The study presents a longitudinal, qualitative and ethnographic investigation of language use and change within an informal Japanese alumni network. It utilises the author's corpus of past email correspondence among a social network of Japanese men between 2006 and 2009, and a subsequent interview in 2012. The study illuminates a struggle over the interpretation of the use of honorifics as a semiotic tool which could affect interpersonal relationships. More specifically, it illustrates the increasing use of honorifics by a member in enacting a social event organiser (幹事Kanji) role in this community and its multiple interpretations by other members reflecting various vantage points. Theoretically, it aims to demonstrate the multiple indexical meanings of Japanese honorifics by exploring the use of honorifics indexing neither deference nor social distance (the traditional interpretations of honorific use) but rather the functional enactment of a recognized social role and its associated register. This use of honorific language as ‘functional rather than relational’ has not been previously emphasised in the literature on Japanese honorific use. It also demonstrates the fundamental indeterminacy of indexical meanings in relation to various interpretive vantage points and evaluative moments.
Journal of Pragmatics – Elsevier
Published: Apr 1, 2018
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