Friendly or condescending?

Negotiating appropriateness in online discourse on medical practitioners’ non-use of honorifics


  • Naomi Geyer University of Wisconsin-Madison



addressee honorifics, tameguchi ('equals'), medical discourse, metapragmatic discourse


This article illustrates how participants’ sense of appropriate language use is discursively negotiated, examining entries in online discussion boards regarding medical practitioners’ use and non-use of honorifics. The analysis shows social factors deemed relevant by the discussion board participants regarding their evaluations on honorifics use and non-use such as interlocutors’ age and social distance as well as the location and type of medical institution. Participants’ evaluations, the article demonstrates, are based on their views of medical practice (whether it is similar to or different from other types of service, whether it is similar to first-time encounters, and so forth). Medical practitioners’ non-use of honorifics tends to be accepted and appreciated in a context in which the addressee (patient) experiences urgency, vulnerability, and/or anxiety. Lastly, the study illustrates the process of enregisterment of honorific usage.

Author Biography

Naomi Geyer, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Naomi Geyer is Associate Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research interests are in pragmatics and Japanese teacher education. Her recent research explores the ways in which social norms regarding honorifics and so-called tameguchi (‘equalese’) are constructed in various discourse settings. She is the author of Discourse and Politeness: Ambivalent Face in Japanese, and her articles appear in journals such as Journal of Pragmatics, Language Learning, Foreign Language Annals, and Japanese Language and Literature.


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How to Cite

Geyer, N. (2021). Friendly or condescending? Negotiating appropriateness in online discourse on medical practitioners’ non-use of honorifics. East Asian Pragmatics, 6(1), 87–108.