Backchannel as a Listener’s Consideration Behavior: Politeness Strategy of Japanese Native Speakers in Interaction

Lisda Nurjaleka


Japanese tend to deliver backchannel for being supportive and representing people’s interest in their interaction. Many linguists believed Backchannel as discourse markers that showed interlocutors’ negative faces and determined their social hierarchy position. Brown and Levinson’s (henceforth B&L) politeness theory has been modified, criticized, and applied to all languages globally. This research aims to know whether the B&L politeness theory can explain Backchannel as a consideration behavior. Furthermore, we investigate the position, situation, and the relation between the speaker & listener in a conversation. The primary data are a data corpus of 30 minutes’ length of 15 natural conversations. The age of the target is between the ‘20s to ‘40s. We also compare and analyze the situation from a first-timer conversation, a conversation between friends, and a hierarchical relationship. This study will help understand the relation between speaker and listener or whether Backchannel is considered a consideration behavior. Consideration is one act to shows politeness to the interlocutors. The result shows that Japanese people use different Backchannel according to the partner he/she speaks. When the interlocutors meet for the first time or have a higher position, they mostly use the polite form. They also consider the relationship, the interlocutor's gender, and age. This finding shows that the Japanese use Backchannel as a consideration to maintain the interlocutor's face.


Backchannel; Politeness; Listener response; Consideration behavior

Full Text:



Angles, J., Nagatomi, A., & Nakayama, M. (2000). Japanese responses hai, ee, and un: yes, no, and beyond. Language & Communication, 20(1), 55-86.

Brown, P., Levinson, S. (1987). Politeness: Some Universals in Language Usage. Cambridge University Press.

Cutrone, Pino. (2011). Politeness and Face Theory: Implications for the Backchannel Style of Japanese L1/L2 Speakers. Language Studies Working Papers, 3, 51-57. Retrieved from

Fujimoto, D. T. (2009). Listener responses in interaction: A case for abandoning the term, backchannel. Bulletin paper of Osaka Jogakuin College, 37, 35-54. Retrieved from

Haugh, M. (2005). The importance of “place” in Japanese politeness: Implications for cross-cultural and intercultural analyses. Intercultural Pragmatics, 2(1), 41-68.

Horiguchi, Junko. (1997). Nihongo kyouiku to Kaiwa Bunseki. Tokyo: Kuroshio Publisher.

Ide, S. (1990). How and why do women speak more politely in Japanese. Aspects of Japanese women’s language, 63-79. Retrieved from

Ide, Sachiko, & Ueno, Kishiko. (2012). Ba no riron de kangaeru hairyou koudou `Hairyou koudou` wa dono youni shimesareruka. Tokyo: Hitsuji Shobo Publisher.

Imaishi, Sachiko. (1992). Danwa ni okeru kikite no koudou – aizuchi no taimingu nit suite--. Nihongo Kyouiku Gakkai Souritsu 30-Shuunen Houjin Setsuritsu 15 Shuunenkinen Taikai Yoko-shu, 147-151.

Kita, S., & Ide, S. (2007). Nodding, aizuchi, and final particles in Japanese conversation: How conversation reflects the ideology of communication and social relationships. Journal of Pragmatics, 39(7), 1242-1254.

Kogure, M. (2003). Gender differences in the use of backchannels: Do Japanese men and women accommodate to each other?. University of Arizona.

Komiya, Chizuru. (1986). Aizuchi Shiyou no Jittai – Shutsugen Keikou to Sono Shuuhen--. Gogaku Kyouiku Kenkyuu Ronsou Vol. 3, Daitou Bunka Daigaku Gogaku Kyouiku Kenkyuusho, 43-62.

Lakoff, R. T., & Ide, S. (Eds.). (2005). Broadening the horizon of linguistic politeness (Vol. 139). John Benjamins Publishing.

Lee, Soonhyung. (2015). Taiwa aite to no nen rei sa/ seisa ni oujita kikite gengo koudou no shiyou jittai. Journal of Nihongakubou, 105 (11), 147-164. Retrieved from

Maynard, Senko, K. (1993). Kaiwa Bunseki. Tokyo: Kuroshio Publisher.

Maynard, S. K. (1997). Analyzing interactional management in native/non-native English conversation: A case of listener response. IRAL, International Review of Applied Linguistics in Language Teaching, 35(1), 37. Retrieved from

Mizutani, Nobuko (1993). `Kyouwa` kara `Taiwa` e. Journal of Nihongogaku, 12-4, Meiji Shoten, 4-10.

Mizutani, Nobuko. (2001). Aizuchi to po-zu ni shinrigaku [Psychology of aizuchi and pause]. Gengo, pp. 46-51. Retrieved from

Naito, M. (2003). Speech levels of aizuchi and their shifts: Differences between native Japanese and Korean learners of Japanese. Japanese-Language Education Around the Globe 13, 109-125. Retrieved from

Saya, Ike. & Jean, Mulder (2015). Conceptualising Backchanel Behaviour in Japanese English and Australian English. Proceeding in 18th Annual Conference of the Pragmatics society of Japan, The Pragmatics Society of Japan, 191-198. Retrieved from

Schegloff, E. A. (1982). Discourse as an interactional achievement: Some uses of ‘uh-huh’ and other things that come between sentences. Analyzing discourse: Text and talk, 71, 93. Retrieved from

Tajima, K. (2001). Pragmatic use of aizuchi in Japanese discourse: A comparison with English backchannels. The Academic Reports, the Faculty of Engineering, Tokyo Polytechnic University, 24(2), 54-60. Retrieve from

Tajima, Kaori. (2010). Pragmatic Use of Aizuchi in Japanese Discourse: A Comparison with English Backchannels. Academic Report Fac. Eng. Tokyo Inst. Polytech. Vol. 24 (2), 54-60. Retrieved from

Watts, R. J., Ide, S., & Ehlich, K. (Eds.). (2008). Politeness in language: Studies in its history, theory and practice. Walter de Gruyter.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Journal of Language and Literature (JOLL) is published by  Prodi Sastra Inggris, Fakultas Sastra, Universitas Sanata Dharma.

JOLL is indexed in:


This journal is is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License 

View My Stats