The use of apology strategies in public apologies: a comparison between Chinese and English

Year of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Faculty of Arts.

Principal Supervisor

Poon, Vinton


Apologizing, Cross-cultural studies, Chinese language, Discourse analysis, English language, Speech acts (Linguistics)




Public figures have offered more public apologies since the past two decades. However, very little research efforts have been made to study the use of apology strategies in public apologies. This study aims to find out how Chinese and English public figures use apology strategies to publicly apologize, and highlight the similarities and differences in their use of apology strategies. This study used a modified model that was based on Cohen & Olshtain (1981), Olshtain & Cohen (1983), and Blum-Kulka et al. (1989) and identified a total of 11 apology strategies. 8 Chinese and 8 English public apologies over infidelity were collected and analyzed using the model and the use of apology strategies was compiled. It was found that, in general, the Chinese subjects used apology strategies more often than the English subjects. The most frequently used and least frequently used strategies were the same for both groups of data, which were accepting the blame and expressing a lack of intent respectively. One of the significant differences was found in the preference of IFIDs where the Chinese data preferred an expression of apology while the English data preferred an expression of regret. It was also found that 3 of the Chinese apologies used the strategies expressing self-dificiency and offering an explanation or account together. Since the latter was found to be inappropriate in the case of apologizing over infidelity, the concurrent use of these 2 Strategies might be a unique feature of Chinese public apology. Since this study is a pioneering attempt to study the use of apology strategies in public apologies, further research efforts are much encouraged. It is hoped that this study could serves as a reference for further studies on apology strategies in public apology.


Thesis (Master of Arts)--Hong Kong Baptist University, 2014.; Principal supervisor: Dr. Vinton Poon.;Dissertation submitted to the Faculty of Arts.; Includes bibliographical references


The author retains all rights to this work. The author has signed an agreement granting HKBU a non-exclusive license to archive and distribute their thesis.

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