Ore and omae : Japanese men’s uses of first- and second-person pronouns

Cindi L. SturtzSreetharan

Abstract

First- and second-person pronouns have been one of the centerpieces of the literature on language and gender differences in Japanese (Shibamoto Smith 2003). Most of our understandings of real (empirical) pronominal use comes from investigations of female speakers of standard Japanese. Our understandings of how dialect speakers and/or men use pronominal forms in daily linguistic practice are not well informed. This article undertakes an investigation of Japanese men’s uses of pronominal forms; each participant was born and reared in the Kansai (western) area of Japan and uses a dialect variety of Japanese (Hanshinkan Dialect). Literature which addresses pronominal usage in Japanese indicates that these forms are risky since they always serve to position speaker and hearer in specific ways relative to one another; as such, pronouns are something to be avoided. The findings of this paper indicate that pronouns are used by Japanese men; however the uses are contextually governed and have little to do with delineating speaker from hearer and have more to do with specific conversational goals.

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