An Unofficial Guide for Japanese Characters 90

2011年 12月 11日 日曜日 筆者: SADANOBU Toshiyuki

<< An Unofficial Guide for Japanese Characters 89

A methodology for observing characters (Part 1)

An exchange student from Thailand told me that Arashi, an all-male pop group, held a press conference on April 20 for their new television show, Arashi ni Shiyagare (thanks to Mz. Chonwattana Chawanrat for this information). It appears that the members of Arashi will not be informed of which guests will appear on their show until the day of the program. When asked, “Who would make you the most nervous if they appeared as a guest?” Sho Sakurai, one of the group’s members, answered as follows.

For me, it would be Mr. Murao. I’ve only ever met him in press situations, so it’d be kind of awkward for him to see me yelling “Aha!!” on this show.

The Murao he refers to is a professor at Kwansei Gakuin University and the main newscaster for the program News Zero. On Mondays Sakurai also appears as a newscaster on News Zero, and always interacts with Murao in a serious manner. On the program Arashi ni Shiyagare, Sakurai is not his usual, serious self. He clowns around and yells “Aha!!” Faced with Matsuo, he would not be comfortable just saying: “Ah, hello. Thanks for all you’ve done for me on News Zero. On that show, we do news, so I always adopt a serious style, but as this is a variety show, I use a boisterous style and sometime yell ‘Aha!!’ Please do the same, Mr. Matsuo. Aha――!!” Sakurai says it would be “kind of awkward” to have Matsuo as a guest.

This indicates that his intentional switching between the serious demeanor for News Zero, and the Aha!! demeanor does not occur on the level of “style.” If it did, it would be no problem. The thing he is changing doesn’t, ostensibly mustn’t, change, but in fact he changes it frequently. If this change is detected, he feels uncomfortable. In short, the change is happening on the level of “character.”

Tsukiji Komachi no Osakana Saijiki is a long-running serial, having over 200 episodes, that is carried in the weekly magazine Sunday Mainichi. In the series, Asada Naoko, who works at the Asada Suisan fish shop in Tsukiji(1), explains the ecology and ways of preparing various seasonal fish. If one reads this series, which has earned the nickname “Tukiji Komachi” (over the vigorous protestations of the author), one has trouble reconciling the fact that it is written by a young, beautiful woman.

(…) It was a gymnast, you see, who did it! (Datte, taisoo senshu ga yatte tan da mooon.) Alright! (Osshaaa!) Today slime flounder is on the menu. Its plump lips are kind of sexy (sekushii desu na). The front of its body is covered with a lot of slime. Because of its dirty, filthy appearance, it’s sometimes called babakarei (granny flounder). How rude (shitsuree desu na). Compared with other kinds of flounder, it’s moister and smoother (kime ga komakai no desu zo).

When cooking it, the hardest part is getting the slime off. It would take a long time to do it with a knife, so I use metal scrub brush (kanatawashi o tsukau no da). You can steam slime flounder, but it’s probably best boiled (niru no ga ichiban ii deshoo). It will make you realize how delicious boiled fish can be!

[Episode 48, “Karei” Sunday Mainichi, Feb. 11, 2007: No. 86, Vol. 6, Mainichi Newspapers p.37.]

She goes through a dizzying, range of characters, from a spoiled “young lady” (yatte tan da mooon), to a fired up “sports competition” mood (Osshaaa!), to a humorous “refined” “superior” “elderly” “male” character (“sekushii desu na,” “shitsuree desu na” and “kime ga komakai no desu zo”), and then sometimes goes to a more conversational tone (“tsukau no da” and “ii deshoo”).

This sort of example, which probably cannot be explained without using the idea of “character,” can be seen in very recent video and literature too. However, I can’t use those very often in this series.

(To be continued)

* * *

(1) An area of Tokyo which is famous for its fish market.

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 89

2011年 12月 4日 日曜日 筆者: SADANOBU Toshiyuki

<< An Unofficial Guide for Japanese Characters 88

“Judgments” and “emotional responses”

The behavior of talking about “class” is the specialty of “adults” (“elderly” and “senior citizen” characters) living in the mundane world, but it is not typical for “children” (“baby” and “youth” characters). Besides “class,” “children” are not very good at expressing judgments on things in general.

