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ジェフリー・A・クロフト先生のコラム [1998年-現在] フリーランス・社内翻訳者
学術文献・研究論文・技術機関紙等の翻訳、契約書等の法律文書の翻訳、説明書・規格書等の技術文書の翻訳、手紙・通信文・企業案内・広告・ホームページ等の翻訳に精通。
[2001年-2002年] フリーランス通訳者
日英・英日同時または逐次通訳(主な顧客:富士通, ソニー, TBS等)
[学歴] 学士号:カリフォルニア大学、バークレー校 修士号:モントレー国際大学

第7回:『Comparative Linguistic Analysis--Chinese and Japanese; Latin and English』

The Languages of Japan: Masayoshi Shibatani

As I discussed in my previous column, my exploration of sociolinguistics reinforced my existing interests, evident in some of the work I had previously done, which included sociolinguistic treatment. My Comparative linguistic analysis and presentation on the pragmatics of Japanese grammar is one example. In this presentation, I showed that the deep sociolinguistic influence that Latin had on Western scholarship is comparable to the deep sociolinguistic impact that Chinese had on Japanese scholarship. As Shibatani (1990) puts it: “Much as Latin was cherished in the medieval world of scholarship in the West, Chinese letters were both a symbol of learning and a means of recording official matters” (p. 359) I found that Shibatani attributes the wide gap between colloquial speech and the written language in Japanese to the “historical accident that the Japanese decided to absorb Chinese culture and adopt Chinese characters as a means to represent their language” (p. 357). Specifically, he points to the development of the Sinico-Japanese (Kanbun) written language as the culprit in widening the divide. According to Shibatani, this writing style was meant to fulfill the desire to write Japanese using Chinese characters, and Chinese syntax. This desire was most acute during the Heian period (800?1186), described as the zenith of Chinese letters in Japan (p. 359).

The problem with writing Japanese in Chinese, according to Shibatani, was that the marked disparity between Japanese and Chinese syntax presented significant complications. He likens this writing to translating Japanese into Chinese, but points out that even deciphering the final product involved special skills including inversion in word order, and adding inflectional endings and particles that were foreign to Chinese. Shibatani calls this a cumbersome process that was “neither pure Chinese nor Japanese, and thus neither Chinese nor Japanese are able to read Sinico-Japanese texts without special training” (p. 359).

The comparison of the influence on Japanese scholarship with the influence of Latin on Western scholarship may not be essential to the daily learning and teaching of Japanese and English, but for me it was certainly an interesting depiction of sociolinguistic development.

The careful use of honorifics?especially using humble or neutral forms to refer to self or in-group and polite forms to refer to outsiders?has been part of my daily life for over two decades. From classrooms to corporate offices to government bureaus, I have learned the importance of using such appropriate politeness levels in Japanese society as I discuss below.

I have researched Japanese honorifics, including the polite forms, which represent what Shibatani (1990) terms a “sociological aspect of stylized language” and which he asserts “can be considered as deictic expressions by virtue of their role of anchoring the referent and the speech-act participants in particular social situations, i.e. statuses” (p. 378). Shibatani maintains that the interesting thing about the Japanese honorific system is that it is relativized with regard to an insider-outsider distinction … in terms of psychological distance” (p. 379).

Shibatani lists several basic conventions of Japanese honorifics including “the superior is typically addressed or referred to by his/her title, e.g. sensei ‘teacher, Professor, Dr.’, syatyoo ‘company president’, butyoo ‘division head’, or by his/her kinship terms, e.g. otoosan ‘father’, ojiisan ‘grandfather’, obasan ‘aunt’, oneesan ‘elder sister’. The titles are often used in combination with last names, e.g. Takagi-syatyoo ‘President Takagi’, Kakehi-sensei ‘Prof. Kakehi’” (p. 372). The presence of honorifics in an utterance signifies a psychologically distant relationship between those conversing. Shibatani illustrates this point with sample sentences, prefacing them with, “by hearing the following sentences uttered by a secretary, we know whether she is speaking to an insider or an outsider”:

a. Syatyoo-san wa ima odekake ni natte i-masu
  President-HON TOP now HON-go out HON be-POLITE
  ‘The president is gone out now.’
b. Syatyoo wa ima dekake-te ori-masu
  President TOP now go out be-POLITE (p. 379)
  ‘The president is gone out now.’

Shibatani points out that the secretary is supposed to be using the plain form in (b) when speaking to an outsider. He calls attention to his own use of the term supposed to, and explains that “this particular rule of relativizing the distance of the referent with respect to the addressee is something that seems to be learned fairly late” (p. 379). “Indeed,” he adds, “this rule is often one of the things new employees, especially secretaries and receptionists, are trained in as they enter the business world” (p. 379).

In (b) above, the secretary refers to the company president by his title, syatyoo, as he is her superior, but she does not attach the honorific ?san, when speaking of him to an outsider ? in this case, to one outside the company. In the same way the honorific-polite ending ?ni natte imasu is replaced by the humble-polite ?te orimasu, because the secretary is referring to an insider (the company president), albeit her superior, in the company of an outsider. The insider-outsider distinction is crucial in Japanese discourse, and in the use of deictic expressions. Shibatani (1990) states that:

Deictic expressions are used not only for anchoring the speech act participants and the referent in terms of physical location but also for locating the referent in reference to the social grouping. The parameter used in the latter function is the same as that used in honorific marking. Especially important in Japanese is whether the referent is an in-group member or not; if he is, he is treated in the same manner as the speaker himself with respect to outsiders. Instead of subject-honorific forms, object-honorific or humbling forms [as above] are used in reference to such a person when the addressee is an outsider. (p. 383)

Shibatani states that this type of deictic expression is an integral part of Japanese interaction, which “permeates Japanese conversation, and one can hardly spend a day without hearing or uttering” (p. 370) deictic expressions. Indeed I heard and uttered such deictic expressions myself daily in my time working, studying, and traveling in Japan, and elsewhere (e.g., China, Guatemala, Hong Kong, Mexico, Thailand, and the US) with Japanese friends and colleagues.

Above, I have mentioned a few of my experiences and studies that had shaped my linguistic views of cultural context prior to my exploration sociolinguistics. In my next column, I will detail some of my discoveries through sociolinguistics about contextual linguistic issues, folk-linguistic assumptions, and the like, closer to home?in the U.S, as well.

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