. These two claims are reflected in two related aspects of the face notion, which constitutes positive face and negative face.

1. Positive face: the fundamental desire for people to (1) approve our wants, (2) to positively evaluate our personal qualities and to uphold our social identities, and (3) to respect our rights of an appropriate association with others in consistence with the type of social relationship.

2. Negative face: the fundamental desire (1) to act freely from imposition and (2) to have our disassociation rights respected by others in keeping with the type of social relationship. (Yuan 2012:71-2)

Face in CMFM can be threatened in two ways: through threatening the public self-image and through threatening sociality rights. I have argued and illustrated (Yuan 2012:72-5) that Brown and Levinson's three sets of super-strategies for enhancing harmony and their extensive strategies for damaging harmony, which are formulated by Culpeper et al. (2003), have the adequate sophistication to illustrate the management of sociality rights between interactants. The reason is that sociality rights constitute our fundamental legitimate face wants which are conducive to building and maintaining the public self-image, and therefore we believe they deserve others' respect and they must be fulfilled.

Face is a vulnerable entity full of emotional stakes. In social interactions, it is in general in everyone's best interest to maintain each other's face due to the mutual vulnerability of face. To achieve this, a person is expected to be able to identify certain kinds of acts, classified as being intrinsically face threatening, and to assess the nature and the severity of these face-threatening acts (FTA) in order to determine the appropriate strategies for carrying out the FTAs. For example, asking for a favour is deemed to threaten the hearer's negative face since it encroaches upon his/her space, and the hearer may feel constrained and obliged to honour the favour. In the light of such face dilemma, any rational person will seek to employ appropriate strategies to minimise the face-threatening effect. Dependent on the size of an FTA and the feature of the interactional context, the possible sets of strategies in line with the downgrading effect of an FTA can be 1 doing the FTA bald-on-record, 2 redressing the FTA towards the hearer's positive or negative face, i.e., positive or negative politeness strategies, 3 carrying out the FTA in an off-record manner, 4 withholding the FTA (Brown and Levinson 1987).

With the bald-on-record strategy, a speaker carries out a face-threatening act with maximum efficiency where no mitigating devices are applied and face concerns are suspended in the interest of clarity. For example, it is often used in emergency where the face threat is considered insignificant, such as 'Watch out for that dog!'. When the FTA is primarily in the hearer's interest, the speaker tends to resort to bald-on-recordness. Sympathetic advice falls into this category, for example, 'Don't be so low. Cheer up!'. In the context of an obvious power imbalance between speaker and hearer, the bald-on-record strategy may be used by a speaker to exert authority, for example, 'Pull over! It's the police!'.

The bald-on-record strategy can only describe a very limited variety of phenomena as it generally occurs most often in interactions where the focus is task/information-oriented. However, in relationship-oriented interactions, which account for the majority of interpersonal encounters, appropriate management of face is deemed to be more important than clarity, hence, the necessity of employing relevant politeness strategies.

Specifically, positive politeness strategies refer to the acts that we initiate to protect each other's positive face wants, i.e., making others feel good. These can be expressed through claiming common ground with others, for example, attending to others' interests and wants, seeking agreement with others, using in-group identity markers such as 'mate', and presupposing common ground with others. The intention of protecting positive face can also be achieved via conveying that both speaker and hearer are co-operators, for example, making offers and promises, and assuming reciprocity belong to this category. Last but not least, fulfilling others' wants, such as giving gifts and sympathy can also help to protect face and to build rapport between interlocutors.

In the same vein, in social interactions, negative politeness strategies are devised to inform others of speaker's intention to protect their negative face needs, i.e., showing respect to others' space. In particular, such strategies can be broadly divided into two categories. Firstly, a speaker tries to communicate to others his/her intention not to coerce or to impinge. For example, s/he may endeavour to be conventionally indirect, using hedges, or giving deference to minimise the imposition when making a request. When acts involving possible imposition on a hearer have to be initiated, such as asking him/her to follow instructions, the speaker tends to make an apology first, to impersonalise both speaker and hearer, or to state the act as a general rule, such as 'It is required by the board that...'. Secondly, a speaker can claim indebtedness to a hearer, which expresses his/her awareness of the hearer's negative face, for example, 'I'd be very grateful if you would...'.