In the Japanese-speaking community, the behavior of “expressing a judgment” is basically the purview of people of high “status.”

For example, a higher ranked employee might say “Tanaka, you work fast,” thus expressing a judgment about his/her underling’s (Tanaka’s) abilities. However, in Japan it would be considered rude for underlings to express a judgment about their superior’s abilities ――“Boss, you work fast”―― even if this judgment is positive. (Take heed, all you newly employed corporate drones.) Similarly, Japanese professors are not comforted when a foreign student says to them, “Your class was very good, professor,” because they aren’t accustomed to students, whose “status” is presumed to be low, offering a judgment.

On the other hand, things are completely different if these same things are said out of an emotional response: “Boss, you work fast!” “Your class was very good, professor!” “Emotional responses” from people of low “status” are not a problem. While characters with high status, such as “God” or Golgo 13(1), do not have “emotional responses,” such responses are the specialty of the low “status” character. An “emotional response” is not merely a strongly positive “judgment,” as “judgments” and “emotional responses” are separate verbal behaviors.

Let us imagine that in judo, there are technically two, not one, components to a throw――grabbing the opponent’s arm, and flipping the opponent over your back. Are these two actions components of a single technique, or are they separate techniques? Making a judgment on this would provide us a hint on what makes a “good judoka” or “poor judoka.” Insofar as there are many judoka who are good at one component of throwing down an opponent, but not at the other, these appear to be two separate techniques. “Judgments” and “emotional responses” are similar in that they are verbal behaviors that are considered to be separate. The acts of thinking about verbal characters and thinking about verbal behaviors have a close relationship.

The inability of a character whose “status” is low to pronounce judgments can be seen in not just the verbal characters discussed above, but also in expression characters. Consider:

“The participants smacked their lips as they ate the chef’s vaunted dessert.”

“The audience listened to the singer’s transparent voice with half-closed eyes.”

These sentences are not particularly unnatural, but what if we replaced “participants” and “audience” with “children” and “grade-schoolers?”

“The children smacked their lips as they ate the chef’s vaunted dessert.”

“The grade-schoolers listened to the singer’s transparent voice with half-closed eyes.”

Whoa! Are you kids a bunch of old men? The sentences sound unnatural. It is impossible to explain this unnaturalness on the level of “reality,” for example, by claiming that unlike adults, children do not smack their lips, or listen to music with their eyes half closed. In fact, very few adults make an audible smacking sound when eating a delicious food, and not many but some children probably half-close their eyes while listening to music.

It’s fairly common. In rather low priority press coverage of certain events, journalists use various conventions to say “everyone enjoyed themselves a lot.” At an exhibition of Heian furnishings, they might say “the sightseers nostalgically thought about the distant Heian era.” At the public opening of some ancient ruins, they might say “the visitors were intoxicated by the romance of the past.” These are conventional embellishments. They are the kind of sentence we want to address though. Thus, we cannot explain on the level of “reality” the naturalness or unnaturalness of these sentences, but rather on the level of “convention.” Adults smack their lips or half-close their eyes. Children normally have low status, and by convention do not do these things. These “conventions” have been embellished by the mass media, and in essence have become a part of our consciousness.

So, smacking one’s lips or half-closing one’s eyes are “judgmental” behaviors, in which something is being calmly experienced, while more “emotional responses,” such as “jumping for joy” are completely fine for elementary school students.

“The grade-schoolers jumped for joy at the chef’s vaunted dessert.”

So long as everyone was visibly happy, it is fine to say this even if nobody actually physically jumped. This is a conventional expression, you see.

* * *

(1) See parts 34 and 48 for more on Golgo 13.

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 88

2011年 11月 27日 日曜日 筆者: SADANOBU Toshiyuki

<< An Unofficial Guide for Japanese Characters 87

Speakers that cannot speak about “class”

Previously, I said that the “baby” and “youth” often become “runt” characters who are oblivious to hierarchy, and that this is expected by the people around them. “Status” is not the only thing about which adult characters (“elderly” and “senior citizen”) are aware, but child characters (“baby” and “youth”) are not. We can make a similar observation about “class.”

