Feminine Language or Joseigo, as Part of Japanese Culture

by ebazaar 4 October 2010 No Comment

Japanese language JoseigoA variety of Japanese, called joseigo or onnakotoba, that is typically used by females as a reflection of their femininity. The existence of clearly marked, gender-differentiated language style is the frequently mentioned characteristic of Japanese. Joseigo or feminine language is the words, terms and phrases which are used exclusively by females. This is nothing new to the world since there are several other languages with the same culture, like in French language and Arabian language.

Aside from the high pitch, distinctive voice quality, and particular sentence-final intonations that are associated with the speech of Japanese females, and aside from the vocabulary associated with topics predominantly of interest to females, feminine features include lexical items, such as:

(1) The self-reference term atashi and atakushi, as less formal equivalents of watakushi or I;

(2) The sentence particale ‘wa’ in sentence-final position with rising intonation – or pre-final before ‘yo’ or ‘ne’ – indicating gentle assurance; for example – ‘Anata wa ne…’(You…)

(3) Sentence-final ‘koto’ occurring in exclamations, for example: ‘Kirei da koto’ (How pretty it is!);

(4) Particular interjections, for example: ‘ara’, ‘ma’, ‘uwa’ (indicating surprise).

Most commonly, feminine language is characterized by certain features that occur in a particular context or with a marked frequency. The most striking example is the feature of politeness. Given the socialization process, which trains Japanese women to be polite and subservient to men, it follows the honorific and formal varieties of Japanese language are used more frequently by women.

This does not mean that the form themselves are feminine, but rather that their frequent use and occurrence in certain social situations are typical of female usage. Thus, a polite form that would be used by a man only when talking to a person of extremely high position might be used by a woman in talking to a casual acquaintance, which again indirectly meant to show constant politeness.

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