Both positive and negative politeness strategies can be expressed in on-record or off-record manners. The crucial difference is that for an utterance expressed in the off-record manner, more than one communicative intention may be attributed. Hence, a hearer has to infer the speaker's intention contained in the utterance through interactional contexts. The off-record manner may be resorted to when a speaker is unsure of the appropriateness for him/her to initiate a face-threatening act in a direct or on-record manner where the

communicative intention is explicit. For example, A and B have been friends for just over a year. One day, A says to B 'I owe the water company 300 [pound sterling]. The debt collector has threatened to knock on my door if I don't pay it off by this Friday. But I won't get paid till the Monday after next week. Oh dear! What shall I do?'. Although in this context, A's intention may well be interpreted as prompting B to lend A some money, A, nevertheless, cannot be held responsible for saying that, and A can easily deny it if challenged. In this way, A not only achieves protecting B's face by avoiding being imposing and intrusive, but also manages to avoid losing his own face which would have otherwise incurred should the request be put in an on-record way and then subsequently suffer from refusal (3).

When assessing the nature and the severity of an FTA and choosing appropriate face strategies, the speaker will take into account a few important factors which contribute significantly to his/her decision-making. These factors, as shown in CMFM, include face orientation, contextual variables, and interactional goals.

Face orientation indicates people's desire to manage their relations with others according to their preconceived intentions. In particular, people may hold any of the four types of face orientations:

1. Face-enhancement orientation: the speaker's desire to enhance the hearer's face-wants and/or right claims in strengthening harmonious relations between them;

2. Face-maintenance orientation: the speaker's desire to satisfy the hearer's face-wants and/or right-claims in maintaining harmonious relations between them;

3. Face-neglect orientation: the speaker's lack of interest in the hearer's face-wants and/or right-claims detrimental to the relations between them (perhaps due to a focus on self);

4. Face-damage orientation: the speaker's challenge to, attack on or denial of the hearer's face-wants and/or right-claims impairing the relations between them.

The contextual variables that influence people's use of face strategies include 1) distance (D), power (P), and ranking of impositions (R), 2) number of participants, 3) people's rights and obligations associated with their social roles, and 4) the nature of a communicative activity.

Power (P) is believed to be in existence when an individual is able to control the behaviour of the other in a certain area, and both cannot have power in the same area of behaviour (Brown and Gilman 1960). The social distance (D) between speaker and hearer encompasses three possible components that could impact on people's expressions of semantic solidarity. They are social similarity/difference, length of acquaintance, and sense of like-mindedness. R indicates how people rank an imposition in the particular culture. The degree to which an FTA is perceived as a serious imposition can depend on the power and social distance parameters (Watts 2003). For example, asking for a cigarette from someone with much higher social status or a complete stranger constitutes a stronger FTA than asking a close friend.

A second important contextual variable influencing people's strategy use relates to the number of participants taking part in a communicative event, either as addressors/ addressees or as audiences. In most cultures, face-management norms are number-sensitive, which means that what is said and how things are said could often be influenced by the number of people present, and whether they are all listening. For example, in many countries, it is far more face-threatening to be criticised publicly than privately.

A third contextual variable is related to participants' rights and obligations in interactive events. Through affecting people's assessments of rights and obligations, social/interactional roles influence their use of face management strategies. Thomas's (1995) example describing how two women initiated the request for stopping on a country bus serves as a good illustration of the importance of rights and obligations. The first woman simply called out: 'Next stop, driver!' before the bus approached a scheduled stopping place; while the second made the following verbal request for stopping at an unofficial stop: 'Do you think you could possibly let me off just beyond the traffic lights, please?'

In this case, parameters of power, social distance and imposition all held constant without any changes. The role relations are the same and it cost the driver no more effort to stop beyond the traffic lights than at the bus stop. The only difference lies in the rights and obligations of the event: the driver has an obligation to stop at the scheduled place, but has no such obligation in the second case. Therefore, the second woman chose very different linguistic strategies to pose her request, probably after assessing the implied rights and obligations in the event.

A fourth major factor influencing people's use of rapport management strategies is the type of communicative activity that is taking place, for example, a training course or a court hearing.