For example, a child might say “a woman came walking slowly (yukkuri)…” But a child (at least a “baby”) wouldn’t say “a woman came walking languidly (shizushizu to)…”

Languidly (shizushizu to) does not just mean to walk quietly and slowly. It is used for the quiet and slow walk of a “refined” person, normally a “woman.” It is different from the “tottering” (yota yota) gait of a “senior citizen” character. It is also different from the “toddling” (yochi yochi) walk of a “baby.”

But I do not want to get into the issue of how “baby” characters walk here. The problem is not the baby as a walker (expression character), but rather as a speaker (verbal character). If the “baby” sees the behavior of a “refined” “woman,” that “baby” will not say “she walks languidly.” That is to say, “babies” cannot speak about “class.” Of course, in reality, babies can sense a range of refinement and vulgarity. We need only look back on our own childhoods to see this. However, “baby” characters are not conscious of “class,” and do not speak about “class.”

Maybe they just haven’t been taught the word “languidly” at school yet? Hmm… maybe. Isn’t it easier to imagine adults (“elderly” and “senior citizen”) as the kind of speakers who would use the expression “languidly” to describe the gait of a “refined” “woman” character? It’s hard to imagine not only a “baby,” but also a “youth” character, who one would expect to know the word, to use “languidly.”

On another note, the “God” character might announce, “The queen will walk quietly to her throne,” but would not say “The queen will walk languidly to her throne.” (Or at least, any God that did say this would not be a majestic “God,” but rather a fairly anthropomorphic god.)

If “God” does not use the expression “languidly” to describe the gait of a “refined” “woman,” it is not because he doesn’t know the word (of course he knows… he is “God” after all), but rather because of a problem with character. That is, because “God’s” “status” is “highest of the high,” he does not speak of mundane matters such as “class” or lack thereof.

Only humans living in the real world speak of “class,” especially “adults” (“elderly” and “senior citizen” characters) who are thoroughly submerged in the mundane. But it is not suitable for “children” (“baby” and “youth” characters).

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 87

2011年 11月 20日 日曜日 筆者: SADANOBU Toshiyuki

<< An Unofficial Guide for Japanese Characters 86

The age of the “runt”?

“Oh, the moon! I’m so happy that we’re going to Shimoda tomorrow. We are going to hold a memorial service on the 49 days after the baby’s death, and mother will buy me a comb. And that’s just the beginning. Take me out to the movies.”

“[Izu Oshima Island] looks so big. You should visit there!”

“Have a seat (okake nasaimashi).”

“Why are you walking so quickly (dooshite annani hayaku oaruki ni narimasu no)?”

These lines from Kawabata Yasunari’s(1) “Izu no Odoriko”(2), are spoken by a dancing girl named Kaoru to the 20 year-old narrator.

“That’s heavier than you think. It’s heavier than your bag.”

In some lines, she comically speaks as if the narrator is her equal, but in general, she speaks from an “inferior” position. So much so that she even hesitates to ask things of the narrator directly:

The dancing girl called to the bird dealer, “Mister! Mister!” asking him to read Mito Koomon Man’yuuki(3) to her. But he soon got up and left. Unable to directly ask me to read the rest of it to her, she repeatedly asked her mother to ask me to read it to her.

[Kawabata Yasunari, Izu no Odoriko 1926]

She had no problem asking the bird dealer to read to her, but not the 20 year-old narrator. Therefore, age is not a problem here. The problem is social standing. The narrator was a student, with a school cap and bag, who the old woman at the tea shop respectfully called “master.” On the other hand, the old lady dismissively referred to Kaoru (although also a customer of the same shop), as “that person,” as she was merely the daughter of a traveling entertainer. Therefore, we can understand, in theory, why Kaoru addresses the narrator as an “inferior,” but it certainly underscores that this story is from a bygone era. She also uses old fashioned language, such as nasaimashi and oaruki ni narimasu no, but even without that we can tell that Kaoru is not a girl born in the modern age. Firstly, she is 14 years old. No matter how important the other person, today’s 14 year-olds would never deploy such an “inferior” character.

