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An Unofficial Guide for Japanese Characters 100

2012年 2月 26日 日曜日 筆者: SADANOBU Toshiyuki

<< An Unofficial Guide for Japanese Characters 99

(Final) Why think about characters? (Part 3)

Why think about characters? So far, I have explained my reasons from the point of view of Japanese language instruction and linguistic research (parts 98, 99). Finally, I would like to add the perspective of communications research, although it overlaps in places with linguistic research.

Consider a conversation between an adult and a child. Suppose the child stammers: “Because, uhh…” The adult responds by throwing the kid a lifeline, “Well, I guess we can skip the next Children’s Club meeting,” which the child immediately agrees to.

The child’s halting speech, while not very fluent, was successful in that the child’s way of speaking actually prompted the adult to lend assistance -this might be one interpretation of the situation. (Or rather is, in fact, the interpretation that would likely be made.) While this interpretation is true from one perspective, it is not necessarily always so. Perhaps the child had no intention of calling on the adult to lend assistance, but was simply confused and couldn’t spit out the words. Suppose that after this conversation he had killed himself, leaving behind a note that said: “I can’t go on because I can’t communicate. Forgive me.” What then of the interpretation that the child was successful in prompting the adult to lend assistance?

When a parent picks up a baby because it is about to toddle into danger, that baby does not (generally) secretly flash a tiny victory sign. Seeing intent where it does not necessarily exist and attributing “goal attainment” to unconscious behavior could quite possibly lead us to always view the various things which occur during communication (e.g. toddling and halting speech) as successes. In fact, many people are far from successful in their communication, and become worried and withdrawn, or even die, because of communication. Even if things don’t go that far, there are more than a few people who feel that nothing is more frightening or depressing than having to communicate with others.

Rather than seeing never-ending success among the participants in communication, it is necessary to focus on a realistic image of the speaker, not necessarily in conjunction with intent, in order to grasp real “fortune” and “misfortune.” For example, “misfortune” for the widow Yoshie Sasaki in Shiroi Kyotou (1969) and Mrs. Tagawa in Aru Onna (1911–1913) was falling from a position of “high rank” in a short period of time, and seeing people of “low rank” behave as their superiors, but not being able to acknowledge this fact, leading them to become confused and resentful. This was a stroke of “fortune,” in the form of a new-found “high rank” for the scornful vendor Nomura and Youko Satsuki respectively (parts 49–52). Although these are not very eloquent examples, they illustrate how we touched on “fortune” and “misfortune” in communication by considering character in this series.

As for other experiments in trying to grasp our “fortune” and “misfortune” in communication from the perspective of character, one could cite SENUMA Fumiaki’s Kyara Ron (Character Theory STUDIO CELLO, 2007) and AIHARA Hiroyuki’s Kyara-ka suru Nippon (“The Characterization of Japan,” Kodansha Ltd., 2007). However, as the theories in these works also encompass the prolongation of the Koizumi administration and the problem of truancy in schools, they deal more with current events in Japan and focus on the communication of young people. We looked at how the young man and woman in Dazai Osamu’s Haru no Kareha (1946) affected the accents of the “elderly,” saying “Anata no niisan wa, majime ja kara noo” and “Anata no okusan datte, majime ja kara noo” (“your elder brother is so serious,” “well, your wife is quite serious too”) in play. In this series, I have said that “we have been doing this sort of thing since long ago,” (part 10). I have tried to explain “communication,” and furthermore “language” in a form that is not limited to “recent times” or “youth,” and thus, from the beginning, have tried to use topics other than these in my explanations.

Using different topics, naturally, produces different ideas regarding “character.” For example, in ITO Go’s Tezuka Izu Deddo: Hirakareta Manga Hyoogenron he (Tezuka is Dead: Towards an Expanded Theory of the Language of Manga, NTT, 2005) introduced in the aforementioned work by Mr. Aihara, “Character” and “kyara” are categorized separately within the language of manga. This was probably because Ito judged that separating the two would be effective with respect to his theory of manga language. Also, Senuma’s use of the term “kyara” as a thing separate from “character,” “identity,” and “role” is probably due to the fact that he found it effective in discussing interpersonal relationships and communication among today’s youth. Similarly, while I do not make a distinction between “character” and “kyara,” my emphasis on the differences between “style” and “persona” stems from the fact that this is an effective method for discussing the language and communication of the Japanese-speaking community. It is only natural that each theoretician has a unique definition of “character (kyara)” that corresponds with what they want discuss.

Of course, considering various unified theories of “character (kyara)” is extremely fun for me. In considering the language of manga, Ito’s expansive idea that his theory “will open avenues connecting other expressive behaviors and academic fields with social phenomenon” is certainly not held by just Ito alone. However, in order to connect together “character (kyara)” theories in a way that transcends academic field, I need to first clarify my own theory of “character (kyara)” with respect to the other “character (kyara)” theories to which it should be linked.

Language and memory are not expected to change, unlike style, which can be freely altered to fit the person to whom one is speaking. Thus, if they do change, the observer is quickly lead to any number of conclusions about the speaker—“this person has been deceiving me,” “this person crumbles in the face of a strong adversary,” “this person is completely different around her lover” etc.—making both the observed and observer uncomfortable. However, it is not as fundamental a thing as “persona”—so, how can we discuss (the fortune and misfortune of) the language and communication of the Japanese-speaking community with this definition of “character (kyara).” I have tried to explain this as concretely as possible in this series.

I believe that ultimately the definition of “character (kyara)” we have given here can be combined with “style” and “persona,” and regrouped from the socio-psychological perspective of “attribution.” However, I do not currently have the wherewithal to embark on such an experiment. So, in closing I will say that in this series in grasping the variety of language produced by single speakers and fortune and misfortune in communication within the Japanese-speaking community, there are limits to just using “style” and “persona.” I will consider the goal of my essays fulfilled if the reader is satisfied on this point.

Thank you for staying with this series for so long.

* * *

Disclaimer: For the sake of consistency, I have quoted the word “kyarakutaa” from reference materials as “kyarakuta.” Please note that, in deference to understandability, in places I have referred to what should, more rigorously, be called “persons whose native language is Japanese” and “learners whose native language is not Japanese” as “Japanese” and “foreigners.” I have used as character names words which have discriminatory nuances, such as “okama,” “gaijin” and “oyaji(1) as I deemed it necessary to illuminate disciminatory tendencies when considering character; it is not my intention to perpetuate discrimination. Thank you for your understanding.

* * *

(1) Slang for transgendered/transsexual, foreigner, and middle-aged man respectively.