The above four contextual variables may play both a standing and a dynamic role in influencing strategy use. The standing role perception is very similar to Fraser and Nolan's (1981) conversational contract, which postulates that based on previous experience we may have relatively stable conceptions of these contextual variables prior to the interactional event. However, in the course of an interaction, assessment of the variables can change dynamically with the unfolding of the event as the perception of power imbalance may have changed, and therefore an interlocutor may, for example, become more arrogant. To make interaction successful in terms of rapport management, interlocutors need to combine the dynamic assessment of context with their original standing assessment to determine an appropriate linguistic strategy choice.

It is very important to highlight in the postulation of CMFM that the face notion, face strategies and contextual factors all have to be considered against the background of cultural influence; such as what are regarded as legitimate rights in different cultures (e.g. abortion constitutes a right in China and sometimes in extreme circumstances could even be enforced as an obligation, but by no means is it regarded as a right in Ireland); what sort of behaviour is perceived to be appropriate for face-enhancement (e.g. a guest's burping after a meal is seen in Chinese culture as a compliment to the host's cooking but this is not the case in the UK); and what kind of power one holds in different cultures (e.g. according to Chen and Starosta (1997), a senior Chinese government official not only holds reward, coercive, legitimate powers over his/her subordinates, but also automatically acquires expert power, which may not be applicable in a Western culture). In addition, propositions drawn from Hill et al.'s (1986) findings are also incorporated into the formulation of CMFM. Specifically, the propositions are that, firstly, discernment 4 constitutes a universal concern in all sociolinguistic systems, and secondly, people from different cultures may attach different weight to factors subsumed under discernment and volition.

This Composite Model of Face Management provides a dynamic theoretical framework for analysing how face management, which demonstrates the character's personality, attitude and intentions, is delineated in the source text/speech and how it is represented in the translation.

Face Representation in Chinese-English Political Interpreting

Investigations into translated political communications demonstrate that interpretation employed for political press conferences is very often perceived as invisible (Schaffner 2008). In other words, people seem to equate the interpretation with what is uttered by the speaker without any questioning. Such a perception of interpreter's invisibility has received scholarly challenges where observation of interpretation in action in the context of medical interactions (Wadenjo 1998, Angelelli 2004), police interrogation and immigration interviews (Wadenjo 1998), and court interpreting (Berk-Seligson 1990, Angermeyer 2005) reveals that interpreters assume social roles of coordinating interactions and turns of talking, of soothing miscommunications, and of aligning with and advocating for institutional parties.

With an interest to explore how research on face management may contribute to our knowledge of an interpreter's role, and of interpreting activities as social interactions rather than mere transmitting information verbatim, I examined Premier Wen Jiabao's press conference with English interpretation on the 14th March 2012 when he met with the media for the last time as the head of the Chinese government. It lasted for 182 minutes and 50 seconds. The interpreter was Zhang lu, a highly-regarded interpreter employed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in China. The quality of the interpretation is high and quality assessment does not constitute an aim of this study. By focusing solely on the face features presented in the speaker's utterances and those represented in the interpretation, I intend to investigate the management of interpersonal dynamics achieved via interpretation. The speakers, for whom the interpretation was provided at the press conference, can be generally divided into four categories. They are the native Chinese-speaking journalists, foreign journalists who addressed their questions in Chinese, the English-speaking journalists, and the Premier. Therefore, the analysis of the representation of the face features will be undertaken in line with the interpretation for these four categories of speakers. The major face features we will examine here encompass face markers and face management strategies. They also constitute the two aspects studied in section 3.

Face Management in the Interpretation for the Native Chinese-speaking Journalists

The 'power' (P) factor plays a salient role influencing people's interactional behaviour in a vertical society such as China. In a discernment culture, politeness is instrumental. In line with the cultural norm, one is expected to demonstrate linguistic deference to the powerful, acknowledging the power difference, in order to maintain social stability. This is of even more paramount importance in a public context. Therefore, at the press conference, the native Chinese-speaking journalists, who are presumably familiar with this instrumental feature of the society, are expected to exhibit due deference to their direct addressees that included Premier Wen Jiabao, the Foreign Minister Li zhaoxing and the moderator who was in charge of the procedural matters of the conference. Here is an example:


Idiomatic translation: Thank you, Mr monitor. How are you, Premier. I am with Xinhua News

Agency and China Xinhua news network cooperation. This year is the last year in the term of this government. May I ask, Premier, how you would evaluate your work? Thank you, Premier.

