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

Satoko Suzuki

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.

Quick links
A browser-friendly version of this article is not yet available. View PDF
Banfield, Ann
(1982) Unspeakable sentences: Narration and representation in the language of fiction. Boston, London, Melbourne and Henley: Routledge and Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
Briggs, Charles, and Richard Bauman
(1992) Genre, intertextuality, and social power. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 2.2: 131-172. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Chafe, Wallace L
(1982) Integration and involvement in speaking, writing, and oral literature. In Deborah Tannen (ed.), Spoken and written language: Exploring orality and Literacy. Norwood, NJ.: Ablex, pp. 35-53.Google Scholar
Clancy, Patricia M
(1982) Written and spoken style in Japanese narratives. In Deborah Tannen (ed.), Spoken and written language: Exploring orality and literacy. Norwood, NJ.: Ablex, pp. 55-76.Google Scholar
Frank, Jane
(1989) On conversational involvement by mail: The use of questions in direct sales letters. Text 9.2: 231-259. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Hudson, Mutsuko Endo
(2007) Presence and absence of case markers in Japanese informal interviews. A paper presented at the 10th International Pragmatics Conference, Göteborg, Sweden, July 8-13, 2007.
Inoue, Miyako
(2006) Vicarious language: Gender and linguistic modernity in Japan. Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Iwasaki, Shoichi, and Tsuyoshi Ono
(2001) “Sentence” in spontaneous spoken Japanese discourse. In Joan Bybee, and Michael Noonan (eds.), Complex sentences in grammar and discourse: Essays in honor of Sandra A. Thompson. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company, pp. 175-202. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Katsuno, Hirofumi, and Christine R. Yano
(2002) Face to face: On-line subjectivity in contemporary Japan. Asian Studies Review 26.2: 205-226. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Kuno, Susumu
(1973) The Structure of the Japanese language. Cambridge, MA.: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
(1978) Japanese: A characteristic OV language. In W.P. Lehmann (ed.), Syntactic typology: Studies in the phenomenology of language. Austin: University of Texas Press, pp. 57-138.Google Scholar
Lakoff, Robin T
(1982) Some of my favorite writers are literate: The mingling of oral and literate strategies in written communication. In Deborah Tannen (ed.), Spoken and written language: Exploring orality and literacy. Norwood, NJ.: Ablex, pp. 239-260.Google Scholar
Lee, Kiri
(2002) Nominative case-marker deletion in spoken Japanese: An analysis from the perspective of information structure. Journal of Pragmatics 34.6: 683-709. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Maynard, Senko K
(1989) Japanese conversation: Self-contextualization through structure and interactional management. Norwood, NJ.: Ablex.Google Scholar
(1998) Principles of Japanese discourse: A handbook. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
(2007) Linguistic creativity in Japanese discourse. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Ono, Tsuyoshi
(2006) An emotively motivated post-predicate constituent order in a ‘strict predicate final’ language: Emotion and grammar meet in Japanese everyday talk. In Satoko Suzuki (ed.), Emotive communication in Japanese. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company, pp. 139-153. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Ono, Tsuyoshi, and Ryoko Suzuki
(1992) Word order variability in Japanese conversation: Motivations and grammaticization. Text12.3: 429-455. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Ono, Tsuyoshi, and Sandra A. Thompson
(2003) Japanese (w)atashi/ore/boku ‘I’: They’re not just pronouns. Cognitive Linguistics 14.4: 321-347. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Saito, Minako
(2002) Bunshoo tokukon san e. Chikuma-shobo: Tokyo.Google Scholar
Shibatani, Masayoshi
(1999) The languages of Japan. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Stoll, Pamela
(1998) Text as conversation: An interpretive investigation of utterances in a women’s magazine. Journal of Pragmatics 29: 545-570. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Suzuki, Satoko
(1995) The functions of topic-encoding zero-marked phrases: A study of the interaction among topic-encoding phrases in Japanese." Journal of Pragmatics 23: 607-626. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Traugott, Elizabeth Closs
(2003) From subjectification to intersubjectification. In Raymond Hickey (ed.), Motives for language change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 124-139. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Tsutsui, Michio
(1984) Wa no shōryaku. Gengo 13.5: 112-121.Google Scholar
Ueno, Chizuko
(2000) Ueno Chizuko ga bungaku o shakaigaku suru. Asahishinbun-sha: Tokyo.Google Scholar
Wetzel, Patricia J
(2004) Keigo in Modern Japan: Polite language from Meiji to the present. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Aoyama, Minami
1998Ki ni naru kotoba, ki ga chiru hibi. Hon no zasshi-sha: Tokyo.Google Scholar
Fushimi, Noriaki
1998 [1991] Puraibēto gei raifu. Gakuyo-shobo: Tokyo.Google Scholar
Haruka, Yoko
2003Hai buriddo ūman. Kodan-sha: Tokyo.Google Scholar
Hashimoto, Osamu
1986Hasu to katana. Kawaide-shoboo: Tokyo.Google Scholar
Hisada, Megumi
2002Kazoku o sotsugyō shimasu. Chikuma-shobo: Tokyo.Google Scholar
Ito, Hiromi
2004Onaka hoppe oshiri tome. PHP Kenkyu-jo: Tokyo.Google Scholar
Saito, Minako
2002Bunshō tokukon san e. Chikuma-shobo: Tokyo.Google Scholar
Sano, Yoko
1985Ganbarimasen. Shincho-sha: Tokyo.Google Scholar
Taguchi, Randy
2000Dekireba mukatsukazu ni ikitai. Shincho-sha: Tokyo.Google Scholar
Yamamoto, Fumio
1995Zettai nakanai. Kadokawa-shoten: Tokyo.Google Scholar