ABSTRACT

Japanese norms of behavior have traditionally been highly gendered. The Japanese language has also been characterized as having distinct female and male speech registers or "languages," and the gender differences are usually deemed more extensive and more rigid than those in English and other European languages. Descriptions of Japanese female and male speech differences are abundant in the literature (e.g., Ide 1979, 1982, 1990; Jugaku 1979; Kindaichi 1957; Mizutani &. Mizutani 1987; Ohara 1992; Reynolds 1985; Shibamoto 1985, 1990; Smith 1992a, b); the most frequently cited differences include women's and men's divergent uses of self-reference and address terminology, sentence-final particles, honorifics, pitch ranges, and intonation.1 Compared to "Japanese men's language" (otoko-kotoba or dansei-go), "Japanese women's language" (onna-kotoba or iosei-go) has been described as polite, gentle, soft-spoken, nonassertive, and empathetic (e.g., Ide 1979, 1982, 1990; Jugaku 1979; Mizutani &. Mizutani 1987; Reynolds 1990; Shibamoto 1985; Smith 1992a, b). These characteristics are often interpreted as reflecting women's lower social status or powerlessness (e.g., Ide 1982; Reynolds 1985; Smith 1992a, b).