Interpretation: With Xinhua News Agency and China Xinhua news network cooperation. Mr Premier, this year is the last year in the term of this government. How do you evaluate your work?

In the journalist's utterance, he thanked the moderator before moving on to address the Premier. When addressing him, the journalist used various positive politeness devices to show deference to the Premier. For example, he firstly greeted him by his official title, followed with a polite greeting where the V form - the deferent form of the second person pronoun in Chinese [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]--was applied. Upon initiating his question to the Premier, the journalist employed a marked positive politeness strategy [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] to mitigate any potential face-threats entailed in the question. Here, the adverbial [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (5) (please) functions as a positive politeness marker inviting the addressee's attention to the question. In the question, the deferent pronoun [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] is used again. He also thanked the Premier at the end. These positive politeness strategies were used by the journalist to show his respect for his addressee due to the salient power difference. They may also be applied by the journalist to express his genuine interest in the Premier' views, and his claiming solidarity with the Premier and the Chinese government.

Nevertheless, in the interpretation, all of these positive politeness strategies were omitted, except an acknowledgement of the addressee's title 'Mr Premier' which appeared immediately before the question. Although the use of the title before the question could communicate the speaker's deferent intention, it can also be used with a salient purpose to attract hearers' attention to the incoming question. What must be highlighted here is that in this case, since the question was worded in Chinese--the shared language used by the direct addressee--the Premier did not need to rely on the interpretation in order to understand the interaction. Rather, the interpretation in this case was provided for the benefit of the English-speaking audiences who were present at the conference, and also probably who were watching the broadcast of the conference via televised methods. With these two groups of hearers in mind, the interpreter demonstrated her priority of rendering the message in a non-personal manner, focusing on the transactional rather than the interactional functions of language use. This may illustrate the interpreter's intention to distance herself from the question, and in turn the question initiator--the journalist.

Such a phenomenon can also be found in the interpretation for the other native Chinese-speaking journalists. Let's have a look at another example.


Idiomatic translation: How are you, Premier. I am the journalist from China Times. Over the past 4 years, the two sides of the Taiwan Straits have achieved three direct links and direct flights. The business exchanges and people-to-people contacts across the Straits have perhaps reached a relative historical high. The media in Taiwan comments that last 4 years may have been the most stable and peaceful period in the development of cross-Straits relations over the past 60 years. The good momentum may continue into the next 4 years. May I ask, in your last year in office, what would be your vision of the prospect of the cross-Straits cultural exchanges? We all know that you (deferent form) once told a story about the painting of the Fuchun Mountain Scenery. In last June, the two parts of this painting by highly-respected Mr Huang Gongwang was put on display as a complete piece of work in the Taiwan Palace Mesuem. I don't know how you (deferent form) felt at that moment. Today there are many journalists from Taiwan present here at the conference. We are very interested to learn whether you would have any plans to visit Taiwan after your retirement in March next year. Thank you.

Interpretation: With China Times. Over the past 4 years, the two sides of the Taiwan Straits have achieved three direct links and direct air flights. The business exchanges and people-to-people contacts across the Taiwan Straits have reached an unprecedented level. Some people in Taiwan say that the past 4 years have been the most stable and peaceful period in the development of cross-Straits relations of the past 60 years. And we expect this good momentum to continue in the following four years. My question is: In your last year in office, how do you see the prospect of the cross-Straits business ties and cultural exchanges? Moreover, last June, the painting of the Fuchun Mountain Scenery by Mr Huang Gongwang was put on display in Taipei Palace Museum. You once told the story about this painting. And when eventually the two pieces of the painting were put together on display in Taiwan, how did you feel? Many Taiwan journalists are very interested in learning 'do you plan to visit Taiwan after you retire in March next year?'

