LINGUIST List 13.2175

Mon Aug 26 2002

Diss: Socioling: Poole "An ethnography..."

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  1. GregPoole86, Socioling: Poole "An ethnography of a speech act..."

Message 1: Socioling: Poole "An ethnography of a speech act..."

Date: Mon, 26 Aug 2002 12:31:46 +0000
From: GregPoole86 <>
Subject: Socioling: Poole "An ethnography of a speech act..."

New Dissertation Abstract

Institution: University of Surrey
Program: Department of Linguistic and International Studies
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2001

Author: Gregory S Poole 

Dissertation Title: 
An ethnography of a speech act, "aisatsu", across two speech events,
"nyuugakushiki" and "kyoojukai", at a Japanese university

Dissertation URL:

Linguistic Field: Sociolinguistics, Anthropological Linguistics

Subject Language: Japanese

Dissertation Director 1: Dr Charles C Mann

Dissertation Abstract: 

This dissertation addresses the topic of the Japanese speech act,
'aisatsu', at two university social events: 'nyuugakushiki' and
'kyoojukai'. Participant observation notes and supporting written
texts add an ethnographic dimension to the recorded spoken data of the
two different events conducted entirely in Japanese. This study of the
use of language in everyday situations measures the ways in which
speech acts, and their corresponding genres, are "framed" by the
events and "constructed" by the speakers. Japanese language both
produces and is a product of social behavior, and in this case acts,
genres, and events are related to macro-level discussions in the
anthropology of formalized and ritual language reflecting social
ideals and conventions.

Japanese has a comparative abundance of ritual language and speech
levels, as do other major Asian languages such as Javanese, Hindi,
Korean, Thai, and Malay. Specifically, I discuss to what extent the
polite 'aisatsu' of these two speech events is used to introduce an
element of social distance and political expediency in the discourse
of these events, and how this language is used as a form of posturing,
a kind of self-defense or 'wrapping'. The data also implies that both
the social event and language performance are used to emphasize, or
deemphasize, social boundaries at a Japanese university. The use of
'aisatsu' in these two events suggests that the common interpretation
as "greeting" or "formal greeting" is perhaps too narrow, and that we
need to expand the notion of this Japanese speech form to include a
longer "formal address or speech". Likewise, the creativity of use of
such a formal speech genre as 'aisatsu' shows the agency of the
speakers and questions the notion that context is a determinant of
language use.

Finally, this analysis of two instances of social interaction at a
Japanese institution provides, in a modest way, a 'thicker
description' of what it is to "be" a member of a Japanese university.
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