Date of Award

8-1-2011

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department

Anthropology

First Advisor

Fuller, Janet

Abstract

Previous literature discussing Japanese women's language (JWL) has shown that it is an ideal more than an existing genderlect (Inoue 2006; Nakamura 2007). As a social construct, it has been rendered a powerful truth through institutionalized practices and representations as well as individual negotiations. JWL, a cultural knowledge about how women speak, has been dynamically constructed in certain spatio-temporal intersections (Inoue 2003, 2004a, 2004b, 2006; Washi 2004). Mass media have served as one of the influential sites of production and reproduction of the discourses that naturalize indexical orders of JWL of the given temporality. The purpose of this study was to reveal how modern female speakers of Japanese negotiate the presented media discourses and contribute to recontextualization of JWL discourses through metapragmatic narratives. Three participants were asked to analyze the speech styles of two female characters from a TV drama in terms of linguistic femininity, and to discuss what it means to speak feminine to them. The participants' written scene analysis data, individual interviews, and the focus group discussion were triangulated in order to effectively uncover and denaturalize the intertwined discourses of feminine speech and JWL. The participants' metapragmatic narratives were examined based on the principles of the discourse centered approach (Sherzer 1987), shedding light on their dynamic articulations of JWL discourses. The participants' scene analyses in terms of femininity and generalization of what consists of femininity showed both interpersonal and intrapersonal similarities and differences. Simultaneously, the participants' metadiscursive narratives revealed some contradictory discourses around JWL: discourse of JWL in the contemporary Japanese society and discourse of JWL as cultural heritage. In the articulation of these discourses, the imagined continuity of JWL is romanticized as a cultural heritage, so the semiotic value of JWL is that of an icon of an ideal woman. However, the participants also acknowledged the structural transformation of Japanese society and the higher socioeconomic status of modern women, which naturalizes the masculinization of women's speech to keep up with men. These two contrastive discourses make JWL a vicarious language, through which the participants appreciate the continuity of JWL in the future.

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