Japanese language and gender research

the last thirty years and beyond


  • Shigeko Okamoto University of California




gender, joseigo/danseigo, multimodal analysis, norms, practice, regional Japanese, standard Japanese, styling identities


In the past thirty years, major contributions from Japanese language and gender studies have provided necessary insights from the perspective of a non-European language. Future research will demand ever broader approaches – in particular, I call for investigations of the sociolinguistic life of understudied speakers, such as regional Japanese speakers, to examine how they understand linguistic gender norms and deploy a wide variety of linguistic and other semiotic resources for styling diverse forms of gender and sexual identity in situated practice. These questions have profound implications for the relationship between language and gender.

Author Biography

Shigeko Okamoto, University of California

Shigeko Okamoto is Professor Emerita of Languages and Applied Linguistics at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Her research interests include sociocultural linguistics, discourse analysis and functional linguistics with a special emphasis on Japanese gender and language, honorifics, standard and regional Japanese, grammatical constructions and pragmaticisation. Her most recent work is a book entitled The Social Life of the Japanese Language: Cultural Discourse and Situated Practice (with Janet S. Shibamoto-Smith, Cambridge University Press, 2016).


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Okamoto, Shigeko and Shibamoto-Smith, Janet S. (2008) Constructing linguistic femininity in contemporary Japan: scholarly and popular representations. Gender and Language 2(1): 87–112. https://doi.org/10.1558/genl.v2i1.87

Okamoto, Shigeko and Shibamoto-Smith, Janet S. (2016) The Social Life of the Japanese Language: Cultural Discourse and Situated Practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139680400

Saito, Junko (2020) Contesting and advocating gender ideologies: an analysis of sarariman (salaried men) characters’ hegemonic masculinities in a Japanese TV drama. Gender and Language 14(3): 286–304. https://doi.org/10.1558/genl.39956

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Sunaoshi, Yukako (2004) Farm women’s professional discourse in Ibaraki. In Shigeko Okamoto and Janet S. Shibamoto Smith (eds) Japanese Language, Gender, and Ideology: Cultural Models and Real People 187–204. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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Unser-Schutz, Giancarla (2020) Nerdy girls talking gross: popular perceptions on the quality, role, and influence of language in manga. Gender and Language 14(3): 326–346. https://doi.org/10.1558/genl.39958



How to Cite

Okamoto, S. . (2021). Japanese language and gender research: the last thirty years and beyond. Gender and Language, 15(2), 277–288. https://doi.org/10.1558/genl.20316



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