* * *

Acknowledgements: thanks to the students of (in alphabetical order) my regular school Kobe University, my part-time workplace of Kwansei Gakuin University, and Kyoto University, for their valuable opinions. Furthermore Mayuko Ogino, Koichi Yamamoto, and Shino Yamada of Sanseido Publishing Co.,Ltd. helped greatly with uploading the essays and providing the illustrations. I would like to express my thanks to them here. These essays partially resulted from research performed through the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research: Basic Research (A) Jinbutsuzoo ni oojita Onsee Bunpoo (Spoken Grammar in Response to Portraits, Grant No. 19202013, Research Representative: SADANOBU Toshiyuki), Basic Research (B) Yakuwarigo no Rironteki Kiban ni Kansuru Sougouteki Kenkyuu (Comprehensive Research on the Theoretical Basis of Role Language, Grant No. 19329969 Research Representative: KINSUI Satoshi).

author

Bonnou no Bunpou: Taikien o Kataritagaru Hitobito no Yokubou ga Nihongo no Bunpou System o Yusaburu Hanashi (The Grammar of Earthly Desires: How Our Desire to Narrate Daily Experiences Shape Japanese Grammatical Systems)Toshiyuki SADANOBU.
Professor of Linguistics at Kobe University. Ph.D.: Kyoto University, 1998. Research Interests: Personal Experience in Grammar and Communication.
Selected Publications:
(1) Bonnou no Bunpou: Taikien o Kataritagaru Hitobito no Yokubou ga Nihongo no Bunpou System o Yusaburu Hanashi (The Grammar of Earthly Desires: How Our Desire to Narrate Daily Experiences Shape Japanese Grammatical Systems). Tokyo: Chikumashobo, 2008;
(2) Sasayaku Koibito, Rikimu Repootaa: Kuchi no naka no Bunka (Whispering Lovers and Creaking Reporters: Culture in Our Mouth). Tokyo: Iwanami, 2005;
(3) Ninchi Gengoron (A Cognitive Study of Language). Tokyo: Taishukan, 2000.
URL:URL:http://ccs.cla.kobe-u.ac.jp/Gengo/staff/sadanobu/index.htm

An Unofficial Guide for Japanese Characters 99

2012年 2月 19日 日曜日 筆者: SADANOBU Toshiyuki

<< An Unofficial Guide for Japanese Characters 98

Why think about characters? (Part 2)

Why think about characters? Why is it necessary, and what advantages are there, to thinking about characters? Last time we responded to this question by looking at Japanese language education. This time I want to propose a second answer by talking about the significance of thinking about verbal characters in linguistic research. In terms of significance, the reader might remember the “discovery” of the character particle, e.g. the pyo-n in expressions like uso da pyoon (I’m kidding pyoon). As you’ll recall, character particles may be mistaken for sentence-ending particles, but actually appear after even the sentence-ending particles (such as yo), and are coupled with the character of the speaker (like pyoon). Up until now, part of speech classifications have not taken character particles into account, nor has their position in sentences been addressed in structural observation. While they may appear to be frivolous and superficial, character particles in fact have the potential to advance the areas of speech classification and structural observation. I think this is easy to grasp, and as we have already discussed them previously in various columns (parts 1, 10, and 20) I want to look at a different significance of character particles here. First, let’s consider the following text regarding the omission of the syllable ra.

Let’s think about some ra-less words. For example, using the verb mireru instead of mirareru (in the sense of “to be able to see”) is a ra-less word. Similarly, using the verb nereru instead of nerareru (“to be able to sleep”) is also a ra-less word. Why are ra-less words becoming so wide-spread, particularly among the youth of Japan?

One explanation is that heretofore the Japanese grammatical system has assigned too many functions to the auxiliary verb rareru. There is the passive voice -rareru, as in Oya ni shikarareru (be scolded by one’s parents), and the honorific -rareru used in Okyakusama ga korareru (a customer will come). There is the spontaneous -rareru, as in Yuku sue ga anjirareru (a dreaded prospect) and the potential -rareru of Doonika mirareru (be somehow visible). It’s tricky to load four functions (the passive, honorific, spontaneous, and potential forms) on one -rareru. Therefore, one explanation is that the younger generation has removed one of these functions—the potential—reducing the load on -rareru to three, instead of four, functions.

This seems fully plausible. However, is the “trickiness” of loading -rareru with four functions really our “problem?” Maybe today’s youth are nervous that -rareru will not be interpreted as they intended. Maybe they feel sorry for their conversation partners who will have to figure out what -rareru means. Perhaps ra-less words are a bold step taken by the youth of today to save our troubled Japanese communication for tomorrow’s children. If so, why then don’t adults praise the use of ra-less words, and instead denigrate them heartlessly as the “sloppy language of uneducated youths?” Why don’t the youths proudly assert themselves, but rather mutter under their breaths “I’ve gotta be careful not to use ra-less words” at my job interview?

The image of the “speaker,” which is marched out to explain grammar, has been elevated to abnormally high levels of cleverness and rationality, not only in ra-less words.

[SADANOBU Toshiyuki, Bonnoo no Bunpou (The Grammar of Earthly Desires) Introduction, pp. 10–11, Chikumashobo Ltd., 2008.]

I didn’t think I’d be quoting myself at length at this final stage, but it does directly and conveniently sum up my thoughts (naturally), so I hope you’ll forgive me. This frightfully intellectualized “speaker,” quite removed from reality, tends to be trotted out by linguists to explain changes in language, such as the spread of ra-less words. The same is true when explaining variety in language, such as jargon (terminology/associated language and slang used by members of specific professions or groups) and language used by youths.

Jargon is often given teleonomic explanations; e.g. jargon is created and used because it’s effective for “preventing outsiders from understanding what the words mean,” “increasing a sense of identification with the group,” “strengthening bonds between insiders,” “casually advertising ones detailed knowledge of insider information in one’s own field,” “providing pure enjoyment with word-play,” and “quickly conveying information.”

Certainly, jargon is created and used in vast quantities, and such explanations fit a wide range of jargon. However, there is also subtle jargon which is casually used, but which may not be completely understood by members of other groups.

(25) I work at a certain car manufacturer doing ignition timing and fuel setting. –Is every day a battle against engine knocking? Yes, but at our company knocking is called an “engine phenomenon due to abnormal fuel burning during times of high load.” Phenomenon such as those Ollie describes are called “surges” and “snatches.” When thinking about engine knocking we divide it into categories. (These terms are probably only used at our company.)(http://www.geocities.co.jp/MotorCity/9055/0403egeobook.html, April 15, 2005)

The author of this post (25) from an online forum writes that the definition of “knocking” used by his company would probably not be understood at other companies. Even if it does raise concerns, there is no need to connect this “knocking” with the above-described sense of purpose.

[NAKAGAWA (MOKHTARI) Akiko, SADANOBU Toshiyuki Senmon no Kotoba, Nakama no Kotoba (Specialized Language, Collegial Language), UENO Tomoko, SADANOBU Toshiyuki, NODA Harumi (eds.) Nihongo no Baraeti (Variety in the Japanese Language) p. 23, Ohfu, 2005.]