In his utterances, the journalist used various positive politeness, negative politeness and off-record strategies to communicate his deference for the Premier, his interest in the good development of the cross-Straits relations, which could demonstrate the effective leadership of Premier Wen, and his intention not to impinge on the Premier when initiating the questions. For instance, when addressing the Premier, he consistently used the deferent form of the second person pronoun [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] and the deferent marker [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (please) in [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (please teach) to invite the Premier to answer his questions in a very polite manner. Moreover, when depicting the positive trend of the cross-Straits business ties and cultural exchanges, which was complimentary to the Premier's positive face needs of being perceived as an outstanding leader, the journalist used hedges such as [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (perhaps), [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (relative), [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (possibly/maybe) in his strong and conclusive claims to underpin the compliment with objectivity and factuality. He also applied the positive politeness strategy of intensifying interest to H by pointing out that [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] we know (you once told the story about the painting). Last but not least, when finally initiating his question, the journalist resorted to an off-record strategy via which it sounded as if he was merely expressing his uncertainty of or a lack of knowledge of the matter. This was followed by another off-record utterance with a purpose of enquiring the Premier's plan after retirement. But the journalist highlighted that this was a matter of interest to many of his counterparts, i.e., hiding his own intention behind collective responsibility, and the question was featured with indirectness via a hedge [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (have or not have).

Similar to Example 1, the journalist's various face management strategies that demonstrated his communicative style were not represented in the interpretation where positive and negative politeness markers were not translated and off-record strategies were changed to an on-record manner. In the interpretation, transmitting information in a direct and clear way appeared to be treated as the priority over the representation of the speaker's attitude and intentions. This could illustrate the interpreter's tactic of distancing herself from the question and the speaker in this context.

Face Management in the Interpretation for Foreign Journalists Who Spoke in Chinese

Although being non-native speakers of Chinese language, the journalists from Al Jazeera and Reuters addressed their questions in Chinese. This certainly enabled their direct communication with the Premier. However, maybe due to their communicative style and/or different use of the language, the questions were addressed in a much more direct (or face-threatening) manner compared to their Chinese counterparts. For example, the Al Jazeera journalist claimed that


Idiomatic translation: On the issue of Middle-East, in particular on the issue of Syria, China's position is in great discrepancy from that of many other countries. Then what is China's position and departure in resolving the Syrian issue.

Interpretation: On the issue of Middle-East, in particular the issue of Syria, it seems that there is a wide gap between China's position and the position of many other countries in the world. I want to ask what exactly is China's position on the issue of Syria and what is China's consideration behind all these efforts surrounding the Syrian issue.

In his question, the journalist made a bald-on-record statement which posed a non-mitigated threat to the Premier' face and the image of Chinese government. China's position on the Syrian issue constitutes a highly politically sensitive subject as the government has received severe criticisms from the US and the French governments. Therefore, the act of making a bald-on-record comment about this issue at a high-profile conference watched by people all over the globe in itself constitutes salient face-threatening effects. In the interpretation, two negative politeness strategies of a hedge on illocutionary force ('it seems') and of impersonal structure ('there is') were adopted to communicate concerns of H's face. This could demonstrate the interpreter's intention to alleviate the strong tone featuring the journalist's utterances. In this context, the Premier does not rely on the interpretation to understand the question. That the interpreter still opted to protect his face and image may serve as the evidence of the interpreter's taking stance with her institutional employer, i.e., Chinese government.

Face Management in the Interpretation for English-speaking Journalists

When the English-speaking journalists initiate questions, the Premier does rely on the interpretation to

understand what is addressed to him. Under such circumstances, the face-threatening effects entailed in the original utterances may not produce a direct impact on the Premier, but those represented in the interpretation could do. This may explain the possible politeness strategies adopted in the interpretation that may not exist in the journalist's utterances or questions.

Example 4: Thank you very much, Prime Minister, for accepting this question by AFP. Over the last year, there has been a spate of self-immolation in the Tibetan areas of China. Is this a matter of great concern to you personally? What do you think your government can do? What's the best way for your government to address this situation? Thank you very much.

Interpretation: [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] Idiomatic translation of the interpretation: I am from AFP. Since last year, we have seen a series of phenomena where some Tibetans carried out self-immolation in China's Tibetan area. I'd like to ask whether you (deferent form) personally are very concerned about this matter. What measures will be taken by the government led by you, (hesitance and rephrase) according to you, what does the government believe to be the best method for dealing with this issue?

