SOME UNIVERSALS OF HONORIFIC LANGUAGE WITH SPECIAL REFERENCE TO JAPANESE.
AuthorWENGER, JAMES RODNEY.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThis examination of several languages permits the identification of universal characteristics of honorific forms, as well as possible explanations for those universals. The Japanese honorific system is described in some detail and contrasted with the honorific systems of ten other languages which are more briefly described: Javanese, Madurese, Thai, Korean, Dzongkha, Tibetan, Hindi, Malayalam, Kannada, and Guugu Yimidhirr. Data from those eleven languages explains how honorifics appear and spread through languages. An examination of Japanese indicates certain restrictions governing which parts of the vocabulary are elaborated as honorifics. Those restrictions are primarily semantic, although a few lexical and phonological factors must also be considered. Certain regularities in the appearance of honorifics could be observed in all of the languages. The honorific forms are always marked compared to the ordinary forms. Reference type honorifics always appear in a language prior to the addressee type. Reference honorifics appear first in the semantic domains related to humans; and the elaboration of honorific forms occurs in a certain implicational order. Naming (e.g. with titles) occurs first, followed by the elaboration of pronouns, verbs, nouns, and other parts of speech. All languages containing reference honorifics appear to elaborate parts of speech in that order. Among reference honorifics, the presence of non-actor forms always indicated the presence of actor forms. These synchronic implicational statements about honorifics have diachronic significance. In accounting for universal honorific forms, a limited set of explanations are necessary. These include general cognitive processes such as marking and degree of salience and common cultural behavior. For example, the concepts of power and solidarity can be used to describe a cultural universal of personal relations both linguistically and non-linguistically. The degree of elaboration of honorifics in different languages is also explained. The presence of honorifics in non-kinship based societies depends on a vertically organized social structure and ideology. In addition, the internal structure of the language may also affect the extent of honorific elaboration. If reference honorifics in a given language function to disambiguate NPs in discourse, they are elaborated to a greater extent than in languages where they only index social relationships.