Constructing Linguistic Femininity in Contemporary Japan

Scholarly and Popular Representations

Authors

  • Shigeko Okamoto California State University, Fresno
  • Janet S. Shibamoto Smith University of California, Davis

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.1558/genl.v2i1.87

Keywords:

representations of linguistic femininity, linguistic norms, language ideology, indexicality

Abstract

This article examines the constitution of ‘Japanese women’s language,’ or joseego, as a prescriptive linguistic norm for women through an analysis of scholarly and media representations of linguistic femininity in contemporary Japan. We distinguish two kinds of interrelated norms as constituting linguistic femininity: norms centered around general stylistic features such as politeness, gentleness, and refinement (the first-order norms) and those specificying particular linguistic forms including phonological, morphological, and lexical features (the second-order norms). Our analysis shows that both scholarly and media representations tend to share the dominant ideology of feminine speech in terms of general stylistic features and that they both link those features to specific linguistic forms in terms of Standard Japanese, but that the media representations are relatively more flexible in this linkage than the former and allows more room for contestation and the negotiation of alternative femininities. Through this analysis, we discuss the complex indexical process in which linguistic forms are ideologically linked to femininity as well as the tenuous nature of this linkage.

Author Biographies

Shigeko Okamoto, California State University, Fresno

Department of Linguistics, California State University, Fresno 5245 N. Backer Ave., Fresno, CA. 93740-8001

Janet S. Shibamoto Smith, University of California, Davis

Department of Anthropology University of California, Davis One Shields Avenue Davis, California 95616, USA

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Published

2008-06-27

How to Cite

Okamoto, S., & Shibamoto Smith, J. 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

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