日本語の秘密 24/33


日本語の秘密/ The Key to NIHON-GO

by 岸本建夫 [Kishimoto Tatsuo] 1999
OCR/Corr by most.cyak@gmail.com, Oct 2014


Section 5 Japanese People Can’t Use Polite Language Correctly Either

→ It’s Enough to Use Only Anata and Watasi

  Japanese personal pronouns are a real bother. Many words are used to refer to oneself, including watasi, watakusi, ore, boku, wasi, and wagahai. The same thing applies to second person pronouns, for example, anata, kimi, and omae. In English, you only need to say “I” to refer to yourself. In Chinese, you only need to say “Wo”. The reason there are so many Japanese pronouns is that they are used to make distinctions between different speaking partners. Pronouns are chosen according to the relationship of the listener to the speaker: higher in status, lower in status, friends, strangers, and so forth. In effect, Japanese people use the pronouns that are considered most appropriate in light of a particular situation and the relationship between speaker and listeners.

  Why is this? Unlike Europeans, Americans and the Chinese, Japan is an island nation and its people are not used to interaction with foreign cultures, so their interpersonal relationships are fairly standardized and easy to understand. That could be why they developed a system of an address forms to correspond to different social relationships. Relationships between Japanese people have become quite fickle now, however. Interaction with people from “the outside” (foreign countries) has become fairly common; and when relationships between listeners and speakers are on a more equal footing, there’s no need to make such social distinctions and they begin to seem odd. It’s not fair to change your speech patterns according to the listener, in other words, to have to “size up” the person you’re addressing before choosing your words. Soon, this kind of unfair behavior will no longer be tolerated.

  It’s already come to the point where you don’t often hear pronouns other than watasi and anata in public places. It’s enough for the foreign student to only use watasi and anata.

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