Utterance Final Position and Projection of Femininity in Japanese


  • Mie Hiramoto University of Hawai'i at Mānoa




Japanese women’s language, Language ideology, Sociophonetics, Prosody


Japanese female speakers’ frequent use of suprasegmental features such as higher pitch, longer duration, rising intonation and wider pitch ranges compared to male speakers, are often recognized as key prosodic cues of Japanese women’s language (JWL). Although many existing studies on JWL focus on the use of gender-related pragmatic features such as sentence fi nal particles (SFP), most of these do not take detailed prosodic information into account in their analysis. This study suggests that speakers can manipulate utterance-final prosody, to project femininity and that it is an especially effective technique given the salience of the utterance-fi nal position when marking pragmatic information in Japanese. Th e data indicates that this position is a focal point of JWL prosody regardless of the gender neutrality of SFPs, or even the absence of SFPs altogether.

Author Biography

Mie Hiramoto, University of Hawai'i at Mānoa

Assistant Professor of Linguistics


Abe, Hideko (2004) Lesbian bar talk in Shinjuku, Tokyo. In Shigeko Okamoto and Janet Shibamoto Smith (eds) Japanese Language, Gender, and Ideology: Cultural Models and Real People 205–221. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Anderson, Victoria, Hiramoto, Mie and Wong, Andrew (2007) Prosodic analysis of the interactional particle ne in women’s and men’s Japanese. In Naomi McGloin and Junko Mori (eds) Japanese/Korean Linguistics volume 15 43–54. Stanford: CSLI Publications.

Blyth, Carl Jr., Recktenwald, Sigrid and Wang, Jenny (1990) I’m like, ‘say what?!’: A new quotative in American oral narrative. American Speech 65(3): 215–227.

Brazil, David (1997) The Communicative Value of Intonation in English. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Bolinger, Dwight and Sear, Donald A. (1981) Aspects of Language. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

Cameron, Deborah and Kulick, Don (2003) Language and Sexuality. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Coates, Jennifer and Cameron, Deborah (1988) Women in their Speech Communities. New York: Longman.

Cooper, William and Sorensen, John (1981) Fundamental Frequency in Sentence Production. New York: Springer-Verlag.

Cruttenden, Alan (1986) Intonation. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Eda, Sanae (2001) A new approach to the analysis of the sentence final particles ne and yo: An interface between prosody and pragmatics. In Mineharu Nakayama and Charles J. Quinn (eds) Japanese/Korean Linguistics volume 9 167–180. Stanford: CSLI Publications.

Endo, Orie (1995) Aspects of sexism in language. In Kumiko Fujimura-Fanselow and Atsuko Kameda (eds) Japanese Women: New Feminist Perspectives on the Past, Present, and Future 29–42. New York: Feminist Press.

Fant, Gunner (1975) Non-uniform vowel normalization. Speech Transmutation Lab Quarterly Progress Status Report, Research Instrumental Technology, Stockholm 2/3: 1–19.

Fitch, James and Holbrook, Anthony (1970) Modal fundamental frequency of young adults. Otolaryngology 92(4): 379–382.

Fry, Dennis (1979) The Physics of Speech. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Gengo Seikatsu (1957) No. 65. Tokyo: Chikuma Shobô.

Gengo Seikatsu (1973) No. 262. Tokyo: Chikuma Shobô.

Hiramoto, Mie (2009) Slaves speak pseudo-Toohoku-ben: The representation of minorities in the Japanese translation of Gone with the Wind. Journal of Sociolinguistics 13(2): 249–263.

Hollien, Harry and Jackson, Bernard (1973) Normative data on the speaking fundamental characteristics of young adult males. Journal of Phonetics 1: 117–120.

Ide, Sachiko (1982) Japanese sociolinguistics: Politeness and women’s language. Lingua 57: 357–385.

Ide, Sachiko and Yoshida, Megumi (1999) Honorifics and gender differences. In Natsuko Tsujimura (ed.) A Handbook of Japanese Linguistics 444–480. Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishing.

Inoue, Miyako (1994) Gender and linguistic modernization: Historicizing Japanese women’s language. In Mary Bucholtz, Anita C. Liang, Laurel Sutton and Caitlin Hines (eds) Cultural Performances: Proceedings of the Third Berkeley Women and Language Conference 322–343. Berkeley, California: Berkeley Women and Language Group.

Inoue, Miyako (2003) Speech without a speaking body: ‘Japanese women’s language’ in translation. Language & Communication 23(3–4): 315–330.

Inoue, Miyako (2006) Vicarious Language: Gender and Linguistic Modernity in Japan. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Ishi, Carlos T. (2005) Perceptually-related F0 parameters for automatic classification of phrase final tones. IEICE Trans. Inf. & Syst E88-D, 3: 481–488.

Jorden, Eleanor (1974) Female speech: Persisting myth and persisting reality. The Report of the Second U.S.-Japan Joint Sociolinguistic Conference 103–118. Tokyo: Japan Society for the Promotion of Science.

Kahane, Joel (1978) A morphological study of the human prepubertal and pubertal larynx. American Journal of Anatomy 151: 11–19.

Kahn, Margaret (1975) Arabic emphatics: The evidence for cultural determinants of phonetic sex-typing. Phonetica 31: 38–50.

Kindaichi, Haruhiko (1957) Nihongo [Japanese]. Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten.

Kitagawa, Chisato (1977) A source of femininity in Japanese: In defense of Robin Lakoff’s ‘Language and woman’s place’. Papers in Linguistics 10: 275–298.

Lakoff, Robin (1975) Language and Woman’s Place. New York: Harper and Row.

