Translated Titles

Why Yes in Business Chinese Can Become No?




陳麗宇(Li-Yu Chen);鄭錦全(Chin-Chuan Cheng)

Key Words

商務華語 ; 商務交流 ; 商務文化 ; 漢語「是」的語用 ; 英語Yes的語用 ; Business Chinese ; Business communication ; Business culture ; Chinese Shi pragmatics ; English Yes pragmatics



Volume or Term/Year and Month of Publication

2卷.總第9期(2014 / 12 / 01)

Page #

17 - 30

Content Language


Chinese Abstract


English Abstract

Foreign business professionals working in Chinese-speaking regions often asked why in business English-Chinese conversations or formal negotiations, "yes" could turn into "no" right in the meeting or afterwards. Such a seemingly cheating language behavior in fact may have various explanations. This study explains in terms of dialog structure that the Chinese word "shi" does not correspond completely to English "yes". Chinese "shi" in answering English questions expresses the speaker’s agreement to what is said in the question and not to the positive or negative statement of the question sentence. "Shi" can also be used to indicate "I am listening, please go on" while undecided, hesitation, or concession. It is also used on some occasions as a response to save the face of the interlocutor and does not mean to agree with the person addressed. Moreover, in the past decade or so in Taiwan people used "shi" and "dui" as a non-sensical word in their conversation. They could be heard as speakers dotted the discourse with these words to fill the gap in the speech stream. This study discusses these pragmatic problems in language use. Some suggestions are raised for vocabulary teaching in business Chinese.

Topic Category 人文學 > 語言學