For example, if a 14 year-old today was taking care of his parents’ shop, would he greet customers with a smile, saying: “Ah, thank you for your business. My parents will be back soon. Make yourself at home.” Then suck air through his teeth like an adult. I don’t think there are many 14 year-olds like that, and nor would I expect a 14 year-old to behave that way.

We might expect children to bow deeply and humble themselves in historical dramas, but it’s not seen these days. In this series, I have provisionally called the lowest “status” of person, who is forgiven for speaking brusquely, the “runt” character, but nowadays kids grow out of their “runt” phase much later than they did long ago.

I have already said that the “runt,” which is the lowest “status” is weakly linked with the “baby,” which is the youngest value of “age,” but it seems that the next stage, “youth” is connected to the “runt” too. As I said before (part 63), these days there are a lot “runts” who never speak politely to their parents, like domestic tyrants.

“Isn’t everyone like that?” you ask. Certainly, in the world of manga, Isono Katsuo from Sazaesan and Nobi Nobita from Doraemon are brusque with their parents(4). But Kitaroo from Gegege no Kitaroo(5) and Ikkyuu from Ikkyuu-san(6) use the polite desu/-masu forms with their parents. Hoshi Hyuuma, from Kyojin no Hoshi,(7) speaks brusquely to his parents, but Hanagata Mitsuru, a character from a high-class family, always speaks to his parents politely.

In the Korean language, one always speaks politely to one’s parents. But, the Korean-speaking community is a bit different from Japanese, in that one always speaks politely to a person older than oneself, no matter how horrible that person may be. The whole country is like a giant sports club(8).

* * *

(1) 1899–1972 Japanese novelist. Won the 1968 Nobel Prize for literature.

(2) English title: The Dancing Girl of Izu

(3) Mito Koomon Man’yuuki (The Travels of Mito Koumon) is a famous series of Japanese folktales about the adventures of a retired feudal lord in Edo-period Japan. It is also the basis for a long-running television series.

(4) See part 24 for more on Sazaesan, and parts 9 and 12 for Doraemon.

(5) Manga by Shigeru Mizuki based on Japanese folktales about supernatural creatures or yookai. The main character, Kitaroo, lives with his father, Medama-oyaji, who is a tiny man with a single eyeball for a head.

(6) Ikkyuu-san is an anime series depicting the fictionalized early life of the Zen priest Ikkyuu.

(7) A sports manga and anime series about a young boy’s quest to become a professional baseball player.

(8) At Japanese schools, the sports clubs are notoriously hierarchal. The younger students are always expected to defer to their older peers.

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 86

2011年 11月 13日 日曜日 筆者: SADANOBU Toshiyuki

<< An Unofficial Guide for Japanese Characters 85

Linked perspectives

Up to now I’ve spoken about verbal characters from the perspectives of “class,” “status,” “gender,” and “age” (parts 5772), addressed whether or not just four perspectives are enough (parts 7282), and then looked at the converse problem of whether or not four perspectives are too many (parts 83–). In regards to this, I first stated that indeed, in some cases four perspectives seem to be too many. Depending on the verbal character, not all four perspectives are required, and some perspectives may not be designated specific values (parts 83, 84, and 85), which would make four perspectives seem to be too many.

For example, in the case of “class,” verbal character variations might not fall into one of the two patterns of “refined” or “vulgar,” but may have three patterns —“refined,” “vulgar,” or “undefined.” Similarly, adding undefined to the variations of “status,” —“highest of the high,” “superior,” “inferior,” and “runt”— increases their number from four to five. “Gender” can be increased to three types (“male,” “female,” and “undefined”), and “age” to five types (“senior citizen,” “elderly,” “youth,” “baby,” and “undefined”). If we calculate all the variations, we have 3 × 5 × 3 × 5, or 225. Even if we subtract one, based on the fact that it is impossible to have a character in which all the perspectives are “undefined” (part 84), we still have 224 verbal characters. This number is due to the fact that we have the product of four numbers (3, 5, 3, 5). That is, we have four perspectives. So, are four too many?

