Politeness Strategies Among Japanese College Students: Discussion of the Acquisition of Honorifics and Onomatopoeias


In general, learning the proper use of parts of speech peculiar to the Japanese language, such as honorifics and onomatopoeias, often becomes a problem in Japanese language education. Honorifics are considered to be difficult by many Japanese and are used incorrectly on many occasions. Also, onomatopoeias are frequently used in various cartoon and comic books, however, the correct meaning and use of such terms is generally obscured. This study aimed to measure the communication abilities of college students by exploring their knowledge of honorifics and onomatopoeias as well as the connection between the two. A survey on Japanese female college students about the honorifics and onomatopoeias they used on a daily basis was made. In this survey, honorifics were divided into respectful, humble, and polite language, whereas onomatopoeias were grouped by origin. A few typical examples of each expression were provided to evaluate students understanding of them. Furthermore, a survey on their attitudes toward learning onomatopoeias and honorifics was conducted. According to the survey results, 46% of the students consider honorifics to be the most important aspect of the Japanese language to be learned. Simultaneously, approximately 40% managed to use honorifics correctly, and these students also demonstrated a sound knowledge of onomatopoeias. In communication, students who excelled in negative politeness strategies (like honorifics), which are used by the speaker to maintain distance from the interlocutor, were also proven to be proficient in positive politeness strategies, such as onomatopoeias, which indicate intimacy between the speaker and the listener.

Author Information
Yuko Kurata, Kansai Gaidai University, Japan
Noriko Kurata, Tokyo University of Science, Japan

Paper Information
Conference: IICJ2016
Stream: Japanese Culture and Media

This paper is part of the IICJ2016 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon