A Study of Complaint Sequences on WeChat: a Chinese Instant Messaging Application

  • Author / Creator
    Yang, Yining
  • Instant messaging, as a type of Internet-mediated communication, is prevalent in people’s daily lives. It allows people to use various multimodal resources—e.g., images, emojis, audio, and videos—to interact with each other remotely (Herring and Androutsopoulos, 2015). This research focuses on one specific social action sequence—the complaint sequence—in Chinese instant-messaging interactions. Specifically, this research explores third-party complaint sequences on WeChat, one of the most popular instant messaging applications among Chinese speakers.
    Adopting the methodology of conversation analysis (CA), interactional linguistics (IL), and multimodal analysis, this study investigates the sequential organization and multimodal design of complaint sequences. Complaint sequences consist of the initiating action of the complaint (hereafter referred to as a complaint) and the response to the complaint (hereafter referred to as a response). This is also how a complaint sequence is consisted in WeChat interactions. The data used in this study are 36 excerpts of complaint sequences on WeChat. An examination of the data shows that complaints consist of two parts: problem presentation and display of negative affect. Based on the order of the two components, complaints exhibit two structure patterns: 1) problem presentation + display of affect, and 2) display of affect + problem presentation. In terms of the response to complaints, three types of responsive action have been identified: display of affiliation, consolement, and suggestion. Displays of affiliation are accomplished through four practices: exclamations and expletives, assessments, expressions of empathy, and rhetorical questions. Regarding the design of complaint sequences, both complaints and responses are accomplished through a variety of multimodal resources. For example, in complaints, participants may use images in problem presentations and emojis in displays of negative affect. In responses, hug emojis are used by complainees to show their consolement. The findings of this study contribute to our understanding of how people make and respond to complaints in Chinese instant messaging interactions.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2023
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Arts
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.