To answer this question, we will collect some of the ideas I’ve written about in a fragmentary way under the name of “linked perspectives.” The four perspectives of “class,” “status,” “gender,” and “age” are separate perspectives, but they frequently link together; i.e., the value of one perspective is often linked to that of another.

Links between perspectives can be strong or weak.

In a strong link, the value of one perspective will determine that of another, such that the number of variations in that perspective is limited to just one. For example we have seen that in “senior citizen” and “baby” characters there is no difference in the language of “males” and “females” (part 68). The value of the age perspective (“senior citizen” or “baby”) defines the value of “gender” (as undefined), so there is a strong link between “age” and “gender.”

In a weak link, the value of one perspective does not determine that of another, but tends to predict it, and in some cases limits the number of variations to a certain range. We can see a weak link between “gender,” “class,” and “status” in the notion/expectation that “men” have higher status than “women,” while “women” have more “class” than men (part 64).

Of course, the difference between “strong” and “weak” is a matter of degree, so for links falling between the two it is hard to judge which it is. Whether certain verbal characters cannot exist —such as a character with a “highest of the high” “status” and “age” of “baby,” or a character whose “class” is “vulgar” even though its “status” is “highest of the high”— or are simply rare, is a difficult question.

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 85

2011年 11月 6日 日曜日 筆者: SADANOBU Toshiyuki

<< An Unofficial Guide for Japanese Characters 84

Verbal characters with partial designations (Part 3)

Let’s try one more exercise by way of review of what we’ve discussed so far.

(Exercise) Read the following text. Explain why the narrator says “[my] dignity would not allow me to nod [to him] sycophantically” in the underlined portion.

In packs of children, like packs of dogs, a single strong member can make all the rest cower before him. After Shoda went, leaving me unchallenged, I took advantage of everyone’s obedience to lord my authority over them, and acted as the neighborhood bully. I have forgiven myself though, as this was the most sensible thing to do at the time.

(…)

Then a family-owned embroidery and gold-leaf business moved into the home due West of ours, and their son, Tomikoo, became my classmate. He was a totally untalented child, but since he was well-spoken, two years older than me, and strong, he immediately became the top bully. Not only could I no longer wield my authority, [my] dignity would not allow me to nod [to him] sycophantically, and so I became the sole outcast.

[NAKA Kansuke(1), Gin no Saji(2), 1913]

(Sample answer) As explained in the first part of the text, the narrator is a neighborhood bully who deals with all his classmates as a high-ranking “superior.” Here we should note that “superior” is a character, not a style. In other words, although his position as “superior” was in reality subject to change, it was assumed that it wasn’t. When the stronger boy Tomikoo entered the school, the narrator could not ingratiate himself, because (as one can imagine) this would have been awkward for the classmates who had, up until them, treated the narrator as a “superior,” and it would have been embarrassing for the narrator. Therefore, the narrator could not deploy an “inferior” character in front of all his classmates.

What do you think? Naka Kansuke’s Gin no Saji has been lauded as a work that portrays the world of children through a child’s eyes; the first part used for the question is from the 43rd paragraph, while the second part is from the 49th. This work was written 100 years ago, but thinking back on my own childhood, the world of children was complicated, and contained various issues of “dignity.” As we saw in the above, within such issues of “dignity” are areas related to character, and as we have seen (part 23), we do not learn these things as adult members of society, but rather we are aware of them from a very young age. Actually, we discussed some boss-types who, like the above neighborhood bully, fell from power (parts 51 & 52: From “high” to “low”?). In the novel Aru Onna, over the course of the long sea voyage, Mrs. Tagawa feels anguished at the threat to her position as “boss” posed by the young, beautiful Youko Satsuki. In sumo, a Yokozuna will sit out the tournament or retire before allowing himself to be demoted; in other words demotion is not possible for him. These examples are fundamentally identical to the narrator, who says “[my] dignity would not allow me to nod [to him] sycophantically.” In understanding this, it would be wrong to use “class” and “gender,” as Mrs. Tagawa was a refined lady, but the above narrator and the Yokozuna are not. Nor would the value of age be useful, as Mrs. Tagawa was elderly, but the narrator was young, and the Yokozuna has no specific age. It is only convenient to use the perspective of “status” when talking about “superior” and “inferior” characters. The provision that I stated before, that “it isn’t necessary to designate a value for each perspective,” comes from this kind of thinking.