Oh dear—I did it again. But it’s no use. Using my own writing is just too convenient. That is to say that while, to be sure, people speak in jargon and youth slang in order to “prevent outsiders from understanding” and “for the enjoyment of the group,” this is not always the case, as illustrated by the above example. In some cases, people speak in jargon and youth slang without any particular objective or intention. Using such jargon with a wink and the air of an insider, as if to say “this is to preserve secrecy and strengthen our bonds” would just be embarrassing.

When producing language, we don’t always “set some objective and intentionally use words to fulfill that objective.” However, modern linguistic research often forgets the real-life “speaker,” settling instead for “high-altitude thinking (pensée du survol)” (uh-oh, I’ve gone and said it).

So, when speaking of variety in language, in addition to social variety such as jargon and youth slang, we must not forget about variety in individuals.

The variation in language spoken by a single person far exceeds our expectations (part 95). Traditionally, this variety has been addressed with a feasible explanation: the speaker adjusts to the context, situation, conversation content, and the conversation partner, selects an appropriate style, and uses language accordingly. There is no need to explain that in using “selecting a style” and “using language accordingly,” this means of addressing the issue assumes a rational speaker that intentionally uses language to achieve some purpose. Can we really completely address individual variations in language this way? If not, where and how should we address them? That is to say, where are the limits of this utterly rational speaker, who has both teleonomic verbal and utilitarian linguistic perspectives, and uses style as they will? What sort of entity is this new speaker, who fills in all those gaps?

Unlike style, which can be freely changed, there are things that are expected to not change. If they are seen to change (except in the context of play), they will be recognized immediately, and both the seer and seen will feel awkward. In other words, these things cannot be freely controlled. That these things undoubtedly exist in our daily lives is something I think we “intuitively understand” (part 94). I call this thing “character,” and in this series I have used it as a perspective from which to observe Japanese society. (I feel that the Japanese language—modern, common Japanese—is strongly connected to character. Thus it poses an extremely large problem to learners.)

In this series, I have attempted to provide one answer to the above-stated problem in as concrete and understandable a form as possible. As to whether this attempt has been a success or failure, I leave it up to the readers’ judgment. However, the one thing that should be clear is that our speculations on how to explain the phenomenon of linguistic variety produced by single speakers have provided an enjoyable opportunity for reconsidering and advancing the framework of linguistic research (from the perspectives of spoken language and linguistics). That this is one significance of considering characters within linguistic research is something that nobody would contest. (To be continued)

author

Bonnou no Bunpou: Taikien o Kataritagaru Hitobito no Yokubou ga Nihongo no Bunpou System o Yusaburu Hanashi (The Grammar of Earthly Desires: How Our Desire to Narrate Daily Experiences Shape Japanese Grammatical Systems)Toshiyuki SADANOBU.
Professor of Linguistics at Kobe University. Ph.D.: Kyoto University, 1998. Research Interests: Personal Experience in Grammar and Communication.
Selected Publications:
(1) Bonnou no Bunpou: Taikien o Kataritagaru Hitobito no Yokubou ga Nihongo no Bunpou System o Yusaburu Hanashi (The Grammar of Earthly Desires: How Our Desire to Narrate Daily Experiences Shape Japanese Grammatical Systems). Tokyo: Chikumashobo, 2008;
(2) Sasayaku Koibito, Rikimu Repootaa: Kuchi no naka no Bunka (Whispering Lovers and Creaking Reporters: Culture in Our Mouth). Tokyo: Iwanami, 2005;
(3) Ninchi Gengoron (A Cognitive Study of Language). Tokyo: Taishukan, 2000.
URL:URL:http://ccs.cla.kobe-u.ac.jp/Gengo/staff/sadanobu/index.htm

An Unofficial Guide for Japanese Characters 98

2012年 2月 12日 日曜日 筆者: SADANOBU Toshiyuki

<< An Unofficial Guide for Japanese Characters 97

Why think about characters? (Part 1)

Although Ad Libitum is my motto, even I am caught off guard sometimes. This series has almost reached 100 installments. One h-hundred! Scary. What on earth am I doing here?

It all started two years ago, when I gave a lecture on character at a symposium held by the Society for Teaching Japanese as a Foreign Language. Ms. O at Sanseido Publishing brought up the subject of doing a series of columns, and I breezily accepted. So, each week I have been scratching out these ad-libbed columns little by little. And now we have almost reached 100. Scary.

So, why did I lecture on character at the Society for Teaching Japanese as a Foreign Language symposium?

The reason is that character poses a large problem for foreigners when they study Japanese. This is probably the foremost answer I give people when they ask, “Why do you think about characters?”

I met an excellent young student, Ms. L, who had passed the Level 1 Japanese Language Proficiency Test (1) . I will never forget the ennui of the moment when she said, quite seriously, “Will it be sunny tomorrow?” (Ashita wa haremasu ka na (2)). Ms. L, you’re too young to be a “senior citizen”!

The late Professor T constantly used “female” language, such as dame ne-e (that’s no good) and atsui waa (it’s hot)(3) . Even at the end, I don’t think he himself realized how much he had learned from his Japanese wife.

I had another excellent young student, Ms. H. She came to our graduate school in Japan, where she saw Mr. I, a Japanese student, and called to him:

Boku, boku” (hey you)(4) .

Poor Mr I—treated like a “child.” These two eventually got married —this world is indeed a strange place.

And just because Kimutaku(5) uses ore (I-brusque) on the soaps, don’t think you can get away with using it in my class or anywhere else. But that’s enough of that. The wall around the Japanese-speaking community is thick indeed.

The reason you would call others omae (you) is that you yourself were habitually called omae by the “men” around you. I now sort of understand the travails that you go through.

And no, I’m not just talking about verbal characters. Let’s look at some expression characters as well. For example, one line from a certain novel goes: “A said, goggle-eyed (me o muite)……” From this alone, we can guess that A’s “class” is not very high. However, to a learner of Japanese, even one who studies quite a lot, this is not at all obvious. Of course, they understand that me o muite means to open ones eye’s wide in surprise or anger. They would not know that while a “lady of the house” character might, in consternation, “pronounce, with eyes wide open (me o mihiraite)……” she would usually not “say, goggle-eyed (me o muite)……”

Although this sort of thing poses a critical problem to learners of the Japanese language, Japanese teachers almost never teach it. That is to say, Japanese language instruction currently cannot handle it.

Why not? Of course, part of the blame should go to the state of the field of Japanese language instruction. In the present field of Japanese language teaching, there is very little awareness that “character poses large problems to foreigners when they study Japanese, and therefore something must be done.” At my aforementioned lecture, which truly was haphazard, so I don’t remember it very well, I think I probably focused on that point. No doubt.

However, there is another reason why Japanese language instruction currently does not teach about characters. Teachers of the Japanese language cannot teach about characters because characters have yet to be clearly defined; that is to say, research in this area has not advanced. The problem lies not only with Japanese language instruction, but also Japanese language research.

