English vs. Japanese Condolences: What People Say and Why

John Wakefield*, Hiroko Itakura

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in book/report/conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


This paper uses the ethnopragmatics approach to discover the sociopragmatic knowledge that influences what English and Japanese speakers say when condoling bereaved people who have recently lost someone close to them. Linguistic data are drawn from: previous studies on English and Japanese condolences; discourse completion tasks; movies; and the authors’ native-speaker intuitions. Analyses from the literature on condolences contribute to the discussion. We present cultural scripts—one for English and one for Japanese—as hypotheses to account for the observed verbal and nonverbal behavior of English and Japanese speakers when offering condolences. We propose that the social closeness between the deceased and the bereaved affects what all condolers say, but that this effect is different for English and Japanese speakers. Another key difference is that the perceived role of the condoler is different between the two langua-cultures; Japanese speakers sense a greater responsibility to share in the mourning process.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Pragmeme of Accommodation
Subtitle of host publicationThe Case of Interaction around the Event of Death
EditorsVahid Parvaresh, Alessandro Capone
PublisherSpringer Cham
Number of pages29
ISBN (Electronic)9783319557595
ISBN (Print)9783319557588, 9783319857381
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Publication series

NamePerspectives in Pragmatics, Philosophy and Psychology
ISSN (Print)2214-3807
ISSN (Electronic)2214-3815

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Philosophy
  • Applied Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language

User-Defined Keywords

  • Condolence
  • Cultural script
  • English
  • Ethnopragmatics
  • Japanese
  • Langua-culture
  • Pragmeme


Dive into the research topics of 'English vs. Japanese Condolences: What People Say and Why'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this