LINGUIST List 3.746

Sat 03 Oct 1992

Disc: Japanese Pronouns

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Directory

  1. Kim Jones, Japanese pronoun "boku"
  2. John Lee, T
  3. Kim Jones, Japanese pronoun "boku"
  4. This space for rent, Re: 3.734 Baby-talk, Non-sexist Language

Message 1: Japanese pronoun "boku"

Date: 30 Sep 1992 08:09:45 -0700Japanese pronoun "boku"
From: Kim Jones <KJONESCCIT.ARIZONA.EDU>
Subject: Japanese pronoun "boku"

The Japanese 1st person plural pronoun "boku" can be used by males of
any age, given an appropriate casual situation. Some young women also
use it, especially in all-female group. Used by women, it may have a
casual joking feel, or it may, as Allan Wechsler points out, be used to
make a political statement. In my experience, little girls are not
very likely to use boku, though I haven't known that many young children
in Japan, so I could be wrong about this. I did have one friend whose
3-year old daughter, who played mainly with a little boy of the same age,
used to get a kick out of annoying her father by calling herself "boku."
He tried to squelch this by telling her it was only little boys who
used boku. My feeling about what is going on when adults use boku to
address or refer to young boys (it isn't used of little girls) is that
it is not really a pronoun any more. It simply means "little boy" and
as such can be used as a term of address when speaking to a little boy
or as a term of reference when speaking about a little boy. There are
other examples of this type of use of "pronouns." "Kare," a 3rd person
singular masculine pronoun, and "kanozyo," 3sg feminine, are often used
to mean "boyfriend" and "girlfriend," respectively. "Hanako-san no kare"
(Hanako's "he") means "Hanako's boyfriend." Overall, the use of what we
think of as pronouns in Japanese is very different from that seen in
English and other European langauges.
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Message 2: T

Date: Wed, 30 Sep 92 16:08:17 BST
From: John Lee <johncaad.ed.ac.uk>
Subject: T

>
> On another subject, how widespread is the English baby-talk in which the
> baby is addressed with a special 2sg pronoun "ums", with 3sg agreement?
> I've only seen it written. "Does ums want aunty to carry ums?" If
> anybody knows a native speaker of this atrocity, I'm interested.
>
Not sure about this; but perhaps relevantly to the original point, one
does sometimes get, in talking to children and perhaps other contexts,
expressions like:

	Do we want aunty to carry us?

(using 1pl with 2sg effect). Intonation would be important as well.

John Lee.
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Message 3: Japanese pronoun "boku"

Date: 30 Sep 1992 21:06:38 -0700Japanese pronoun "boku"
From: Kim Jones <KJONESCCIT.ARIZONA.EDU>
Subject: Japanese pronoun "boku"

A short update/correction to my earlier message: a colleague who spent
many years in Kyoto tells me that she knew several little girls who
used boku in self-reference. She also says that she can think of at
least one mother who used boku to address her daughter. She thinks
it is possible that such use was in response to the daughter first
referring to herself as boku--that she can't think of any case where
a mother initiated the usage with a daughter. Can anyone add any information
from their own experiences?
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Message 4: Re: 3.734 Baby-talk, Non-sexist Language

Date: 30 Sep 1992 12:04:12 -0400Re: 3.734 Baby-talk, Non-sexist Language
From: This space for rent <SDFNCRritvax.isc.rit.edu>
Subject: Re: 3.734 Baby-talk, Non-sexist Language

With regard to the use of "boku", I believe that it is generally accepted
that most if not all Japanese pronouns are actually names (which is why,
for example, there can be so *many* words for "I" and "you". "Boku" is
used with boys (not girls, but there are recent changes in teenage girls'
usage) as the *name* for the child. The confusion arises when "Boku"
sees other boys and adult males calling *themselves* "boku". Sorry for the
lack of a parenthesis above.
Susan Fischer
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