Recent scholarship in cognitive linguistics reveals that Japanese speakers prefer subjective construal, while English speakers prefer objective construal. Japanese speakers conceptualize a scene subjectively, where the speaker involved is submerged in it. English speakers tend to represent events objectively from the perspective of a bystander or observer outside the scene. This paper calls this paradigm into question.
For example, for the forthcoming 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo, Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry announced in 2017 that they revised the standardized set of Japanese pictograms. The revision, however, is not a simple modification, but arguably reflects something larger: a shift in construal. Previous pictograms represented the object of the action alone with no subject, while new pictograms include the subject of the action. This means a shift in focus from an object/thing to a subject/person, addressing who makes an action and what kind of action.
Old pictograms that lack the subjects of action reflect the exemplary characteristics of Japanese construal, that is, subjective construal. Japanese speakers typically place themselves within the scene to be construed; in many cases it is not necessary to express the self-evident or obvious subjects of action. New pictograms, by contrast, are geared toward objective construal. The subjects of action are visibly embedded in the scene, in which the (heretofore invisible) subject becomes the object of expression and observation. By analyzing the modification of pictograms, this paper seeks to reconsider the characteristics of the Japanese way of construing scenes and events.
Yoshihito Sasaki, University of Tsukuba, Japan
This paper is part of the ACAH2020 Conference Proceedings (View)
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