An introduction to joseigo : the origins and characteristics of women's language in Japan.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
In Japan today, there is markedly less distinction between the speech of men and women than in the past. This results partly from the post-war constitution which set down the principles of sexual equality. The phenomenon of a sex-determined language has existed since historical times and arises from the tradition of women's subservience in both the social and domestic spheres. Despite the constitutional granting of equality however, women's mental and actual experiences which are determined by this tradition perpetuate the existence of a special and distinct women's language. The term joseigo, or fujingo as it is otherwise called, refers to the special words and manner of speaking characteristic of women. In the broad sense, it incorporates the terms and phases used exclusively or mostly by women as well as the differences in accent, intonation, pronunciation and grammar. It is the more refined, polite and gentle speech found in the Japanese language which is used mainly by women and is frequently described as onnarashii (feminine). Women's language should not be regarded as a language exchanged exclusively among women but as one used by women towards society at large. It is reflective of the position of women and their way of thinking and feeling. The differences between the language of men and women is regarded as one of the linguistic peculiarities of the Japanese language. Although it is a phenomenon which can be traced in other languages such as Chinese, Korean and the language of the Caribbeans, (1) it is so striking in the Japanese language that such sexual. distinctions in language have been described as excessive and constrictive. Compared to the European languages where women's language does exist but not in such a strict and formal manner, it is certainly so.