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Along with East Asian data, an important criticism of the Brown and Levinsonian concept was made by using African (Igbo) data, cf. Nwoye’s (1992) study. It should be noted though that there is no general agreement among scholars who would define themselves as ‘discursive’ on the applicability of the first-order versus second-order distinction, even though scholars agree about the importance of focusing on lay notions. A detailed overview of politeness research can be found in Eelen (2001) and Mills (2011 [in press]).

While some aspects of normative behaviour, in particular paralinguistic issues such as the role of silence and pauses in relational work, cannot be studied on a comparative basis, there are many other aspects of historical and modern/contemporary Chinese politeness that can be effectively compared, and they are sufficient to map the major differences between historical and modern politeness. Therefore, in order to make our comparison reliable, we need to clearly define the aspects of politeness that we are actually going to compare.

Roughly, the public self-image that one tries to preserve) is the perhaps most conservative aspect of the Chinese politeness phenomena. In other words, while the linguistic expressions of Chinese politeness have dramatically changed during the past two centuries, we have not found evidence that the Chinese perception of ‘face(s)’30 has changed even though this question might be the subject of further explorations in the future. 5 Data Along with properly defining the subject(s) of analysis, another point that should be addressed is the selection of data for study.

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