One of the reasons I deal with characters in particular has to do with their necessity and value to Japanese language instruction.

However, even laying aside the connection with Japanese language instruction, there is value in studying characters, especially verbal characters, to linguistic research. (To be continued)

* * *

(1) A Japanese language test for non-native speakers. Under this system, Level 1 is the most difficult level.

(2) Again, na is usually only used by older Japanese.

(3) Similarly, ne-e and wa-a are generally only used by women.

(4) Boku literally means “I,” but it is often used to mean “you” when addressing very young boys.

(5) Nickname of Takuya Kimura, a pop singer and actor

author

Bonnou no Bunpou: Taikien o Kataritagaru Hitobito no Yokubou ga Nihongo no Bunpou System o Yusaburu Hanashi (The Grammar of Earthly Desires: How Our Desire to Narrate Daily Experiences Shape Japanese Grammatical Systems)Toshiyuki SADANOBU.
Professor of Linguistics at Kobe University. Ph.D.: Kyoto University, 1998. Research Interests: Personal Experience in Grammar and Communication.
Selected Publications:
(1) Bonnou no Bunpou: Taikien o Kataritagaru Hitobito no Yokubou ga Nihongo no Bunpou System o Yusaburu Hanashi (The Grammar of Earthly Desires: How Our Desire to Narrate Daily Experiences Shape Japanese Grammatical Systems). Tokyo: Chikumashobo, 2008;
(2) Sasayaku Koibito, Rikimu Repootaa: Kuchi no naka no Bunka (Whispering Lovers and Creaking Reporters: Culture in Our Mouth). Tokyo: Iwanami, 2005;
(3) Ninchi Gengoron (A Cognitive Study of Language). Tokyo: Taishukan, 2000.
URL:URL:http://ccs.cla.kobe-u.ac.jp/Gengo/staff/sadanobu/index.htm

An Unofficial Guide for Japanese Characters 97

2012年 2月 5日 日曜日 筆者: SADANOBU Toshiyuki

<< An Unofficial Guide for Japanese Characters 96

You want to be called “you”?

To follow up on the previous column, in which we looked at how a speaker referred to himself/herself (first-person), we will now touch upon pronouns used to address the listener (second-person).

If an exchange student were to falteringly ask me, “Are you a professor?” (anata wa sensei desu ka?), I wouldn’t be angry(1) . But if a native Japanese student asked me “Are you a professor?” (anata wa sensei desu ka?), I’d be annoyed. It would be better if s/he had said “Uh…. are you a professor?” (ano… sensei deshoo ka?). On second thought, I wouldn’t be annoyed so much as alarmed. If a student referred to someone who appeared to be a professor with the pronoun “you” (anata), I would think that professor was probably on the verge of being sued. It would imply: “Are you really a professor? Ok, I’ll see you in court.

The words anata (you) and watashi (I) appear as a pair at the beginning of every textbook on Japanese. To foreigners, the pronoun “you” is ok for everyone. But this only applies to “foreigner” characters.

Of course, in TV commercials and street-corner surveys, “you” (anata) often shows up, for example: “You can return your skin to its youthful state!” or “What country do you want to visit?” etc. However, this does not mean that it is always fine to use “you” (anata) in Japanese. Commercials and surveys are always directed at an unseen, unknown, unspecified mass of people, so there is no established human relationship between the speaker and listener. Therefore, it is acceptable to use “you” (anata).

So long as one lives in the midst of acquaintances, situations in which one should call another person “you” (anata) will almost never arise. I myself have not once called anyone “you” since, at least, the beginning of this year. It’s disrespectful. Although “you” is polite language, it is only polite when said by someone of “high rank.” After graduating from law school, and finding myself with nowhere to go, I took the entrance examination to an undergraduate humanities program. During the interview, the professor scolded me: “Why do you (anata) want to take a degree with no job prospects?” Only a professor of that stature is allowed to use “you” (anata). It’ll be quite some time before I reach that level.

Of course, as I said at the beginning, it is probably somewhat easier to refer to as “you” (anata) a person whose individual merit may seem no better or worse than that of anybody else due to certain public circumstances. For instance, being sued or on the verge thereof. However, if it is easy to call a suspect “you” (anata) but not a judge, who one would call “your honor” (saibanchoo), this would after all indicate that “you” (anata) is a word the use of which is reserved for those of “high rank.”

What? You say that in the manga Sazaesan, Sazaesan says “You forgot your lunch box” (anata, obentou wasureteru wa yo!) to her husband Masuo? Is she looking down on her husband in this case? No, of course not. This “you” (anata) is the “you” used by people (especially women) to refer to their significant others in cases where a marital or romantic relationship exists. Although the young women of today may not familiar with it, there is a work about men and women set in the Edo period by Yamamoto Shugoro in which one can find the following conversation:

“…… I’m Yaroku. Call me by name from now on.”

“Are you kidding? What wife calls her husband by name? Let me call you ‘you,’ like any other married couple.”

[Yamamoto Shuugorou, Yuurei Kashiya 1950]

This word also used to often appear in popular music not long ago. If we consider that two people in an intimate relationship can both act “superior” to each other, and that while the “superior” man often uses omae(2) (you/brusque) while the woman uses the more polite anata, this “you” (anata) seems to be related to the polite “you” used by those of “high rank” mentioned earlier. Without more research, I cannot be sure of the details.

However, regardless of how we handle the “you” (anata) addressed to a significant other, what is clear at this point is that while “you” (anata) is normally a polite word, there are various circumstances under which it can be offensive to people. The rudeness that may be perceived when someone calls another by the polite anata—even if they refrain from brusquely using omae, kisama, or temee—derives from the fact that the speaker has transcended his or her position, and is behaving as a character of superior status (“high rank”). This is all I wanted to say.

* * *

(1) While the pronoun “you” (anata) does exist in the Japanese language, it is seldom used. Generally one uses the other person’s last name with an honorary suffix such as san (Mr./Ms.) or sensei (Prof.).

