Edited by Michael Meeuwis and Jan-Ola Östman
[Not in series 170] 2012
► pp. 121–138
Roots of the wakimae aspect of linguistic politeness
Modal expressions and Japanese sense of self
Why is Japanese linguistic politeness characterized by wakimae? This paper argues that wakimae, or linguistic politeness, can be traced back to two roots. First, the Japanese language has abundant modal expressions from the morpheme level to the discourse level that index the context in order to show the speaker’s attitude toward the contextual elements involved. The structure of utterances consists of the proposition and the modality, and it is this modality expression that shows the speaker’s attitude toward the context of speaking. Second, the Japanese ‘sense of self’ consists of two layers of interactional domains: uchi (ingroup) and soto (outgroup). The use of modal expressions such as addressee honorifics is required to index the interactional domains of soto to observe wakimae. Finally, in this paper the moral aspiration for the pursuit of wakimae is discussed in light of historical development of Japanese philosophy.