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Thread: Gender Differences in Spoken Japanese

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    Devoted Otaku Shodokan may be famous one day Shodokan may be famous one day Shodokan's Avatar
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    Gender Differences in Spoken Japanese

    Like most of you know Japanese is a language seperated by gender. Completely different words depending if you're a guy or a girl. I know very little Japanese but I've heard men who even take Japanese classes say words women or homosexuals usulaly use. I feel sorry for these guys who constantly call themselves watashi. Honto ni honto? I'm sorry considering the thread title I couldn't help myself with the last one.
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    anti-semantics Pub Quiz Champion tsurara may be famous one day tsurara may be famous one day tsurara's Avatar
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    Re: Gender Differences in Spoken Japanese

    Most native and fluent Japanese speakers use informal gender-specific forms in daily speech.

    Foreigners who are learning Japanese as a 2nd language tend to speak in more gender-neutral, polite forms... even in situations that wouldn't require a high level of polite speech. That's because, for the sake of simplicity, most textbooks teach a standardized form of moderately polite, gender-neutral Japanese. Since women use more polite forms, even in informal speech, this can make some men sound femenine when speaking Japanese.

    "watashi", however, is not necesarily a feminine term. It's merely a polite one.

    The reality of the situation is that foreigners overuse certain forms of speech anyway (including the personal pronoun). In most informal conversations, it's perfectly fine not to use a personal pronoun at all, as long as it's obvious that the subject on which you're speaking is yourself.

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    Re: Gender Differences in Spoken Japanese

    I've taken Japanese for about two years now, and I know about the whole gender specific words thing. However, it was never explained why something like that exists. Where did this originate. Was it at one point nessecary to have women speak in a different way, perhaps to appear more subserviant or gentle?

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    anti-semantics Pub Quiz Champion tsurara may be famous one day tsurara may be famous one day tsurara's Avatar
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    Re: Gender Differences in Spoken Japanese

    Japanese History sees major divisions between the sexes: culturally, status-wise, and linguistically. Even the writing systems were gender specific, with classical Chinese being taught only to men (the only potential literate scholars) and women of privaledge being left to dabble in trite poetry with hiragana (the phonetic Japanese writing system). The first major literary works of merit in Japan (including what is possibly the first serial novel in the world: The Tale of Genji) were written by court ladies using only hiragana.

    Women have traditionally been kept out of politics, military service and even now find their place primarily at home in roles as parents and "domestic goddesses" (ie. housework monkeys). Women, keeping company primarily with women, have developed their own style of speaking while men, keeping company with other men have developed theirs. There has, of course, been some meddling on behalf of scholars, confucianism (a belief system imported from China in which a woman is inferior and subserviant to her father, husband and son), and a major backlash against women as corrupting forces during the 1600s (which saw women banned from male roles in Japanese theatre, confined female prostitution to a very small quarter of the city for "regulation" purposes and saw a great deal of homosexual romances and comedies making their way into popular literature).

    Nowadays there are some feminists who argue that femenine language is demeaning and should be done away with (at least in part): but the average Japanese uses it naturally and without questioning. Quite a few of the more restrictive or demeaning linguistic conventions are fading out as popular young women's speech (gyarugo, etc) grows more and more informal.

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    Re: Gender Differences in Spoken Japanese

    The idea of forcing women to use a certian kind of speech or writing bothers me too. I don't think things should be divided like that. I realize that nowadays people in Japan can speak however which way they please, but I'm sure there are plenty of social stigmas at the ready. In the past, what exactly was done if a woman spoke casually, or didn't write exclusively in hiragana? Nothing stupid I'd hope.

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    Re: Gender Differences in Spoken Japanese

    Women weren't taught anything but hiragana (if they were taught to write at all). I don't think it was an issue of just picking up a book at the library and teaching yourself back then. Then again, in Heian pretty much only the ruling and religious elite had any time for education at all. The peasant class was largely illiterate...

    I don't think they cut off your hands if you picked up some classical Chinese... but believe me, Classical Chinese isn't the sort of things you just "pick up".

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    Re: Gender Differences in Spoken Japanese

    I noticed that when i took Japanese, a female using boku (I) instead of Watashi or atashi, was considered a tom-boy...yet in so many Japanese females songs, they use boku. Although I haven't heard a man use atashi..Atashi is used by females, and watakushi is like another watashi..even though they all mean I, it can be kind of confusing if you listen to Japanese music..It was for me!

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    Re: Gender Differences in Spoken Japanese

    Does calling someone a blue boy still mean he's gay?
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