Strategies Employed by the Vietnamese to Respond to Compliments and the Influence of Compliment Receivers’ Perception of the Compliment on Their Responses

Nhung Thi Hong Pham


This research explores the strategies employed by the Vietnamese to respond to compliments and the influence of compliment receivers’ perception of the compliment on their responses. Three hundred and sixty compliment/compliment response sequences were obtained from 120 extended interviews with 126 participants (6 interviewers and 120 interviewees). The conversations were tape-recorded. The interviewees’ interpretation of their compliment responses was also recorded. The results show the Vietnamese have a high tendency to reject compliments because they want to be perceived as modest people by the compliment giver. The analysis of the compliment/compliment response sequences and of the participants’ interpretation of their responses indicates that responding to compliments in Vietnamese is a complex speech act. Besides three major strategies used in compliment responses (i.e., acceptance, rejection and deflection), there are cases where the two opposite strategies acceptance and rejection appear in the same response. This reflects the Vietnamese tension between modesty/self-denying and self-appreciation. In other words, different principles involved in replying to compliments interact both between responses and within responses. The act of responding to compliments in Vietnamese is also complicated in that the receiver of the compliment can use the same strategy to convey different meanings. For example, in deflecting compliments the compliment receiver tends to shift the praised credit to other people, luck, fate or God to acknowledge their contribution. However, compliment receivers also tend to use this strategy to show themselves to the complimenter as modest and tactful people, especially when they know that their credit shift does not influence the way the complimenter perceives the praised attribute.

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International Journal of Linguistics  ISSN 1948-5425  Email:

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