(2) Omae, kisama, and temee all translate as “you,” but are more brusque, less polite variants, and are most often used by men.

author

Bonnou no Bunpou: Taikien o Kataritagaru Hitobito no Yokubou ga Nihongo no Bunpou System o Yusaburu Hanashi (The Grammar of Earthly Desires: How Our Desire to Narrate Daily Experiences Shape Japanese Grammatical Systems)Toshiyuki SADANOBU.
Professor of Linguistics at Kobe University. Ph.D.: Kyoto University, 1998. Research Interests: Personal Experience in Grammar and Communication.
Selected Publications:
(1) Bonnou no Bunpou: Taikien o Kataritagaru Hitobito no Yokubou ga Nihongo no Bunpou System o Yusaburu Hanashi (The Grammar of Earthly Desires: How Our Desire to Narrate Daily Experiences Shape Japanese Grammatical Systems). Tokyo: Chikumashobo, 2008;
(2) Sasayaku Koibito, Rikimu Repootaa: Kuchi no naka no Bunka (Whispering Lovers and Creaking Reporters: Culture in Our Mouth). Tokyo: Iwanami, 2005;
(3) Ninchi Gengoron (A Cognitive Study of Language). Tokyo: Taishukan, 2000.
URL:http://ccs.cla.kobe-u.ac.jp/Gengo/staff/sadanobu/index.htm

An Unofficial Guide for Japanese Characters 96

2012年 1月 29日 日曜日 筆者: SADANOBU Toshiyuki

<< An Unofficial Guide for Japanese Characters 95

Happenings at home

Previously, I mentioned that when answering the phone, a large percentage of Japanese women raise (or lower) their voices, becoming almost different people. To be sure, this is probably fine with the person on the other end. But for the people around the woman in question, it must be unsettling to hear her from the backstage area, as it were, switch to her phone voice to make her character more presentable.

The home is probably the representative place where one can get away with such embarrassing behavior. After all, the rest of the family is, more or less, in the same boat. Everyone tacitly agrees that, even if it is just a facade to keep up appearances, having mom act like a “refined lady of the house” by using her raised phone voice, it is better for the appearance of everyone in the family. The man who acts like a “gentleman” in society, but is a spoiled “rich kid” at home (part 92), the guy who is a cool adult outside, but at home is a runty “child,” the woman who is a refined “young lady” when she goes to parties, but on getting home shucks her shoes and clothes, drinks too much, and pukes (part 93); dad, you, me, everyone has their flaws—it’s best we turn a blind eye to each other.

As I just said, we’re all “in the same boat,” but this doesn’t completely explain why it is particularly easy in the home to recognize the smoothing over of character that goes on backstage. A person can be “father to Person A, husband to Person B,” or “daughter to Person C, big sister to Person D;” the home has a variety of overlapping human relationships, not unlike a workplace. Moreover, when the whole family (A through D) gathers in one spot, all these relationships often manifest themselves at once. That “one spot” is the home. At home, the limitations of always attempting to use one character with regards to everyone probably become pretty apparent.

Nick Campbell, who I mentioned last time, is surveying a huge amount of data, spanning a number of years, on the daily conversations of Japanese women. According to this research, the speaker’s tone of voice changes greatly depending on which member of the family she is talking to, for example adopting a raised voice when speaking to her daughter, or a stiff voice when talking to her husband (Campbell, Nick, and Mokhtari, Parham. 2003. Voice quality: the 4th prosodic dimension, ICPhS2003, 2417-2420, http://www.speech-data.jp/nick/feast/pubs/vqpd.pdf).

Come to think of it, in Yasunari Kawabata’s Maihime (The Dancer, 1950–1951), Shinako Yagi, the 21 year-old, single protagonist, refers to herself as both “I/me” and in the third person (“Shinako”). Shinako generally calls herself “Shinako” when speaking to her father Moto’o (3 out of 3 times), her mother Namiko (49 out of 55 times), and her mother’s assistant Tomoko Hitachi who is three years older than Shinako (7 out of 7 times). On the other hand, she uses “I/me” when talking to her younger brother Takao (1 out of 1 time), her senior schoolmate Nozu (5 out of 5 times) in whose marriage proposals she takes no interest, and her mother’s lover, Takehara (1 out of 1 time). Cases of her using “I/me” are few, and while the details are vague, her different uses of “Shinako” and “I/me” can probably be explained by whether or not the other party is her superior or inferior, and whether s/he is a member of Shinako’s family. Or rather, it might be more straightforward to say that she uses the third person to create a “child” character that will be coddled by others; when she cannot, or doesn’t want to, be coddled, she uses “I/me.” Although the above discussion does not compare with Campbell’s scientific approach, the idea that at home Shinako’s character changes subtly depending on whether she’s talking to her parents or her younger brother is probably relevant.

author

Bonnou no Bunpou: Taikien o Kataritagaru Hitobito no Yokubou ga Nihongo no Bunpou System o Yusaburu Hanashi (The Grammar of Earthly Desires: How Our Desire to Narrate Daily Experiences Shape Japanese Grammatical Systems)Toshiyuki SADANOBU.
Professor of Linguistics at Kobe University. Ph.D.: Kyoto University, 1998. Research Interests: Personal Experience in Grammar and Communication.
Selected Publications:
(1) Bonnou no Bunpou: Taikien o Kataritagaru Hitobito no Yokubou ga Nihongo no Bunpou System o Yusaburu Hanashi (The Grammar of Earthly Desires: How Our Desire to Narrate Daily Experiences Shape Japanese Grammatical Systems). Tokyo: Chikumashobo, 2008;
(2) Sasayaku Koibito, Rikimu Repootaa: Kuchi no naka no Bunka (Whispering Lovers and Creaking Reporters: Culture in Our Mouth). Tokyo: Iwanami, 2005;
(3) Ninchi Gengoron (A Cognitive Study of Language). Tokyo: Taishukan, 2000.
URL:http://ccs.cla.kobe-u.ac.jp/Gengo/staff/sadanobu/index.htm

An Unofficial Guide for Japanese Characters 95

2012年 1月 22日 日曜日 筆者: SADANOBU Toshiyuki

<< An Unofficial Guide for Japanese Characters 94

Happenings at the phone receiver

How to go about convincing others (not only laypeople, but researchers and colleagues from various academic backgrounds) to accept this new idea that “it is necessary to include the concept of character in communication and language research”?

As I said previously, I believe that the best method is to make use of various real examples in order to bring others, by hook or by crook, to an intuitive “understanding” of the necessity of the concept of character, and this is exactly what I have been doing in this series.

Of course, my ideas are only that —my ideas. But in fact experiments showing that the concept of character is necessary on a “scientific” basis have actually begun. For example, in a paper jointly authored by MOKHTARI Akiko & CAMPBELL Nick, “Speaking Style Variation and Speaker Personality” (in OKADA Hiroki, SADANOBU Toshiyuki (2010 Eds.) ‘The Potential of Cultural Literacy,’ Hitsuzi Shobo), the authors describe how they recorded a single speaker, who used 30 tones of voice, speaking with various people in-person and on the phone. They then used these recordings in an experiment. A report of their experiment, as simply summarized by me, is as follows.

The people selected as test subjects, i.e. the listeners, were unacquainted with the speaker of the recordings. The test subjects were instructed to listen to 30 voices. They were asked to listen to each voice carefully, and divide them into groups by speaker. Of course, all 30 voices were produced by one person, so one would expect they would not be able to distinguish them, but incredibly, the subjects were able to sort all the voices into multiple groups. The subjects were further asked to fill out a questionnaire regarding what kind of people they thought had produced the voices in each group. The subjects responded by assigning various ages and appearances to the speakers in each group. At the end of the experiment, the subjects were flabbergasted to learn that all the voices had been produced by a single person.

