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Japanese Communication

Language and Thought in Context

Senko K. Maynard

Publication Year: 1997

In an accessible and original study of the Japanese language in relation to Japanese society and culture, Senko Maynard characterizes the ways of communicating in Japanese and explores Japanese language-associated modes of thinking and feeling. Japanese Communication: Language and Thought in Context opens with a comparison of basic American and Japanese values via cultural icons--the cowboy and the samurai--before leading the reader to the key concept in her study: rationality. Japanese Communication: Language and Thought in Context opens with a comparison of basic American and Japanese values via cultural icons--the cowboy and the samurai--before leading the reader to the key concept in her study: rationality.

Published by: University of Hawai'i Press


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xi

In this book I attempt to characterize ways of communicating in Japanese. Based on these characterizations, I describe some language- associated ways of thinking and feeling in Japanese. Any language is indirectly and diffusely associated with the ways its speakers think of themselves and their societies. ...

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Introduction: Japanese Communication

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pp. 1-6

Japanese is spoken by some 124 million people, most of whom reside in Japan. It has little in common with the major European language families, Romance and Germanic, and has no linguistic link to Chinese. Some have suggested that Japanese is distantly related to the Altaic languages (e.g., Turkish). ...

Part 1 The Context of Japanese Communication

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1 Cultural Myth, Self, and Society

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pp. 9-16

In this introductory guide to Japanese ways of communication, a few words about the cultural context are now in order. Language is the source of culture; no artifact, custom, ritual, or rite can truly have value or meaning without being expressed in language. Though language, culture, and society form a seamless web ...

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2 Relationality and Communication

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pp. 17-24

Discussion of the samurai and the American cowboy, who are part myth and part reality, offers a background from which to work toward an initial understanding of language and thought in Japan. The ambivalent feelings the samurai and the cowboy hold toward self and society can be sorted out by understanding ...

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3 Competing Orientations within Relationality

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pp. 25-28

Typological differences exist across cultures in the concept of relationality. But how are the opposing forces between society and self within and across cultures dealt with psychologically? As our task is to understand language and thought across cultures, we should ask whether it is possible to shift one’s orientation of relationality. ...

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4 Relationality Cues in the Sociocultural Context of Japan

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pp. 29-36

Language is never spoken in a vacuum, and its potential meanings are realized only when their interpretations are endorsed by social conventions. These social conventions, which are imposed on our communities, thrive because they are continuously reaffirmed. We derive much of what we know and believe ...

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5 Relationality and the Concept of Self

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pp. 37-44

The concepts of self and society shape all other sociocultural concepts. For this reason we cannot ignore how these notions are understood in Japan. But before we begin, let me quote from an American anthropologist, Clifford Geertz, because what he has to say is relevant to my position on self and society. ...

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Part 2 Japanese Language in Context

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pp. 45-48

Although I have tried to keep Japanese-language samples to a minimum, in some cases they are necessary to the discussion. When they appear, word-by-word translations are given immediately beneath the Japanese transcription. English translations are also provided. ...

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6 Styles and Varieties of the Japanese Language: Responding to Social Needs

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pp. 49-82

In part 2 we examine the Japanese language in detail in four areas: (1) styles and elements, (2) phrases, (3) sentences, and (4) communication strategies. All languages provide different styles, for example, regional dialects, occupation-based jargons, formality levels, gender-based varieties, and so on. Japanese is no exception. ...

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7 Japanese Phrases: Expressing Emotion and Speaker’s Attitude

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pp. 83-102

Japanese has much in common with other languages in its vocabulary and phrases, but we can also find subtle, yet important, differences. I have chosen phrases that contrast sharply with English to illustrate the semantic characteristics of Japanese phrases. ...

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8 Japanese Sentence Structure: Grammar in Context

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pp. 103-132

Japanese sentences differ from English in word order and in structural axis. The subject-object-verb word order and the prominence of the topic-comment relation are two obvious ways in which Japanese speakers organize information differently from speakers of English. The Japanese preference for nominal predicates, ...

