The myth of a homogeneous speech community: The speech of Japanese women in non-traditional gender roles
AuthorTakano, Shoji, 1961-
AdvisorJones, Kimberly A.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThe overall objective of this dissertation research was to account for heterogeneous language use closely linked to changes in speakers' social lives and ultimately to provide empirical evidence against a mythical, stereotyped view of Japan as a homogeneous speech community. As the most revealing variable, I have focused on the speech of Japanese women whose gender roles have undergone drastic transformation in contemporary society. The research consists of two particular phases of investigation. The first phase involves using the variationist approach to analyze the speech of three groups of women leading distinctive social lives: full-time homemakers, full-time working women in clerical positions and those in positions of authority. The results refute as overgeneralizations the claims of past mainstream work on Japanese gender differentiation, which has consistently defined women's language use based exclusively on middle-class full-time homemakers under the influence of the traditional ideology of complementary gender roles. Variable rule analysis reveals that differential performance grammars are operating among the three groups of women, and that the inter-group differentiation can be interpreted as social stratification more meaningfully correlated with speakers' concrete occupation-bound categories than abstract ones such as social class membership. Potential causes for such differentiation are accounted for in terms of speakers' everyday contacts with people and types of communicative routines and experiences in their occupation-bound communication networks. The second phase of the investigation sheds light on the sociolinguistic dilemmas Japanese working women in positions of leadership are likely to face. Working women in charge, a newly emerging group of women in non-traditional gender roles, tend to confront contradictions between the culturally prescribed ways of speaking for women (i.e., speaking politely, indirectly, deferentially) and the communicative requirements of their occupational status. Both quantitative and qualitative analyses of directive speech acts at a number of workplaces reveal that working women in charge characteristically use a variety of innovative sociolinguistic strategies to resolve such dilemmas. These strategies include de-feminization of overtly feminine morphosyntactic structures, contextualization to compensate for the indirect framing of directives, linguistic devices to mask power/status asymmetries with subordinates and promote collaborative rapport and peer solidarity, style-shifting of the predicate to negotiate the distribution of power, and strategic uses of polite language as an indexicality of their occupational status and identity rather than as a marker of powerlessness in conflict talk.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Second Language Acquisition and Teaching