In the journalist's utterance, negative descriptor 'a spate of' was used to stress the grave situation in Tibet. This posed great threat to the Premier's positive face and his government since there had been severe criticisms of Chinese government's policy on Tibet within the international community. Like example 3, this question entailed a highly controversial political issue. Moreover, the questions were initiated in a rather direct manner with personal pronoun 'your' (government) explicitly pinpointed. In the interpretation, 'a spate of' which has a negative connotation was replaced by a neutral expression 'a series of' to mitigate face threats. The deferent form of the second person pronoun [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] was also adopted. Furthermore, when translating the last two questions, the interpreter started off with translating verbatim but then showed hesitance, followed by rephrasing the wording she just used in the interpretation, i.e., changing [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (the government led by you), in which the Premier's leading role in the government that had adopted the controversial policy was highlighted, to [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (according to you how government feels) where the Premier's knowledge of the government's thinking was sought, and the Premier and the government were treated separately in this manner. Such hesitance and rephrasing in the interpretation serve as good evidence of the interpreter's conscious efforts of maintaining her institutional employer's face.

Another noticeable phenomenon is that when interpreting for the journalists of all background, their greetings to the Premier at the beginning of their utterances and their thanking the Premier for taking the questions at the end were consistently omitted in the interpretation. This reduced the interactivity shown in the speaker's manner and it could be attributed to the interpreter's distancing herself from the questions and from the journalists.

Face Management in the Interpretation for the Chinese Officials

At this conference, two senior Chinese officials were the participants. They were the Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing who presided over the conference and the Premier Wen Jiabao who answered the questions from the domestic and foreign press.

Investigations into the interpretation for their interventions demonstrated a faithful representation of the face features available in the utterances.


Interpretation: Li Zhaoxing: Ladies and gentlemen, Good morning. Today we are delighted to invite Premier Wen Jiabao to meet Chinese and foreign press and take your questions.

This was Li's only intervention at the conference. In contrast to the interpretation for the journalists' utterances where the greetings were consistently omitted, the greetings made by the Minister to the audiences were faithfully translated to communicate the interactivity shown in the speaker's style.


Interpretation: Wen: Friends of the press, this is the last time for me to meet the friends of the press after the NPC and CPPCC sessions. I want to first take this opportunity to express my appreciation for your long-standing interest in China's reform and development.

In Wen's opening remark, he addressed the journalists as friends, which communicated his warmth and appreciation. This in-group identity marker underpinning a positive politeness strategy was faithfully interpreted and was added in the interpretation for a second time, which rendered the interpretation even warmer and more interactive than the original utterance.


Interpretation: Third, we need to enhance our cooperation in high-tech fields, covering new energy sources, new materials, energy conservation, environmental protection and aviation so that we can open up new dimensions for China-US cooperation. Fourth, we need to enhance our cooperation in infrastructural development and at the same time we should bring it in line with our financial cooperation.

In this example, Wen was elaborating on his views of the areas where the US and China should enhance their collaboration and cooperation. In his utterance, the speaking style was transactional and factual, specifying and highlighting the very many areas where collaboration could be achieved. This formed a part of his complete description of his views of why cooperation between the US and China would be better than confrontation. In the interpretation, collective pronouns 'we' and 'our' were consistently adopted, accentuating and advocating shared grounds between the two countries, and well communicated the speaker's intention. Therefore, it demonstrated the interpreter's strategy of being an advocate for her institutional employer and tactfully communicating her superordinate's position and intentions.

Discussion and Conclusion

Through the comparative analysis of the face features available in the speaker's utterances and those represented in the interpretation, it is found that the representation of face has been manipulated by the interpreter as an effective means of taking stance with her institutional employer, playing an advocate role for the institution, while distancing herself from the journalists. The advocating manner was demonstrated via maintaining or increasing in the interpretation the interactivity of the Chinese official's communicative style by faithfully representing or adding positive politeness markers. As shown in examples 6 and 7, when the Minister and the Premier were addressing the journalists from home and abroad, and the wider audience, efforts were made by the interpreter to retain the speaker's highly interactive and personable communicative style. For example, positive politeness strategies of greetings and markers of solidarity and camaraderie 'friends of the press' were represented or repeated in the interpretation. In contrast, the interpreter's distancing strategy was achieved via reducing in the interpretation the interactivity of the journalist's communicative style by omitting politeness markers. Notably, Chinese and foreign journalists' greetings and their expressions of gratitude towards the Premier's willingness to address their questions were consistently omitted in the interpretation. Moreover, various positive and negative politeness strategies adopted by the Chinese journalists to highlight their deference for and allegiance to the Premier were missing in the interpretation, particularly positive politeness markers i (please) in examples 1 and 2, and negative politeness hedges AIS (perhaps), it $X (relative), nJISi (possibly/maybe) in example 2. The stance-taking was also demonstrated in the cases where the interpreter exhibited clear efforts of mitigating face threats in the interpretation via applying politeness strategies, and/or changing on-record strategies into off-recordness to achieve vagueness or indirectness, when salient face threats to the Premier arose regardless whether he did or did not have to rely on the interpretation.


Implication for Studying Face Management in Mediation Research

Drawing from the findings of the above research on face management in interpreting politician-journalist interactions, I will be very interested to study what would be prominent face features in mediation interactions and how face is represented in the interpretation for mediation, and an interpreter's role and power in mediation reflected via the management of face. As suggested by Angelelli (2004), an interpreter, in translating messages, brings his/her own social baggage including values, experience, judgement, and views into the interpretation. I'd like to find out whether and how an interpreter takes stance in the mediation interactions. Moreover, since coordinating interactions is discovered as one of the social roles that an interpreter assumes in interpretation activities (Wadensjo 1998), while coordination of interactions also constitutes an important part of a mediator's responsibility, it will be fruitful to investigate how an interpreter and a mediator may interact effectively with each other to avoid role confusion in mediation.
Appendix 1--Illustrations of positive politeness, negative
politeness and off-record strategies

1 Notice, attend to H    Goodness, you cut your hair!
  (his interests,        You look really cool with your new hair style!
  wants, need, goods)    [right arrow](FTA) By the way, I came to
                         borrow some flour.

2 Exaggerate             A: Look at the weather!
  (interest, approval,   B: Oh, yeah, isn't it just ghastly the way it
   sympathy with H)      always seems to rain just when you've hung
                         your laundry out!
                         [right arrow](FTA) So may I borrow your iron?

3 Intensify interest     I come down the stairs, and what do you think
  to H                   I see?--A huge mess all over the place...
                         [right arrow](FTA)
                         So, can I borrow your hoover?

4 Use in-group           (FTA) Help me with this bag here, will you
  identity markers       pal?

5 Seek agreement with    Oh, you got a new car! Isn't it a beautiful
  safe topics or         colour! [right arrow](FTA) Do you still have
  repetition             any paint left?

6 Avoid disagreement     I kind of want Florin to win the race, since
                         I have bet on him.

7 Presuppose/raise/      I had a really hard time learning to drive,
  assert common ground   didn't I? You know it well! You taught me.

8 Joke                   Ok. Would you mind if I tackle those
                         cookies now?

9 Assert or presuppose   Look, I know you want the car back by 5pm.
  S's knowledge of and   [right arrow](FTA) So should I go to town now?
  concern for H's wants

10 Offer, promise        I'll drop by some time next week
                         [right arrow](FTA) if you can pick up the
                         mail for me.

1 1Be optimistic         Good pal, I knew I'd find you here. Look,
                         I'm sure you won't mind[right arrow] (FTA)
                         if I borrow your typewriter.

12 Include both S and H  It's been 3 hours since the lunch. Let's have
   in the activity.      a cookie, then (i.e., me).

13 Give (or ask for)     What a beautiful day! Why don't we go to the
   reasons               seashore! [right arrow](FTA) Come on!

14 Assume or assert      I'll do the garden for you, [right arrow](FTA)
   reciprocity           if you write the homework for me.

15 Give gifts to H       A: A small gift, Mom. Happy Mother's Day.
   (goods  sympathy,     B: Thanks Tom. It's really nice of you.
   understanding         A: I am glad you like it, Mom. [right arrow]
   cooperation)          (FTA) May I borrow some money?