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9 Japanese Communication Strategies: Collaboration toward Persuasion

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pp. 133-162

Six different strategies show how the Japanese work toward collaboration in communication. Negotiating with someone across cultures raises a question as to the effectiveness of one’s strategies. It has been suggested that Japanese and American negotiating styles differ, and it is worth dicussing these differences. ...

Part 3 Japanese Thought in Context

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10 Relationality and Language-Associated Thought

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pp. 165-170

The characteristics of the Japanese language depicted in part 2 point to the importance of the underlying dynamic of relationality proposed in part 1 and mentioned repeatedly. Although it is natural to assume that individual differences exist in interpretation of and response to relationality cues, ...

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11 Centrality of Scene: The World as a Relational Place

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pp. 171-174

In Japanese the scene often assumes primacy when describing an encounter, event, or phenomenon. This contrasts with English, where the focus is on an agent, an actor or doer who initiates some action within the scene. In order to explore this line of thinking further, let us try an example. ...

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12 Nonagent Orientation: The World as “Becoming”

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pp. 175-178

Closely related to the Japanese sense of “scene” is the Japanese language’s preference for using verbs equivalent to English “be” and “become.” While English prefers to express an agent, Japanese has several strategies for suppressing the notion of agency. One strategy privileges locative expressions over agents. ...

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13 More than Words: A World beyond Description

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pp. 179-182

In general, American society attributes a higher status to words and to an individual’s verbal ability. Verbal skill is a survival skill in American society, where upward mobility depends on it. In a court of law, a lack of verbal skill may actually be a matter of life or death. The American philosophy of “getting it in writing” ...

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14 Echoing “Voices from the Heart”: A World of Things and Emotions

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pp. 183-184

The language-as-event view is attested to by the traditional scholar’s understanding of the Japanese language. The historical background of language studies again shows that the Japanese language places importance on emotional expression and personal attitude, and that these are related to a preoccupation ...

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15 Manipulation of Textual Voices: A World of Shifting Points of View

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pp. 185-190

The world created in part by linguistic expressions reflecting multiple voices is a relational place defined by fluid and shifting points of view. Quotation is a device through which one expresses multiple voices. In self-quotation, where the quoter and the quotee are the same person, one would not expect to find such ...

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16 Speaking as Self-Narrative: The World as a Subjective and Interpersonal Place

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pp. 191-196

Tokieda’s theory of language as process emphasizes the speaker’s subjectivity. In his theory, Tokieda makes a triangle of the three necessary elements for the existence of language. These are (1) shutai ‘the speaker, the speaking self,’ (2) bamen ‘place, situation inclusive of the addressee,’ and (3) sozai ‘material.’ ...

Part 4 Japanese Communicationin Global Context

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17 Japanese Text and Talk in Contrast

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pp. 199-210

In a 1932 book called Remembering, British psychologist Sir Frederick C. Bartlett proposed the idea that remembering is not simply recovering some fixed factual information but is itself a process of constructing knowledge. In one of his psychological experiments, he asked his British subjects to recall a North American folktale ...

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18 Japan–U.S. Intercultural Communication

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pp. 211-216

In discussing intercultural discourse I examine conversation (in English) between Japanese and American college students in the United States. One aspect of the conversation under focus is listener back-channel response. I look at its distribution, context, and functions. Although I investigate only a small part ...

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19 Misinformation and Media in Global Context

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pp. 217-220

Potential cross-cultural communication problems may be caused not by cultural differences per se, but by the process of information transmission. Consider the powerful role the media play in selecting, manipulating, and reporting information they find newsworthy. A minor mistake in translating from Japanese into English ...

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20 Toward a New Awareness

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pp. 221-226

Relationality, the theme of this book, can help us here. Relationality is not unique to Japan. Recall the samurai and the cowboy: Both are relationally committed to society, although with different emphases. Both are ambivalent in their commitment. The definition and expression of relationality in each language ...


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pp. 227-236


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pp. 237-246

Author Index

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pp. 247-248

Subject Index

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pp. 249-253

E-ISBN-13: 9780824863074
Print-ISBN-13: 9780824817992

Publication Year: 1997