In conclusion, the authors observed that “the amount of variation in manner of speaking, depending on who the speaker was speaking to, far exceeded the expectations of the test subjects.” Stated another way, while the test subjects probably recognized that a speaker might change his/her style of speaking depending on the other party, their estimates of the amount of variation were far lower than actual variation. Why did the subjects, or rather why do we all, unrealistically underestimate this kind of thing so much?

I think it is because we “good citizens” live in a world of commitments, and are conditioned to accept certain kinds of ideas. When I see you and speak to you, I believe that you behave precisely like the kind of person you are, and that you will be that kind of person anytime, anywhere. I do not think to myself, you seem thus and so now, but I don’t know what you’re like when I’m not around. I want you to believe that I am precisely the kind of person I seem to be also. This does not just apply to you and me. I assume that all people (or at least all my acquaintances) accept the idea that each person behaves and speaks in a “straightforward” manner, just as their personality dictates. It is not that we categorically deny the existence of shady characters that, although they aren’t supposed to change, actually can, and often do change. It is just that we live our lives without even thinking about this (this is what it means to live a social life) and thus we can maintain our unrealistic estimates without a second thought.

When answering the phone, Japanese women (homemakers especially) use a voice that is completely different from their normal voice. They give their voice an inordinately high, cheerful tone, and begin by saying Hai moshi moshi, XX de gozaimasu (Yes, hello? This is XX speaking). I would bring up this change of voice in order to make my readers realize the necessity of the concept of character, but this is not a rule; in reality, there are also women, albeit lesser in number, who give their voice an inordinately low (calm) tone when answering the phone. Thus, today I introduced a “scientific” approach to characters, while making a profit by using my cherished fellow researchers’ abilities.

author

Bonnou no Bunpou: Taikien o Kataritagaru Hitobito no Yokubou ga Nihongo no Bunpou System o Yusaburu Hanashi (The Grammar of Earthly Desires: How Our Desire to Narrate Daily Experiences Shape Japanese Grammatical Systems)Toshiyuki SADANOBU.
Professor of Linguistics at Kobe University. Ph.D.: Kyoto University, 1998. Research Interests: Personal Experience in Grammar and Communication.
Selected Publications:
(1) Bonnou no Bunpou: Taikien o Kataritagaru Hitobito no Yokubou ga Nihongo no Bunpou System o Yusaburu Hanashi (The Grammar of Earthly Desires: How Our Desire to Narrate Daily Experiences Shape Japanese Grammatical Systems). Tokyo: Chikumashobo, 2008;
(2) Sasayaku Koibito, Rikimu Repootaa: Kuchi no naka no Bunka (Whispering Lovers and Creaking Reporters: Culture in Our Mouth). Tokyo: Iwanami, 2005;
(3) Ninchi Gengoron (A Cognitive Study of Language). Tokyo: Taishukan, 2000.
URL:http://ccs.cla.kobe-u.ac.jp/Gengo/staff/sadanobu/index.htm

An Unofficial Guide for Japanese Characters 94

2012年 1月 15日 日曜日 筆者: SADANOBU Toshiyuki

<< An Unofficial Guide for Japanese Characters 93

Unnatural passages in authoritative famous quotes (Part 3)

In the previous two parts (9293), we saw that the younger brother in Natsume Soseki’s Koujin used ..desu ze and …de saa when addressing his older brother. In Sakaguchi Ango’s Furenzoku Satsujin Jiken we saw a famous detective who used …de saa and …masen ze and the maid who said Okusama, ojoosama wa gero haite… (Madam, the young miss puked). The heroine in Tsuboi Sakae’s Nijuushi no Hitomi uses …masu na and her smile is described as “sneering.” Wouldn’t looking at these kinds of unnatural expressions, no matter how authoritative these famous quotes are, muddy the connection between Japanese language and character, and warp their mutual relationship?

That is definitely a possibility. But we needn’t worry about it too much. This is because the problem we are most concerned with is the realm of “modern Japanese,” which, in its own way, we are sufficiently capable of understanding by intuition.

To be sure, the …desu ze, …masen ze, and …de saa of the brother in Koojin and the detective in Furenzoku Satsujin Jiken, and the …masu na in Nijuushi no Hitomi would be unnatural as modern language. However, this is something that we intuitively understand. We needn’t consider these to be examples of modern Japanese. That’s all there is to it.

On the other hand, when the maid in Furenzoku Satsujin Jiken, said Okusama, ojoosama wa gero haite, kurushiminasu tte imasu ga… (Madam, the young miss puked and said she’s in pain), we can sufficiently understand, even from a modern perspective, the obtuseness of her use of refined words, like okusama (madam) and ojoosama (young miss) together with the vulgar gero haite (puke) to be the behavior of a certain type of “country folk” character.

The “sneering” of the heroine in Nijuushi no Hitomi probably also seems normal, even from modern aesthetics, when we consider that it takes place in an opening scene eight years after the previous chapter, and the heroine is being introduced not as a heroine, but as an unidentified woman.

Thus, we cannot dismiss “the young miss puked” or the “sneering” as artifacts of the olden days that do not apply in modern times. We should recognize them as modern Japanese, but as examples of twists on speakers and scene.

These are simple examples because they are things that we understand intuitively. In cases where it is best to use intuition, there is no reason not to.

Unfortunately, our understanding is extremely limited when it comes to the root problem of linguistic communication —that is, the problem of what we are doing with language when we get together in groups. It is still very difficult for us to know even what position a given behavior occupies in the world of linguistic communication at large. Even if we try to find its position, we cannot even plot its longitude and latitude, as we haven’t yet discovered where the poles are on the globe of linguistic communication nor the equator. This is the extent to which we do not understand the world of linguistic communication.

The fact that our understanding of it is so limited indicates that what we call meaning within this world is something created by the people living in it, and not something that can be measured objectively from the “outside.” If we try to observe something in a straightforward manner, this tends to eliminate intuition. However, uniquely in the case of our own linguistic communication, intuition is a crucial tool, apart from objective measurement, when making observations.

In backing up my assertion that the concept of character is necessary in observing the Japanese-speaking community, I have not produced any byzantine formulae or graphs. Rather, I think it is best to use fragments of noted literary works, because these will give readers an intuitive understanding of character.