* * *

(1) 1885–1965 Novelist.

(2) English title “The Silver Spoon”

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 84

2011年 10月 30日 日曜日 筆者: SADANOBU Toshiyuki

<< An Unofficial Guide for Japanese Characters 83

Verbal characters with partial designations (Part 2)

As I said last time, God, and my readers, see all. It is exactly as you say. I had meant to bring this fact up before now —it was not my intention to hide it.

To be sure, I was the one who brought up the four perspectives of “class,” “status,” “gender” and “age” for observing verbal characters. However, it is not always necessary to specifically designate all four of these perspectives. Sometimes they are left “undesignated.” There are verbal characters in which the four perspectives are only partially designated, such as the “female” in which “class,” “status,” and “age” are undesignated, or the “vulgar” “male,” in which “status” and “age” are undesignated.

So far, I have put the various values for the perspectives in quotation marks, just like the character names —“refined” or “vulgar” for “class;” “highest of the high,” “superior,” “inferior,” or “runt” for “status;” “male” or “female” for “gender;” “senior citizen” and “elderly,” “youth,” or “baby” for “age.” These values too are sometimes undesignated. In cases where all other perspectives are undesignated, the value of the one designated perspective itself becomes the character. Thus I put these values in quotations, like the characters. What if all four perspectives are undesignated, you ask?

Heh! You guys are hard to please. Are you trying to test me? As I’ve already said, if you dig deep enough, you’ll find that much more language than we think is role language, such as the discovery ta (hakken no “ta”) (part 28). Do you remember what I said at the end of that article? It is probably best to assume that “everything is Role Language,” then go back and make corrections if we turn out to be wrong about this. It has been exactly a year since I wrote that, but I haven’t changed my mind on the matter. If anything, I believe it even more strongly.

Think back over the last year of articles. What about da and desu, which you’d assume everyone would say in the same way. They don’t seem anything like role language at first glance.

A “male” wouldn’t say ame yo (it’s raining), kirei (that’s pretty), or taihen (Oh no!). He would add the auxiliary verb da: ame da yo, kirei da, and taihen da. Here, da has the aspect of role language particularly connected with the “male” character (part 66).

The same goes for desu. Some people add desu to verbs like a “baby,” as in kaetta desu (I’m back). In other words, desu also has the aspect of role language (parts 70 & 71).

This isn’t something you pick up on if you’re not paying attention. You only notice it if you start asking “is this role language?” whether da or desu.

So, here is my answer. If all four perspectives are undesignated, there is no verbal character. If one must come to this conclusion, it means the character’s language makes no particular impression. In other words, it isn’t role language. This is perhaps possible. However, although we may go back and revise our view if it turns out to be wrong, for the time being we should probably say that it is impossible. We should assume that all language is role language. This, dear reader, is what I wanted to say.

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 83

2011年 10月 23日 日曜日 筆者: SADANOBU Toshiyuki

<< An Unofficial Guide for Japanese Characters 82

Verbal characters with partial designations (Part 1)

So far, I’ve spoken about verbal characters from the four perspectives of “class,” “status,” “gender,” and “age” (parts 5772), and addressed, albeit with some digressions, the question I thought would be foremost in my readers’ minds —that of whether or not just four perspectives are enough (parts 7382). Next I want to address the opposite question: are four perspectives too many? Let me begin by explaining the import of this question.

