Publication details [#62931]

Obana, Yasuko. 2017. Japanese honorifics re-re-visited. Journal of Politeness Research 13 (2) : 281–312.
Publication type
Article in journal
Publication language
Language as a subject
Place, Publisher
De Gruyter


This inquiry re-explores the status of Japanese honorifics in pragmatic principles, and tries to see how various dynamic uses of honorific terms for different aims can be unified with the idea of “the grammar of society” (Bicchieri 2006). To come to this conclusion, the inquiry is organised in the following way. First, it is asserted that honorifics, or more precisely honorific markings, operate as the grammatical conversion of what has already been strategically constructed, and only index a social or psychological distance between the interactants. This means that honorifics propose a double layer of linguistic architecture: a strategically constructed unit and honorific marking on the unit. Second, the inquiry explores honorific terms employed in speech (plus-) level shifts to see a parallel between them and the so-called ‘conventional’ honorifics, and to find similar attributes shared between them, which are in many ways derived from the origin of honorifics. Finally, by re-exploring and reinstating the term ‘social norm’, which Bicchieri (2006) compares to “the grammar of society”, it is shown how honorific terms as social norms are first used, and then applied, manipulated and pragmatically extended for diverse aims.