The Social Life of the Japanese Language

The Social Life of the Japanese Language : Cultural Discourse and Situated Practice

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Why are different varieties of the Japanese language used differently in social interaction, and how are they perceived? How do honorifics operate to express diverse affective stances, such as politeness? Why have issues of gendered speech been so central in public discourse, and how are they reflected and refracted in language use as social practice? This book examines Japanese sociolinguistic phenomena from a fascinating new perspective, focusing on the historical construction of language norms and its relationship to actual language use in contemporary Japan. This socio-historically sensitive account stresses the different choices which have shaped Japanese and Western sociolinguistics and how varieties of Japanese, honorifics and politeness, and gendered language have emerged in response to the socio-political landscape in which a modernizing Japan found itself.show more

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Table of contents

Introduction: toward a dynamic model of Japanese language and social meaning; Part I. The Notion of Nihongo; 1. Standard Japanese and its others: building the national language; 1.1 Standard Japanese: a building block in the making of modern Japan; 1.2 Representations of standard and regional Japanese in the media; 2. Standard and regional Japanese: diversity in attitudes and practice; 2.1 Diversity in attitudes toward standard and regional Japanese; 2.2 Meanings of standard and regional Japanese in practice: negotiating norms; Part II. Japanese Honorifics and Japanese 'Politeness': 3. Keigo: from official policy to popular pedagogy; 3.1 Institutional policy on honorific form and use: constructing the Japanese essence; 3.2 Keigo for the public: authoritative accounts by linguists; 3.3 Honorifics: popular pedagogy; 4. Keigo: diversity in attitudes and practice; 4.1 Diversity in attitudes toward honorifics; 4.2 Honorifics in practice: negotiating norms; Part III. Japanese Language and Gender: 5. Gendered Japanese: normative linguistic femininity and masculinity; 5.1 Dominant narratives of gendered Japanese: a historical perspective; 5.2 Media representations of gendered speech in contemporary Japan; 6. Gendered Japanese: diversity in attitudes and practice; 6.1 Diversity in attitude toward gendered speech; 6.2 Meanings of gendered speech in practice: negotiating norms; Reflections: looking backward, looking forward.show more