For example, a “vulgar, aged man of low status” character would say Gehhehe, kore de yoo, tsumi mo nai shimin o yoo, koroseru ttee sumpoo da ze! (Hee hee hee! My plan is to kill an innocent civilian!) (part 73). This verbal character’s class is “vulgar,” his status is low (or “high” or “runt”), his gender is “male,” his age is “elder.” Thus values (“vulgar,” “high or runt,” “male,” and “elder”) can be designated for the four perspectives of “class,” “status,” “gender,” and “age.” This would imply that indeed, the four perspectives of “class,” “status,” “gender,” and “age” are necessary when talking about a speaker’s character.

But what of verbal characters who pronounce the interjectory particle yo with an abrupt rise in intonation? When pronouncing bengoshi ga yo, zaisan o yo… (the lawyer [did something about] the assets…), the “female” character pronounces the yo at the end of bengoshi ga yo with a sudden rise in intonation, then pronounces the yo in the next phrase, zaisan o yo, with another abrupt rise in intonation (part 67). So, what about this “female” character? Is she a young “woman” or not? What about her “class” and “status?” If this “woman’s” “class,” “status,” and “age” could be a variety of things and therefore cannot be determined, then when talking of the speaker’s character, four perspectives aren’t necessary. This is the import of asking whether or not four perspectives are too many.

This question can be posed as follows with a further example. In bengoshi ga yoo, zaisan o yoo… when the speaker uses an intonation that rises at the end of the clausal phrase (at the yo), then drops (at the final o), —which I call the “returned rising final intonation”— the speaker is a “vulgar” “male” character (parts 67 & 72). The “age” of this “vulgar” “male” is not necessarily “young” (part 72). So, what is this character’s “age?” What is his “status”? Are the perspectives of “class” and “gender” sufficient for this character? Are “status” and “age” unnecessary, you might ask?

*

God, and my readers, see all. It is exactly as you say. I had meant to bring this fact up before now —it was not my intention to hide it.

(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:http://ccs.cla.kobe-u.ac.jp/Gengo/staff/sadanobu/index.htm


An Unofficial Guide for Japanese Characters 82

2011年 10月 16日 日曜日 筆者: SADANOBU Toshiyuki

<< An Unofficial Guide for Japanese Characters 81

“Kansai natives” (4)

As I’ve already said (part 76), “Other” characters are deployed temporarily, not natively. The majority of them are deployed as jokes in the context of play. We could restate this as follows: because jokes cannot succeed if nobody realizes they are “made on purpose,” anything which “is deployed as a joke” is “deployed with blatant intention.” However, it would be a mistake to think that “Other” characters are not really verbal characters, but rather a blatantly intentional “style.”

The deploying of “Other” characters with blatant intention is nothing more than a tendency, and does not occur all the time. Let’s reconsider the artist who adopted a “Kansai native” character when doing business in order to propel his sales negotiations in a more profitable direction (part 79). This is different from people who change their attitude when doing business and switch to a professional speaking style: “Since we’re talking about money, please let me be serious for a moment.” This sort of professional discussion is clearly intentional (“please let me be serious”) so we can call it “style,” but the artist was different. Although the Shounan-born artist is intentionally behaving like a “Kansai native,” the people he’s doing business with are not aware of this intention. In short, the artist’s “Kansai native” style of speaking is not “blatantly obvious.” Therefore, it is not a “style.” The proof that it is not a “style” is that if the artist’s intentions were detected, this would make both the observer and the observed uncomfortable. As was the case in the “Yokoi Incident” (in the first interpretation). The secretly intentional Kansai dialect of these artists and prosecutors is not a result of “style.” It is the role language of a failed “Kansai native” character whose intention has been sensed, or detected.

Certainly, this isn’t to deny that “style” is related to the making of jokes. The Middle Eastern carpet salesman who said sonna tsumetai koto, iwantoite (have a heart!) when his sales negotiations hit an impasse (part 5), and the people who humorously ask each other mookarimakka? (how’s business?)(1) even though they’re not from Kansai, are speaking “like Kansai natives” as a joke. In other words their intention to “speak like a Kansai native” is obvious. In this sense, speaking “like a Kansai native” is a choice made in response to the situation, and can be called a “style” that is used for a specific purpose.

