日本語の秘密 28/33


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

→ Feminine Speech is Outdated

  In the past, people thought that women had to be kind, charming, polite and refined; so men and women had different speech patterns. Now, however, there are no sex-exclusive distinctions in written language or language spoken in a formal setting. On the other hand, a slight difference still remains in the language spoken between parents and children, and between friends.

  In Japanese, postpositional words like yo and ne are often added to the ends of sentences. These words are used in order to make one’s expression more gentle or more forceful. Women used certain of these words to make their expressions sound more gentle, and men used other such words to make their expressions sound stronger and rougher.

  You may have noticed that male expressions use more voiced sounds. This gives their speech a stronger and rougher tone. They also use different words, like ore and omae. (Women may also use omae with someone who is lower in status than themselves.)

  Sex-exclusive differences in the use of interjections are also gradually disappearing. Expressions like are, e-, o-, uso, and honto are used by both men and women. The only real differences are in expressions like Ara (maa, aramaa) dou simasyou ‘Oh my, what should (we) do?’ used by women, and Oi, dou sita? ‘Hey, what's the matter?’, used by men.

  There are differences between male and female speech. Now, however, there are hardly any male-female differences in word usage. There are, some women who never use feminine speech. Hence there is no need for the female foreigner to go out of her way to learn feminine speech.

  Young women these days, to the contrary, have begun to use language which was once considered rough male speech. One example of this would be the expression Asobi ni ikou ze ‘Let's go have some fun.’ Of course, this is an expression which would be used among friends, and it couldn’t be used in a formal situation. Even if the differences between male and female speech are gradually disappearing, it’d be a good idea for the person just beginning to study Japanese to be careful about using words which have been considered as being exclusive to the opposite sex. I’d recommend using expressions which are common to both men and women. You should also be aware that some interjections are used without the greatest sincerity. (e.g. uso- ‘you're kidding/lying’, honto- ‘really?’, yada- ‘I can’t stand/hate it.’)

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