Patterns of honorific use in the everyday speech of four Japanese women

Yoshiko Okushi, University of Pennsylvania

Abstract

This study investigates how Japanese speakers use honorifics in everyday social interaction. Honorifics are affixes, words, and formulaic phrases that follow linguistic and sociolinguistic rules and that are believed to mark a speaker's politeness toward an addressee or another referenced person. Most empirical sociolinguistic research on Japanese honorifics has employed questionnaires and interviews which are intuitive in nature and are not based on everyday speech acts. The empirical evidence suggests, however, that research based on real speech interactions produces results that are often at odds with results derived from purely intuitive empirical research.^ This study examines the validity of the traditional theory and previous empirical research on Japanese honorifics. The study explores factors influencing a Japanese speaker's use of honorifics by addressing two research questions: (1) How is a Japanese speaker's use of addressee and referent honorifics related to the interlocutor's sociolinguistic characteristics; and (2) How is a Japanese speaker's use of addressee and referent honorifics related to speech situation characteristics?^ In order to address these questions an ethnographic approach was used to collect data from the participants' conversations with various interlocutors in their daily lives. The participants were four Japanese housewives who lived in Tokyo and shared sociolinguistic characteristics which might influence honorifics usage. The data were analyzed by looking at use and non-use of addressee honorifics and referent honorific verb forms.^ Results indicate that: (1) role of the interlocutor seems to be the most influential factor for the speaker's use and non-use of honorifics; (2) utterance type is a highly influential factor in determining a speaker's use and non-use of honorifics; and (3) honorifics are used far more in creative and expressive ways--for expressions such as criticism, sarcasm, and playfulness--than the traditional theory recognizes.^ The study concludes that the creative use of honorifics represents an important dimension of Japanese honorifics, and disregarding this dimension leaves any description of Japanese honorifics incomplete. ^

Subject Area

Language, Linguistics|Anthropology, Cultural|Women's Studies|Speech Communication

Recommended Citation

Yoshiko Okushi, "Patterns of honorific use in the everyday speech of four Japanese women" (January 1, 1997). Dissertations available from ProQuest. Paper AAI9727271.
http://repository.upenn.edu/dissertations/AAI9727271

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