And also, I admit, because I like such literary works.

author

Bonnou no Bunpou: Taikien o Kataritagaru Hitobito no Yokubou ga Nihongo no Bunpou System o Yusaburu Hanashi (The Grammar of Earthly Desires: How Our Desire to Narrate Daily Experiences Shape Japanese Grammatical Systems)Toshiyuki SADANOBU.
Professor of Linguistics at Kobe University. Ph.D.: Kyoto University, 1998. Research Interests: Personal Experience in Grammar and Communication.
Selected Publications:
(1) Bonnou no Bunpou: Taikien o Kataritagaru Hitobito no Yokubou ga Nihongo no Bunpou System o Yusaburu Hanashi (The Grammar of Earthly Desires: How Our Desire to Narrate Daily Experiences Shape Japanese Grammatical Systems). Tokyo: Chikumashobo, 2008;
(2) Sasayaku Koibito, Rikimu Repootaa: Kuchi no naka no Bunka (Whispering Lovers and Creaking Reporters: Culture in Our Mouth). Tokyo: Iwanami, 2005;
(3) Ninchi Gengoron (A Cognitive Study of Language). Tokyo: Taishukan, 2000.
URL:http://ccs.cla.kobe-u.ac.jp/Gengo/staff/sadanobu/index.htm

An Unofficial Guide for Japanese Characters 93

2012年 1月 8日 日曜日 筆者: SADANOBU Toshiyuki

<< An Unofficial Guide for Japanese Characters 92

Unnatural passages in authoritative famous quotes (Part 2)

In Ango Sakaguchi’s Furenzoku Satsujin Jiken (part 92), besides the number of murders, one other shocking “incident” was the unforgettable sentence uttered by a maid in the story. This was the “Young Miss Puked” incident.

Ayaka held the crying Tamao and led her away. When she returned some time later, the maid came in after her. “Ma’am, the Young Miss puked. She says she’s in pain and asked for Mr. Ebizuka.” Ebizuka raised his head angrily. “Nonsense! She doesn’t need a doctor to take care of her. She’s just drunk. Does she think she’s a queen? Go away.” He glared menacingly.

[Sakaguchi Ango Furenzoku Satsujin Jiken, 1947–48]

Hmm. Is it ever ok to say the words “Young Miss” together with “puked?” If, like verbal characters (part 56), expression characters too normally appear in a consistent form, the words following “the Young Miss” should have been “is feeling unwell.” Even if she had decided to explain the real facts of the matter, she would be more likely to say “the Young Miss was sick” and not “puked.” Conversely, if she absolutely had to use “puked,” wouldn’t it have been more natural to avoid using the expression “Young Miss,” which so particularly evoked “class,” rather say “Tamao,” or “she.”

There are still more examples of unnatural passages in authoritative famous quotes. In Tsuboi Sakae’s(1) Nijuushi no Hitomi(2) (1952), three children’s Mother, who is the young heroin of the story, says komarimasu na (this is a problem!). -Masu na?! Even worse, she is described as “sneering,” even though she’s the heroin. Is it acceptable to say the good guy “sneers?”

Lamenting together over the merchandise, the old man nodded his head in agreement. “There’s plenty in dark markets,” he said.
Then he laughed. His mouth, apparently lacking back teeth, looked pitch black inside. The woman averted her eyes, saying “Today we have to buy everything at dark markets. If I cannot help buying my schoolbag at dark market,… that’s a problem (komarimasu na).”
“I guess you can have anything, as long as you have some money. Somewhere there is sweet zenzai and yookan(3) piled up like a mountain.”
While saying this, some actual drool spilled out of the toothless man’s mouth. Wiping his mouth with the palm of his hand embarrassedly, he pointed with his chin. “Let’s wait over there miss. At least a spot in the sun is free.”
He quickly crossed to the boarding area on the other side of the street. Sneering (niyari to shinagara) despite herself at being called “miss,” the woman followed.

[Tsuboi Sakae Nijuushi no Hitomi 1952]

I’ll say it again. As long as I deal with passages in authoritative famous quotes, I find myself having to recognize such unnatural examples in the data. So, do we have any hope of understanding the relationship between the Japanese language and characters?

(To be continued.)

* * *

(1) 1899–1967 Japanese Novelist and poet.

(2) English title: Twenty-Four Eyes.

(3) Zenzai means a sweet soup made of red beans. Yookan means a sweetened bean jelly.

author

Bonnou no Bunpou: Taikien o Kataritagaru Hitobito no Yokubou ga Nihongo no Bunpou System o Yusaburu Hanashi (The Grammar of Earthly Desires: How Our Desire to Narrate Daily Experiences Shape Japanese Grammatical Systems)Toshiyuki SADANOBU.
Professor of Linguistics at Kobe University. Ph.D.: Kyoto University, 1998. Research Interests: Personal Experience in Grammar and Communication.
Selected Publications:
(1) Bonnou no Bunpou: Taikien o Kataritagaru Hitobito no Yokubou ga Nihongo no Bunpou System o Yusaburu Hanashi (The Grammar of Earthly Desires: How Our Desire to Narrate Daily Experiences Shape Japanese Grammatical Systems). Tokyo: Chikumashobo, 2008;
(2) Sasayaku Koibito, Rikimu Repootaa: Kuchi no naka no Bunka (Whispering Lovers and Creaking Reporters: Culture in Our Mouth). Tokyo: Iwanami, 2005;
(3) Ninchi Gengoron (A Cognitive Study of Language). Tokyo: Taishukan, 2000.
URL:http://ccs.cla.kobe-u.ac.jp/Gengo/staff/sadanobu/index.htm

An Unofficial Guide for Japanese Characters 92

2011年 12月 25日 日曜日 筆者: SADANOBU Toshiyuki

<< An Unofficial Guide for Japanese Characters 91

Unnatural passages in authoritative famous quotes (Part 1)

In Natsume Soseki’s Koujin(1) , there is a paragraph in which the author (narrator), who is the younger of two siblings, talks about his older brother:

When he was cheerful, he was ridiculously cheerful. But once his mood took a perverse turn, he’d wear a sullen expression for days, and pointedly refused to talk. He was like this not just to me, but to my mother and his wife too. In front of outsiders though, it was like he turned into a different person; his gentlemanly bearing was impeccable under every circumstance, and he was a most agreeable companion. Thus, his friends believed him to be an entirely pleasant and good fellow. When mother and father heard him thus praised, they always looked surprised. However, they seemed happy nonetheless —he was their son after all. Whenever I heard people praising my older brother this way I’d become furious if we weren’t getting along at the time. I wanted to go to each one of their homes and correct their misconceptions.

[NATSUME Soseki Koojin 1912–13]

The narrator’s brother acts extremely “docile” in front of others, but this is actually a front. Every now and then the narrator, who sees what’s happening behind the scenes, wants to destroy this front. This front is, of course, the elder brother’s “gentleman (agreeable companion)” character —right, this is all well and good. As I said in the previous column, in this series I want to look at authoritative famous quotes that are a little bit old, but can still generally be called “modern Japanese.”

But wait! The narrator of Koojin says the following to his older brother. His psychotic brother tells him:“I want to test my wife’s fidelity. Go to Wakayama with her, and stay the night.”

“But this is my sister-in-law (aniyome-san desu ze). Not only a married woman, but my sister in law.”