Positive Politeness Strategies (Brown and Levinson 1987)

1 Be conventionally    You are just beside the cupboard.
  indirect             Can you please pass the salt to me?

2 Question, hedge      You're quite right in commenting on
                       this matter. I do agree in a way.

3 Be pessimistic       The bag is quite heavy. Perhaps you'd
                       care to help me.

4 Minimise the         I just ask you if you could lend
  imposition Rx        me a single sheet of paper.

5 Give deference       Excuse me, Sir, but would you mind
                       if I close the window?

6 Apologise            I hate to impose, but...

7 Impersonalise        It is said to be so.
  S and H

8 State the FTA as     International regulations require
  general rule         that the fuselage be sprayed with DDT.

9 Nominalise           It is real regret that we can not do

10 Go on record as      I'd be eternally grateful if you would...
   incurring a debt,
   or as not
   indebting H

Negative Politeness Strategies (Brown and Levinson 1987)

1  Give hints         It's cold in here. (c.i.5 Shut the window)

2  Give association   Are you going to market tomorrow...?
   clues              There's a market tomorrow, I suppose.
                      (c.i. Give me a ride there)

3  Presuppose         At least, I don't go around boasting
                      about my achievements.
                      (c.i. someone else does)

4  Understate         A: How do you like Josephine's new
                      B: It's all right. (c.i. I don't
                      particularly like it)

5  Overstate          There were a million people in the Co-op
                      tonight! (c.i. That's why I am late)

6  Use tautologies    If I won't give it, I won't.
                      (c.i. I mean it!)

7  Use                A: Are you upset about that?
   contradictions     B: Well, yes and no.

8  Be ironic          Beautiful weather, isn't it!
                       (to postman drenched in rainstorm)

9  Use metaphors      Harry's a real fish. (c.i. Harry
                      swims like  a fish)
10 Use rhetorical     How was I to know...? (c.i. I wasn't)

11 Be ambiguous       John's a pretty sharp cookie.

12 Be vague           Looks like someone may have had too
                      much too drink.

13 Over-generalise    Mature people sometimes help do the dishes.

14 Displace H         Could you please pass me the stapler? (One
                      secretary in an office asks another, in
                      circumstances where a professor is much
                      nearer to the stapler than the other
                      secretary. Professor's face is not
                      threatened, and he can choose to do it
                      himself as a bonus 'free gift')

15 Be incomplete,     Well, I didn't see you...
   use ellipsis

Off-record Strategies (Brown and Levinson 1987)


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Xiaohui Yuan

University of Nottingham, United Kingdom

Correspondence to:

Dr. Yuan Xiaohui

School of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies

University of Nottingham

University Park, Nottingham, NG7 2RD, UK



(1) Six short fragments containing typical negative politeness expressions of request, apology and justification, giving thanks, request for forgiveness, thanks and justification of thanks, and apology or warning before giving bad news are extracted from David Lodge's novel Therapy as the experiment data.

(2) The reason that we do not explicitly use the word 'politeness' is because it seems to wrongly indicate that research in this area has a salient focus on examining the social behaviour that is conducive to building and enhancing interpersonal harmony while neglecting interactions demonstrating the opposite purpose of ignoring and damaging harmony.

(3) For reference, full lists of positive politeness, negative politeness and off-record strategies are provided in Appendix 1.

(4) Discernment is an instrumental way of understanding politeness behaviour, which is determined by discerning appropriate on-going social interactional features and choosing appropriate strategies. Volitional politeness refers to the fact that an individual can decide whether he/she wants to be polite or not, and what constitutes a polite behaviour (Hill et al. 1986).

(5) [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] can also be used as a verb meaning 'invite', for example, in [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], which means to invite someone for dining and/or to treat someone.
Table 1 Composite Model of Face Management (Yuan 2012:77)

Notion           Strategy

Positive face    Positive politeness
                 / Positive impoliteness
                 / off-recordness
                 protecting or attacking
                 H's positive face

Negative face    Negative politeness
                 / Negative impoliteness

                 / off-recordness
                 protecting or attacking
                 H's negative face
influence over   Cultural influence over
weighting of     strategy use
face wants and

Notion           Factors
                  strategy use

Positive face    Face                Contextual         Interactional
                  orientation         variables          Goals

                 face-enhancement    D, P, R
                 face-maintenance    number of
Negative face    face-neglect        social/
                 face-damage         interactional

influence over
weighting of     Cultural influence over factor assessment
face wants and

Western: greater emphasis on volition [left right arrow] Far East:
more sensitive to discernment
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Author:Yuan, Xiaohui
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Date:Oct 1, 2013
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