Mitsuyo Kuwano Lidén is working as a lecturer in Japanese language at the Department of Asian, Middle Eastern and Turkish Studies at Stockholm University. At our higher seminar she will speak under the headline "Pragmatics of person reference in Japanese: Pronouns and their equivalents as seen in recent everyday life."


This seminar will be held online, via Zoom, on 28 October at 3.00 PM. An invitation link will be sent out via email lists. If you wish to attend but have not received a link, please contact Bernhand Wälchli:


In this seminar I would like to talk about the speaker referring term (“first-person pronouns”) and listener/addressee referring term (“second-person pronouns”) in Japanese; I would like to discuss the result of a preliminary analysis of how these terms are used in real-life.
The term personal pronoun in Japanese refers to a group of words (such as watashi, anata, kare), which are used to refer to the speaker, the addressee and/or somebody else. As in other languages, Japanese distinguishes basically between three persons (first, second, and third) in two numbers (singular and plural). But particularly as for first- and second-person pronouns, there is no clear boundary neither between pronouns and nouns, nor the number, which makes some scholars question the very existence of personal pronouns. Further, even though personal pronouns may exist as systems (see below), but they, especially second-person pronouns, are known to be used rather sparsely in everyday conversation in Japanese (cf. Shimotani 2012). Japanese lexicons and grammar books indicate up to four speaker-referring terms (ex. watashi, atachi, boku, ore for “I”) and addressee-referring terms (ex. anata, omae, kimi, sonata for “you”). The variations in each person are often explained in terms of era, gender and degree of politeness/formality. Further attributes are dialect, social class and power relation (cf. Nihon kokugo daijiten). 
The fact that certain person-referring terms, especially the speaker-referring ones, can be associated with particular attributes (such as gender and age) has triggered linguistic investigations of how these terms are used in fiction as a device to create certain speech styles (cf. Kinsui 2003). Together with sentence-final particles which have a similar effect, the use of person-referring terms is considered an important means of verbal characterization. Yet, the use of speaker-referring terms in characters’ speech styles is less based on real-life use than on conventional links between terms and attributes. While such conventions may be confined to fiction, studies on the real-life use of first-person and second person pronouns show something else. Miyazaki (2004) for example, found that the junior high school students used pronouns freely beyond the conventional linking, and that the choice of first-person pronoun shifted during the interactions. In other words, the speaker’s identity defined in relation to the addressee and the social context tends to determine the use of the terms, which is facilitated by the particularity of the Japanese language to occasionally employ kinship-terms and job titles for reference to speaker and addressee.
Against this backdrop, my contribution explores speaker-referring terms (first-person pronouns) and listener/addressee-referring terms (second-person pronouns) as used in actual daily conversations at home and outside the home. The real-life data is collected from a corpus (CEJC; Corpus of Everyday Japanese Conversation) provided by the National Institute for Japanese Language and Linguistics (NINJAL).


o, Hanae, Haruka Amatani, Yuriko Iseki, Yasuyuki Usuda, Wakako Kashino, Yoshiko Kawabata, Yayoi Tanaka, Kenya Nishikawa and Yasuharu Den. 2018. “Overview of the monitor version of the Corpus of Everyday Japanese Conversation.” Proceedings of Language Resources Workshop 2018.9: 483-492. Accessed January 15, 2019. 

Kinsui, Satoshi. 2003. Virtual nihongo yakuwarigo no nazo. Tokyo: Iwanami shoten.

Miyazaki, Ayumi. 2004. “Japanese Junior High School Girls’ and Boys’ FirstPerson Pronoun Use and Their Social World.” In Japanese Language, Gender, and Ideology: Cultural Models and Real People. Edited by Shigeko Okamoto. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 

Nihon kokugo daijiten, dai ni ban [Unabridged Japanese Dictionary]. Accessed January 15, 2019.

Shimotani, Maki. 2012. “Shizen danwa ni okeru ni-ninshō daimeishi ‘anata’ ni tsuite no ichi-kōsatsu: Epistepic Primacy o fumaete.” Papers in Teaching Japanese as a Foreign Language 22:63-96. Accessed January 31, 2019.

Material Corpus of Everyday Japanese Conversation;