Loveday, Leo (1986) Explorations in Japanese Sociolinguistics. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Laver, John and Trudgill, Peter (1979) Phonetic and linguistic markers in speech. In Klaus R. Scherer and Howard Giles (eds) Social Markers in Speech 1–31. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Mashimo, Saburo (1969) Fujingo no Kenkyû [Research on women’s language]. Tokyo: Tokyo-dô Shuppan.

McConnell-Ginet, Sally (1983) Intonation in a man’s world. In Barrie Thorne, Cheris Kramarae and Nancy Henley (eds) Language, Gender, and Society 69–88. Rowley, MA: Newbury House.

McGloin, Naomi (1990) Sex difference and sentence-final particles. In Sachiko Ide and Naomi McGloin (eds) Aspects of Japanese Women’s Language 23–41. Tokyo: Kuroshio Shuppan.

Miyazaki, Ayumi (2004) Japanese junior high school girls’ and boys’ first-person pronoun use and their social world. In Shigeko Okamoto and Janet Shibamoto Smith (eds) Japanese Language, Gender, and Ideology: Cultural Models and Real People 256–274. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Nagahara, Hiroyuki (2000) Seisa to intonêshon no parametorikkusu [Parametrics of gender differences and intonations]. Kotoba 21: 37–44.

Nakamura, Momoko (2006) Creating indexicality: Schoolgirl speech in Meiji, Japan. In Deborah Cameron and Don Kulik (eds) The Language and Sexuality Reader 270–784. New York: Routledge.

Negus, Victor (1949) The Comparative Anatomy and Physiology of the Larynx. New York: Hafner.

Nittrouer, Susan, McGowan, Richard, Milenkovic, Paul and Beehler, Donna (1990) Acoustic measurements of men’s and women’s voices: A study of context effects and covariation. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research 33: 761–775.

Ofuku, Etsuko, McKeown, J. Denis, Waterman, Mitch G. and Roach, Peter J. (2000) Prosodic cues for rated politeness in Japanese speech. Speech Communication 32 (3): 199–217.

Ohala, John (1984) An ethnological perspective on common cross-language utilization of F0 of voice. Phonetica 41: 1–16.

Ohara, Yumiko (1992) Gender-dependent pitch levels: A comparative study in Japanese and English. In Kira Hall, Mary Bucholtz and Birch Moonwomon (eds) Locating Power: Proceedings of the Second Berkeley Women and Language Conference 469–477. Berkeley, California: Berkeley Women and Language Group.

Ohara, Yumiko (1993) Koe no takasa kara ukeru inshô ni tsuite [Images of voice pitch]. Kotoba 14: 14–19.

Ohara, Yumiko (1997) Shakaionseigaku no kanten kara mita nihonjin no koe no takasa [Japanese pitch from a sociophonetic perspective]. In Sachiko Ide (ed.) Sekai no Joseigo [Women’s Languages in the World] 42–58. Tokyo: Meiji Shoin.

Ohara, Yumiko (1999) Performing gender through voice pitch: A cross-cultural analysis of Japanese and American English. In Ursula Pasero and Friederike Braun (eds) Performing and Perceiving Gender 105–116. Opladen, Germany: Westdeutscher Verlag.

Ohara, Yumiko (2004) Prosody and gender in workplace interaction: Exploring constraints and resources in the use of Japanese. In Shigeko Okamoto and Janet Shibamoto Smith (eds) Japanese Language, Gender, and Ideology: Cultural Models and Real People 222–239. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Okamoto, Shigeko (1995) Tasteless Japanese. In Kira Hall and Mary Bucholtz (eds) Gender Articulated: Language and the Socially Constructed Self 297–325. New York: Routledge.

Okamoto, Shigeko and Shibamoto Smith, Janet (2004) Japanese Language, Gender, and Ideology: Cultural Models and Real People. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Reynolds, Katsue A. (1985) Female speakers of Japanese. Feminist Issues. Fall: 11–46.

Sachs, Jacqueline (1975) Cues to the identification of sex in children’s speech. In Barrie Thorne and Nancy Henley (eds) Language and Sex: Difference and Dominance 152–171. Rowley, MA: Newbury House.

Shibamoto, Janet (1985) Japanese Women’s Language. New York: Academic Press.

Shibamoto, Janet (1987a) The womanly woman: Manipulation of stereotypical and nonstereotypical features of Japanese female speech. In Susan U. Philips, Susan Steele and Christine Tanz (eds) Language, Gender and Sex in Comparative Perspective 26–49. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Shibamoto, Janet (1987b) Japanese sociolinguistics. Annual Review of Anthropology 16: 261–278.

Snidecor, John (1943) A comparative study of the pitch and duration characteristics of impromptu speaking and oral reading. Speech Monographs 10 (1): 50–56.

SturtzSreetharan, Cindy (2004) Japanese men’s linguistic stereotypes and realities: Conversations from the Kansai and Kanto regions. In Shigeko Okamoto and Janet Shibamoto Smith (eds) Japanese Language, Gender, and Ideology: Cultural Models and Real People 275–289. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Tsujimura, Natsuko (2002) The Handbook of Japanese Linguistics. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers.

van Bezooijen, Reneé (1995) Sociocultural aspects of pitch differences between Japanese and Dutch women. Language and Speech 38 (3): 253–266.

Yonekawa, Akihiko (1997) Wakamono kotoba jiten [Dictionary of youth language]. Tokyo: Tokyo-dô.



How to Cite

Hiramoto, M. (2010). Utterance Final Position and Projection of Femininity in Japanese. Gender and Language, 4(1), 99–124. https://doi.org/10.1558/genl.v4i1.99