Vernacular style writing: Strategic blurring of the boundary between spoken and written discourse in Japanese

Satoko Suzuki

Abstract

This paper shows that some Japanese non-fiction writers are using various structural characteristics of spoken discourse in their writing. Their written discourse includes non-canonical word order and long sentences that are produced by combining a series of clauses. Their sentences may lack case or topic marking particles, but they may contain clause-final particles. Their discourse looks like it may have gone through a dynamic, on-going formation process because it includes reformulation and changes in the structure in midstream. It is proposed that writers who adopt such an approach are deliberately blurring the boundary between speech and writing for multiple reasons. They may be exhibiting their creativity and innovation as well as their anti-establishment ideology. Vernacular style writing may also be an attempt to engage, involve, and connect with their readers. Further, they may be reflecting as well as expressing contemporary society in which orality is viewed favorably and as a result, writing in general has become increasingly more casual than before. The phenomenon discussed in this paper may be viewed as a reflection of erosions and shifting of traditional genres.

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