Speaking of Power
Japanese Professional Women and Their Speeches
Western Michigan University
There are three issues in the speech of Japanese women which need reevaluation: women's speech as categorical, as powerless, and as marked. Previous studies on Japanese women's speech characterized it "polite", "soft", or "less assertive"; however, the author challenges these assertions and examines how women "control" their speech in interaction. There are pressing questions as to what it is to obtain communicative competence as Japanese women, how women obtain what they want, how women manipulate their speech to satisfy their goals, and how women's role and/or status affects how they speak. In order to answer these questions, the author looks to various immediate speech contexts in which frequent inguistic shifts are observed.
For instance, native speakers of Japanese associate sentence-final particles with gender, so by looking at these (with the combination of distal and direct styles of predicates), the author analyzes how women navigate "masculinity" or "femininity" in speech in order to negotiate power. While some women prefer using so-called "masculine" sentence-final particles in business negotiation, others prefer "feminine" ones. The author finds that urban professional Japanese women are aware of the distinction between the "femininity" and "masculinity" attached to a sentence-final particle. That difference is distinguishable, but it is generally idealized along the lines of dominant gender stereotypes: men's language=strong /women's language=weak.
Significantly, female consultants consistently use both. In other words, they can successfully negotiate both "masculinity" and "femininity" without being constrained by either. Some consultants appropriate men's language while struggling for power, turning the stereotype to their own advantage. Other consultants who have established their power use feminine forms in just as powerful ways. The status of position outweighs the weakness implied by the stereotype.
ISBN 9783895868900. LINCOM Studies in Pragmatics 10. 250pp. 2000.