Japanese? Language? and Gender?
Keywords:Japan-as-Place, Japanese, gender, joseigo/danseigo, language, ideology, media, repertoire
This essay offers an overview of language and gender research as it unfolded in a particular ‘Place’: Japan. In the past thirty years, Japanese language and gender/sexuality relations have been characterised both domestically and globally as special, sometimes as unique, due to the existence of distinct joseigo ‘women’s language’ and danseigo ‘men’s language’. A preferential focus on the surface-segmentable forms (pronouns, sentence final particles, etc.) over discursive features and a limited focus on Standard Japanese in the early years of Japanese language and gender research has led to a tendency to view ‘the’ Japanese language as a homogeneous unity and to the reification of the three critical categories, ‘Japan’, ‘language’ and ‘gender’. In this essay, I discuss the problematic nature of the three critical terms, and suggest ways in which Japan-as-Place might profitably be renarrated as the complex place it is and Japanese language, gender and sexuality relations revisited as they operate within that complexity.
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