Evaluation in academic discourse: Managing criticism in Japanese and English book reviews

Hiroko ITAKURA*, Amy B.M. Tsui s

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)


Evaluative language features prominently in academic discourse, especially in book reviews. Previous studies have suggested that the use of criticism and its mitigation devices may be culturally bound. However, so far, there has been no study which explicitly compares the use of criticism in Japanese and English book reviews. This paper investigates how criticism is managed in English and Japanese book reviews. An analysis of a corpus of twenty English and twenty Japanese book reviews in the field of linguistics shows that while there are similarities, there are distinctive differences. At the global level, praise is more prominently used in English book reviews to establish solidarity and rapport while apology and self-denigration are used in Japanese reviews. At the local level, 'rhetorical questions', 'self-denigration', 'recasting problems as potential for future research' and 'attributing problems to the next generation' are used only in Japanese reviews. The study explores the importance of taking into account both ethnic culture and small cultures in interpreting empirical data from two languages.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1366-1379
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2011

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence

User-Defined Keywords

  • Academic discourse
  • Criticism
  • Face
  • Japanese culture
  • Language of evaluation
  • Mitigation devices


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