At the same time, we must not forget that what is being used in these cases is a “Kansai native” verbal character that unintentionally and naturally uses that style of speaking. Here, it would probably be easiest to divide this “presence or lack of intention” into two levels (which we will provisionally call the “base level” and “applied level”). “Kansai natives” speak Kansai dialect and display Kansai-ish behavior without the presence of any particular intention. They are just behaving naturally. So first, we must recognize the style of speaking of this kind of “Kansai native” verbal character as our “base level.” When joking, the Kansai dialect is used with blatant intention at the “applied level;” at the “base level” it is the verbal character, while at the “applied level” it is style, or what we could also call a combined technique.

* * *

(1) In “standard” Japanese: mookarimasuka? (literally: are you making money?), used as a greeting in Kansai.

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 81

2011年 10月 9日 日曜日 筆者: SADANOBU Toshiyuki

<< An Unofficial Guide for Japanese Characters 80

“Kansai natives” (3)

Whew! Mr. Yokoi scared the heck out of me! What do you mean you don’t know what I’m talking about? You know… the Premeditated Crime Research Committee. It was yesterday. Washio was saying something about whether the “rehabilitation of the leftist youth was real or fake.” Then that guy suddenly said “I only joined this research committee because Prosecutor Masaki invited me.” It was Yokoi. It was unbelievable. Really.

Yeah, that’s the guy. The guy who says stuff like “I was an idiot back then,” and “How could you be such an idiot?!” in an Osaka accent. The guy who drops his cases against all first-time offenders. He’s like some sort of populist! He was haranguing us in Tokyo dialect, or rather standard Japanese. Really. He said: “Where’s the nobility in scholarship and research?” And: “What the Hell are you hoping to find out?” No, really. In any case, we ended the meeting, but boy was I surprised.

I see. The Yokoi who spoke Osaka dialect was a “fake.” To be sure, he was born in Osaka, but he is more temperamentally inclined to speak standard Japanese; he’s a fake “Kansai native.” He found it less troublesome to pass as a “Kansai native” at work, but at the research meeting he just lost it. I guess you could call it a premeditated crime, eh? He was getting sick of the “Kansai native” act, and used the opportunity to throw away the mask and come out of the closet. Does this mean that Yokoi will speak in standard Japanese from now on? That’s a little creepy.

Or maybe… Maybe he wasn’t faking, but since he was absorbed in an academic discussion that was dominated by standard Japanese, he forgot that he normally used Osaka dialect, and was not his usual self. Maybe he’ll say: “I’m the first time offender. Leave me.” (Shohan-yagana. Minogashitee-na). That would be creepy too.

What do you think? Maybe we should try to get a confession from Yokoi himself. But, how will he act today? If I were him, I’d shout “just kidding!” (Naanchatte), and try to act like my usual self. Of course! He could act like everything, including yesterday’s outburst, was a joke. However, he’d have to say “just kidding” with an Osaka accent (Naanchuute). It’d be meaningless to use standard Japanese. I wonder. Man, this has gotten me really tense.

*

There are various ways to interpret the “Yokoi Incident.” But whichever interpretation you choose, the core of the matter is that Yokoi underwent a sudden change, and for a time Yokoi was not his normal “Kansai native” self. What makes us surprised and nervous is exactly this sudden change of tone.

Yokoi’s sudden shocking, startling change is not a mere “change of style.” This person speaks like thus and so, and should always speak that way. This way of speaking is connected with this person’s background and temperament. It cannot be changed intentionally like style. That is what we expect. If a sudden change occurs that contradicts this expectation, both the observed and observer, trying to guess at what has just happened, feel awkward, and are surprised and nervous. This sort of thing is at the foundation of our everyday conversations. This is what is called “verbal character” to distinguish it from “style,” as I’m sure the reader already understands quite well. However, as “characters” and “verbal characters” comprise the core concept of this series, to be on the safe side I have spent some time on the “Other” characters (parts 79 on), as they are particularly easy to misunderstand. We will conclude this discussion next time.

(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:http://ccs.cla.kobe-u.ac.jp/Gengo/staff/sadanobu/index.htm


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