The Acquisition of Communicative Style in Japanese

Topics: Japanese values, Japanese language, Japan Pages: 6 (1389 words) Published: April 10, 2013
Cindy Comas
October 25, 2012

Title: The Acquisition of Communicative Style in Japanese
Author: Patricia M. Clancy
Author’s Info: Associate professor and Chair of the Department of Linguistics at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She’s interested in language acquisition because she thinks that if we could understand what grammar is for the very young children, we would gain insight into its true nature. Date Published: 1986

Key Points:
1.The Japanese communicate in an intuitive and indirect way when it’s compared to Americans. •Verbosity in Japan has been looked down upon. They rely heavily on non-verbal behavior. Their cultural values emphasize omoyari which means ‘empathy’ over verbal communication. •They tend to talk a lot less that we do.

Their rhetorical patterns are what you can call “circular”. In other words, they use analog thinking and go in circles before reaching a conclusion; which means they always think before they talk. Their communication is often inexplicit and indirect. 2.Japanese is a left-branching verb-final language, with negation appearing as a verb suffix. This means that the speaker can negate a sentence at the last moment, depending on the addressee’s expression. •For example, in this conversation.

-“It isn’t that we can’t do it this way,” one Japanese will say. -“of course,” replies his friend, “we couldn’t deny that it would be impossible to say that it couldn’t be done.” - “but unless we can say that it can’t be done,” says his friend, “it would be impossible not to admit that we couldn’t avoid doing it.” Basically what they are saying is the following:

-“Yes, we can do it this way”
-“of course it’s possible to do”
-“unless we can say we can’t, it’s possible to do it” Americans is likely to find this way of speech mind blogging to process. But this is their way of being reserved, cautious and evasive. 3.This doesn’t mean that they don’t express their own thoughts and feeling. •This introduces the terms honne and tatemae, which means ‘real feelings’ and ‘ socially accepted principal’ •We tend to feel that acting and speaking in accordance with one’s ‘honne’ is a matter of personal integrity. In Japan, the discrepancy between ‘honne’ and ‘tatemae’ is generally seen as simply reflecting the way society works. -This means that individuals may hold their own opinions and views, but for the sake of group harmony, they should not express it if it conflicts with the opinions of others.

4.They are many ways to avoid saying ‘no’ in Japan, some of them are:

-silence -ambiguity
-expressions of apology

Japanese would often use a direct ‘no’ at home, but it’s very rare for them to use it in public. In fact, lying was the most frequent means of declining requests. The reason why they avoid saying ‘no’ directly include empathy with the addressee, whose feelings would be hurt, and concern about potential negative results.

5.The Japanese language has a number of fixed verbal formulas that are used in daily routine. For example
-Itadakimasu, which means ‘I will receive it’. This is usually said before a meal. -Ojama shimasu, which means ‘I will get in the way’. This is said before entering someone else’s house. These formulas are used very frequently and apparently without fear of sounding unoriginal and therefore insincere. Unlike Americans who try to express themselves original expressions. In Japan, the ideal interaction is not one in which the speakers express their wishes and needs adequately and listeners understand and comply, but rather one in which each party understands and anticipates the needs of the other, even before anything is said. Communication can take place without, or even in spite of, actual verbalization. The main...
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