The Role of Court Lady’s Language in the Historical Norm Construction of Japanese Women’s Language

Authors

  • Orie Endo Bunkyo University

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.1558/genl.v2i1.9

Keywords:

women’s language, nyooboo kotoba, linguistic norms, word formation processes, youth language

Abstract

This paper traces the development of a pre-modern speech variety known as nyooboo kotoba ‘court lady’s language’ and its role in the construction of normative language for Japanese women. I argue that what is today called joseego or onna kotoba (women’s language) originates in the attempt to regulate women’s speech in pre-modern Japan, in particular, the idea that the language of women in the imperial court (nyooboo kotoba) is gentle, elegant and, hence, feminine, and thus should serve as the ideal model of women’s speech. I also discuss the word formation processes used in nyooboo kotoba, which were believed at the time to render words refined and elegant. I then argue that these word formation processes share much in common with those of the modern wakamonogo ‘youth language’, which is considered rude and corrupt, and that this contradiction illustrates the subjective and ideological nature of these kinds of evaluations.

References

Abutsuni. (c. 1279/1978) Shinkoo Gunshoruijuu. Vol. 21. Tokyo: Meicho Fukyukai.

Endo, O. (1997) Onna no kotoba no bunkashi (Cultural History of Women’s Language). Tokyo: Gakuyo Shobo.

Endo, O. (1998) Tookyoo no josee no kotoba no ima (Present state of women’s language in Tokyo). Gengo (Language) 27(1): 76–81.

Endo, O. (2000) Ninki dorama no hanashi kotoba ni miru danjo sa – TV dorama ‘Beautiful life’ no moji shiryoo kara (Gender difference found in the spoken drama in a popular drama – from the script of the TV drama ‘Beautiful life’). Kotoba (Language) 21: 13–23.

Gendai Nihongo Kenkyuukai (Modern Japanese Study Society). (1997) Josee no kotoba: Shokuba-hen (Language of Women in the Workplace). Tokyo: Hitsuji Shobo.

Gendai Nihongo Kenkyuukai (Modern Japanese Study Society). (2002) Dansee no kotoba: Shokuba-hen (Language of Men in the Workplace). Tokyo: Hitsuji Shobo.

Hattori, Y. (1954) Nyooboo kotoba (Court-ladies’ language). In Kotoba no Kenkyuushitsu (Language Research Laboratory) IV: 110. Tokyo: Kodansha.

Ide, R. and Terada, T. (1998) The historical origins of Japanese women’s speech: From the secluded worlds of ‘court ladies’ and ‘play ladies’. International Journal of Society and Languages 129: 139–156.

Inoue, M. (2004) Gender, language and modernity: Toward an effective history of ‘Japanese Women’s Language’. In S. Okamoto and J. S. Shibamoto Smith (eds) Japanese Language, Gender and Ideology: Cultural Models and Real People: 57–75. Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press.

Kaibara Ekken (1710/1911) Joshi o oshieru hoo (How to Teach Women). In T. Tsukamoto (ed.) Wazoku dooji kun (Teachings of Japanese Manners to Children) 391–410. Tokyo: Yuhodo.

Kikuzawa, S. (1940) Kokugo to kokuminsee – nihon seeshin no senmee (National Language and National Character – Clarification of the Japanese Spirit). Tokyo: Shubunkan.

Kindaichi, H., Shibata, T. and Hayashi, O. (eds) (1988) Nihongo hyakkadaijiten (Great Encyclopedia of Japanese). Tokyo: Taishukan.

Kinsella, S. (1995) Cuties in Japan. In L. Skov and B. Moeran (eds) Women, Media, and Consumption 220–254. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press.

Matsumoto, Y. (1996) Does less feminine speech in Japanese mean less femininity? In N. Warner, J. Ahlers, L. Bilmes, M. Oliver, S. Wertheim and M. Chen (eds) Gender and Belief Systems: Proceedings of the Fourth Berkeley Women and Language Conference 545–467. Berkeley CA: Department of Linguistics, University of California, Berkeley.

Matsushita, D. (1924/1978) Keego no taikee (The Honorific System). In Y. Kitahara (ed.) Ronshuu: Nihongo kenkyuu 9 – Honorifics (Collected Works: Japanese Language Research 9 – Honorifics) 29–40. Tokyo: Yuseido.

Miller, L. (2004) You are doing burikko! Censoring/scrutinizing artificers of cute femininity in Japanese. In S. Okamoto and J. S. Shibamoto Smith (eds) Japanese Language, Gender, and Ideology: Cultural Models and Real People 148–165. Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press.

Morino, M. (1991) Joseego no rekishi (History of Women’s Language). In T. Tsujimura (ed.) Kooza nihongo to nihongo kyooiku, Dai 10-kan (Lecture on the Japanese Language and Japanese Language Education, Vol. 10) 225–248. Tokyo: Meiji Shoin.

Mujuu (1300/1964) Tsumakagami (Mirrors of wives). In Y. Miyasaka (ed.) Nihon koten bungaku taikee 83 (Japanese Classical Literature Series Vol. 83) 158–184. Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten.

Naemura, J. (1692/1981) Onna choohooki (Women’s Handbook). In Kinsee bungaku shoshi kenkyu kai (Society for Study of Modern Literature Bibliographies) (ed.) Onna choohooki, kanai choohooki (Women’s Handbook, Wives’ Handbook) 1–220. Tokyo: Benseisha.

Nakamura, Y., Ookubo, K. and Goishi, M. (2002) Koten keego shosetsu (Detailed Account of Classical Honorifics). Tokyo: Yubun Shoin.

Okamoto, S. and Shibamoto Smith, J. S. (eds) (2004) Japanese Language, Gender, and Ideology: Cultural Models and Real People. Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press.

Okubo, A. (1988) Yooji no gengo (Infant language). In O. Hayashi, T. Shibata and H. Kindaichi (eds) Nihongo hyakka daijiten XXII: Gengoseesaku to gengokyooiku (Encyclopedia of Japanese Language XXII: Language Policy and Language Education) 1250–1253. Tokyo: Taishuukan.

Ozaki, Y. (1999) Joseego no jumyo (Life of women’s language). Nihongogaku (Study of Japanese Language) 18(10): 60–71.

Shikitei Sanba (1809/1957) Nakamura, M. (annot.) Ukiyoburo (Bath of the Floating World). Nihon koten bungaku taikee 63 (Japanese Classical Literature Series Vol. 63) 45–307. Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten.

Sugimoto, T. (1985) Onna no kotoba shi (Records of Women’s Language). Tokyo: Yuzankaku.

Tamori, I. (2002) Onomatope/gion/gitaigo o tanoshimu (Let’s Enjoy Onomatopaeia). Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten.

Yonekawa, A. (1996) Gendai wakamono kotoba koo (Study of Modern Youth Language). Tokyo: Maruzen Co. Ltd.

Yonekawa, A. (1997) Wakamono kotoba jiten (Dictionary of Youth Language). Tokyo: Tokyodo Shuppan.

Zoku-Gunshoruijukanseekai (1960) Gunshoruiju 23: Buke-bu (The samurai).

Zoku-Gunshoruijukanseekai (1960) Gunshoruiju 27: Zatsu-bu (Miscellany).

Published

2008-06-27

How to Cite

Endo, O. (2008). The Role of Court Lady’s Language in the Historical Norm Construction of Japanese Women’s Language. Gender and Language, 2(1), 9–24. https://doi.org/10.1558/genl.v2i1.9

Issue

Section

Articles