Friday, October 19, 2007

Onna Kotoba -- "Women's Japanese"

Hal Daume over at his natural language processing blog articulates a lament well known to linguists:

At the end of my four years, I was speaking to a frien (who was neither a conversation partner nor a prof) in Japanese and after about three turns of conversation, he says to me (roughly): "you talk like a girl."

As I posted in his comments section, this is a familiar situation. English speaking men (and probably others) often learn a form of Japanese that could be referred to as “women’s Japanese”. The most probable reason for this is the large percentage of female teachers of Japanese. I have no clue what the actual percentage is. If anyone knows, please post me a comment.

I've never studied Japanese, so I don't know the facts, but Wikipedia has a page called Gender differences in spoken Japanese which makes the following claim: “Feminine speech includes the use of specific personal pronouns... omission of the copula da, use of feminine sentence finals such as wa, and the more frequent use of the honorific prefixes o and go.”

I did a quick bit of Googling and offer this as a brief bibliography of articles and research on the subject (with the caveat that I haven’t reviewed any of this and make no claims regarding the veracity of these works):

I sound like what in Japanese? by Matthew Rusling

Manifestations of Gender Distinction in the Japanese Language. by Alexander Schonfeld

Stanford Japanese page. Unknown author.

Gender performance and intonation in a Japanese sentence-final particle [PPT]
Yumiko Enyo, University of Hawaii, Manoa

Takarazuka: Sexual Politics and Popular Culture in Modern Japan. by Jennifer Robertson

Ore wa ore dakara ['Because I'm me']: A study of gender and language in the documentary Shinjuku Boys. by Claire Maree

Here are several papers from the 9th International Pragmatics Conference (July 10 - 15, 2005; Riva del Garda, Italy)

The construction of Standard Japanese women's language from 1920's to 1945. by Rumi Washi Nagoya Gakuin University

Constructing Linguistic Femininity in Contemporary Japan: Scholarly and Popular Representations. by Janet S. Shibamoto Smith and Shigeko Okamoto.

1 comment:

Chris said...

I'm posting my own comment just in case anyone runs across this old post, because Language Log has picked up on this topic and they have a more useful treatment and citations:

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