Organizer: Shigeko Okamoto, California State University, Fresno
Chair: Yoshiko Matsumoto, Stanford University
Discussant: Naomi H. McGloin, University of Wisconsin, Madison
This panel examines the relationship between linguistic "norms" and situated language practices in sociolinguistic descriptions as they relate to Japanese language. Silverstein (1979) notes that scientific studies of language have tended to confound native linguistic ideology with an objective analysis of language use. Studies of sociolinguistic phenomena in Japanese are particularly vulnerable to this kind of criticism, because they more often than not present characterizations based on "normative"/stereotypical linguistic usages, or language and cultural ideologies, rather than accurate descriptions of actual language practices. The panel seeks to redress this imbalance.
The papers examine four sociolinguistic aspects of Japanese: Japanese men's speech (Takahashi), Japanese young women's speech (Matsumoto), honorifics (Okamoto), and conversational topic and floor management behaviors (Iwasaki). All four papers analyze actual discourse data vis-à-vis commonly accepted linguistic and cultural "norms"-i.e. the beliefs about how Japanese men and women should talk, how honorifics should be used, and how conversations should be structured. Examining to what extent and under what circumstances "norms" are or are not observed, the papers discuss the complex relationship between diverse social contexts and linguistic expressions. The results suggest that "deviant" linguistic uses are not mere anomalies, but provide valuable opportunities to understand the complexity and diversity of situated language uses-uses which resist any straightforward application of abstract linguistic "norms." The panel develops a new theoretical framework in which both "normative" and "deviant" language uses are accounted for as well-structured meaningful sociolinguistic behaviors.
What's Cooking?: An Examination of Japanese Male Language Within Media Domains
Yoshiko Takahashi, Keio University
This study explores factors that affect Japanese men's speaking styles especially when they break the linguistic gender "norms." Japanese men and women have been characterized as having distinct communication styles (Ide, 1990, etc.). Compared to Japanese women's language, Japanese men's language has been portrayed as less polite, rough, abrupt, direct, etc. This dichotomous characterization has been challenged by recent studies on the diversity of Japanese women's speech (Okamoto, 1995, etc.). However, in contrast to women's speech, the diversity of Japanese men's speech has received little research attention.
This study focuses on how Japanese men cope with a conflict between situational demands and the "culturally expected" gendered communication style. Specifically, it investigates how male speakers talk when they enter a "media-mediated" domain: television cooking programs. In Japan, TV cooking programs are perceived as a feminine domain. What happens to the speech style when a man enters this feminine domain? In comparing male and female cooking instructors, great variations in their speech styles were observed. In particular, the male instructors all showed a deviation from the stereotypical Japanese men's language, exemplified by a greater usage of honorifics and polite expressions. Importantly, TV cooking instructors' speech was more strongly influenced by their age and genre of cooking (whether traditional Japanese cooking, Western dishes, desserts, etc.) than their sex. This suggests that communication styles evolve from complex interactions of social and personal variables and that there is no simple demarcation in language use based on gender.
Generation and Gender in Media Representation of Young Japanese Women's Speech
Yoshiko Matsumoto, Stanford University
Contrary to the commonly described phenomenon of a clear distinction between the language use of men and women in Japanese, especially in the choice of sentence-final particles, referential terms, and honorifics, recent studies based on natural conversations and other observations have questioned the reality of the assumed distinction between female and male forms, and have argued that the supposed women's language is a culturally constructed norm (Inoue, 1994; Okamoto, 1995). Such studies have found that the actual speech of women is much more diverse and more neutralized than is commonly believed. This diversity is especially represented by young women's speech that appropriates some conventionally masculine forms (Kobayashi, 1993; Okamoto, 1994). Such speech demonstrates the strategic choice of a variety of forms in specific contexts to express the speakers' identities and relationships to others.
In this paper, I will analyze the language use of young Japanese women as represented in women's magazines and TV advertisements. I will concentrate on the use of so-called non-feminine sentence final forms, which are characterized as more direct and assertive, and discuss the motivations and effects of such "deviant" forms. Through a comparison with more conventional female speech and the normative (standard) register that are also used in magazines and advertisements, I consider the complex relationship of this linguistic style to generation and gender as refracted through the media, and suggest that this new style is a manifestation of young women's resistance toward the strict social order expected within the established society.
Indexical Meanings of Honorific and Non-Honorific Expressions in Japanese
Shigeko Okamoto, California State University, Fresno
Japanese honorifics have commonly been treated as direct indexes of contextual features, such as status difference and the degree of intimacy (Ide, 1989; Niyekawa, 1991, etc.). However, this approach tends to represent "normative" usages. Actual language practices of Japanese do not often conform to such prescriptive characterizations (Miller, 1996).
This study analyzes the use of honorifics in conversations carried out in diverse social situations (e.g. sales talk in department stores and marketplaces in Osaka and Kyoto, conversations between students and between middle-aged friends). I consider the meanings of variations in the use of honorifics, an issue that has received little research attention. Many "deviant" uses in these data suggest that the use of honorifics is not directly governed by any particular social variable. Rather, it is a speaker's strategy based on his/her linguistic ideology that links honorifics to his/her assessment of multiple social aspects of specific speech contexts. Linguistic "norms," the hegemonic ideology, affect the speaker's strategy, but they are not universally shared by all speakers at all times. The data demonstrates how different, and at times, competing, linguistic ideologies, or situational norms, lead to variations in the use and interpretation of honorific and non-honorific expressions. For example, referent honorifics may be used to index (indirectly) different social meanings, such as the referent's power, distance toward the addressee, the speaker's class status, and speech-act types. This study illustrates the diversity of indexical relations in which social context and forms of speaking are mediated by linguistic ideologies.
Northridge Earthquake Conversation: The "Loop" Sequence in the
Conversation at First Encounter
Shoichi Iwasaki, University of California, Los Angeles
As members of society, we constantly assess the social situation surrounding us and respond with a particular mode of behavior. Since there are many different types of contexts, we expect to find different modes of behavior as well, some of which may be completely opposite. Thus a task of researchers seeking to find sociolinguistic norms in a culture should specify the context of a situation and make a detailed description of all types of behavior that appear.
The four dyads that I examine in this paper (each one approximately 20 minutes) are conversations between two complete strangers who talk about their personal experiences of the Northridge earthquake of January 17, 1994.
One conspicuous behavioral pattern found in the data is the "loop" sequence which is an exchange of small backchannel expressions between participants at the floor transition. It can be schematically represented as follows:
|Speaker A||Speaker B|
With this conversational action, newly acquainted conversationalists can carefully negotiate floor transition.
The present paper examines the mechanism of the "loop" sequence and claims that this special conversational exchange is a reflex of the "high considerate" style of conversation ("being considerate of others by not imposing," Tannen, 1990) and of "psychological interdependence" which explains many other interactional behaviors of Japanese discussed in the anthropological literature.
We must keep in mind, however, that the norm of "high considerate" style or "psychological interdependence" may not be applied in all types of conversation. In a different situation (e.g., conversation among friends) the norm of conversation seems to shift to the "high involvement" style, in which participants give "priority to showing enthusiastic involvement," and thus the "loop" sequence does not appear often.