“Being asked by someone to put another person to the test… I don’t like it (iya de saa). Besides… I’m not a detective.”

Even if he’s speaking as an “inferior,” from the perspective of modern sensibilities, isn’t it odd that the younger brother uses desu ze and de saa(2) when talking to his older brother?

Speaking of detectives, in Ango Sakaguchi’s(3) Furenzoku Satsujin Jiken (“The Non-serial Killer”), a young detective named Kose uses de saa and …masen ze when speaking to the narrator, whom he looks up to. This too is a little strange from the perspective of modern sensibilities.

“If we know that, we’ll know who the killer is. But this was a phenomenally well-planned crime. Every last detail was thought out (keisan sarete iru no de sa). This was probably the most intelligent, largest crime ever committed in Japan. This killer is a genius (tensai de saa ne). The complete discretion of the plan’s intelligent efficiency is sheer brilliance. The way the doorknob, tied with thread, closed the door naturally, and the way the sealed room disguised the murder, each ploy itself was another of the murder’s footprints all along. They told us from the beginning about the criminal’s mentality. More than anything, this criminal was worried about telling us anything about their state of mind. (…) The murder had probably already been completed.”

“This killer isn’t the kind of fool who would announce the murder for August 9th, then, like a literal-minded idiot, actually commit the crime on August 9th (girigatai donma ja arimasen ze).”

[SAKAGUCHI Ango Furenzoku Satsujin Jiken, 1947–48]

No matter how authoritative these famous quotes are, does looking at these kinds of unnatural passages cloud over the connection between Japanese language and character, and warp their mutual relationship?

(To be continued.)

* * *

(1) English title: The Wayfarer.

(2) Both “saa” and “ze” are interjectory particles that add emphasis. Both are considered pretty rough and ready, and normally wouldn’t be used when addressing someone more senior than oneself.

(3) 1906–1955 Novelist

author

Bonnou no Bunpou: Taikien o Kataritagaru Hitobito no Yokubou ga Nihongo no Bunpou System o Yusaburu Hanashi (The Grammar of Earthly Desires: How Our Desire to Narrate Daily Experiences Shape Japanese Grammatical Systems)Toshiyuki SADANOBU.
Professor of Linguistics at Kobe University. Ph.D.: Kyoto University, 1998. Research Interests: Personal Experience in Grammar and Communication.
Selected Publications:
(1) Bonnou no Bunpou: Taikien o Kataritagaru Hitobito no Yokubou ga Nihongo no Bunpou System o Yusaburu Hanashi (The Grammar of Earthly Desires: How Our Desire to Narrate Daily Experiences Shape Japanese Grammatical Systems). Tokyo: Chikumashobo, 2008;
(2) Sasayaku Koibito, Rikimu Repootaa: Kuchi no naka no Bunka (Whispering Lovers and Creaking Reporters: Culture in Our Mouth). Tokyo: Iwanami, 2005;
(3) Ninchi Gengoron (A Cognitive Study of Language). Tokyo: Taishukan, 2000.
URL:http://ccs.cla.kobe-u.ac.jp/Gengo/staff/sadanobu/index.htm

An Unofficial Guide for Japanese Characters 91

2011年 12月 18日 日曜日 筆者: SADANOBU Toshiyuki

<< An Unofficial Guide for Japanese Characters 90

A methodology for observing characters (Part 2)

There are abundant examples of phenomena that probably cannot be explained without using the idea of “character,” in very recent video and literature. Previously, we looked at the examples of Sho Sakurai from the band Arashi, and Naoko Asada’s series Osakana Saijiki, but an old guy like myself can’t use such examples often in this series.

No way. It’s not that I dislike these examples. I am a member of the Arashi Fan Club, after all. Just kidding. Naoko Asada’s Osakana Saijiki is another story though. Did you know that Episode 68 is missing? And the Asada Suisan fish shop is on the first floor of a certain building… It’s true. (Am I an Osakana Saijiki geek?)

Why don’t I use recent media in this series? If I did use it often, people would mistakenly assume that I was writing a “theory of modern youth.” “I see. In his current group, young Sakurai’s ‘self’ is not fully formed. Today’s youth, like Asada, use jumbled language and thus cannot write consistently as ‘themselves’.” No matter how much I said, “No! I am not just talking about today’s youth. This sort of thing has been going on forever,” nobody would listen to me. I just know it.

However, I don’t really want to use examples like this one either:

I despise it when people who are not so very old, or men, purposefully put on rustic airs. The same words heard by different ears. The words of a priest. The words of a man. The words of a woman. In the language of the vulgar, words are always overabundant.

[See Shonagon(1) Makura no Soshi Revised by Ikeda Kikan, Iwanami Shoten, Publishers]

“It’s irritating when people who aren’t even that old or men use rural mannerisms.” “The same words leave a different impression depending on whether they’re spoken by a priest, a man, or a woman. People of humble station are always the most long-winded.” These examples are related to character, but they’re too old. If I used them, people would say: “I see. In the Heian period…” or “I see, I see. See Shonagon…” They would quite possibly interpret my writing in the light of theories about the era, or the author. Besides, most of my audience would be repelled by such ancient examples. I just know it.

Therefore, in this series, in order to call to mind the “deep connections that character has with our Japanese-speaking society,” I rely on Tanizaki’s novels, or Dazai’s scripts. In other words I mainly use authoritative famous quotes from “modern” but somewhat old writers. Do you understand? My own personal taste actually veers more towards Arashi. Am I being long-winded?

* * *

(1) 966-1017 Heian era author, best known in the West for her Makura Soshi (Pillow Book).

author

Bonnou no Bunpou: Taikien o Kataritagaru Hitobito no Yokubou ga Nihongo no Bunpou System o Yusaburu Hanashi (The Grammar of Earthly Desires: How Our Desire to Narrate Daily Experiences Shape Japanese Grammatical Systems)Toshiyuki SADANOBU.
Professor of Linguistics at Kobe University. Ph.D.: Kyoto University, 1998. Research Interests: Personal Experience in Grammar and Communication.
Selected Publications:
(1) Bonnou no Bunpou: Taikien o Kataritagaru Hitobito no Yokubou ga Nihongo no Bunpou System o Yusaburu Hanashi (The Grammar of Earthly Desires: How Our Desire to Narrate Daily Experiences Shape Japanese Grammatical Systems). Tokyo: Chikumashobo, 2008;
(2) Sasayaku Koibito, Rikimu Repootaa: Kuchi no naka no Bunka (Whispering Lovers and Creaking Reporters: Culture in Our Mouth). Tokyo: Iwanami, 2005;
(3) Ninchi Gengoron (A Cognitive Study of Language). Tokyo: Taishukan, 2000.
URL:http://ccs.cla.kobe-u.ac.jp/Gengo/staff/sadanobu/index.htm

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