Indirect personal compliments

Yuan (2001: 286) points out that compliments can also be indirect. The speaker does not make the compliment himself or herself but quotes somebody else as saying something complimentary about the addressee. Yuan quotes an example in which the researcher made the utterance in (1) to the wife of a former classmate:

(1) Sun Ping said that the preserved vegetables you made were the most delicious!

In this case, Sun Ping, the original complimenter was present when the researcher reported her compliment to the recipient of the compliment. Intuitively it seems that such embedded or reported compliments may be fairly frequent, but they do not seem to have been treated systematically in the relevant research literature.

It would be interesting to see whether recipients of such indirect personal compliments respond differently than the recipients of explicit or implicit personal compliments. Indirect compliments will not be seen as situationally required compliments and, therefore, perhaps as more sincere (Nature of compliments). In the example above, Sun Ping, said something nice about the preserved vegetables when the former classmate’s wife was not present, and therefore the comment is less likely to have been a case of mere flattery.

For other types of compliments see: