Japanese honorifics

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Japanese uses a broad array of honorifics for addressing or referring to people with respect. In Japanese, these forms of address follow a person's name in the manner of a suffix. The most common and well-known honorific outside Japan is san, which semantically coincides roughly with the courtesy titles "Mr.", "Mrs.", and "Ms." in English. Unlike in English, in Japanese honorifics may be attached to surnames, first names, and even professional titles. Other common ones include sama, sensei, kun, and chan.


[edit] Common honorifics

[edit] San

San (さん ?) is the most common honorific and is a title of respect. It is used for the surnames or given names of both males and females. Although in translation san is usually rendered as a common courtesy title like "Mr." or "Ms.", unlike these it is never used in self-reference. Using san to refer to oneself makes one appear childish or incredibly vain.

San may also be used in combination with nouns describing the addressee or referent other than the person's name; for example, a bookseller might be addressed or referred to as honya-san ("bookstore" + san), and a butcher as nikuya-san ("butcher shop" + san).

San is also used when talking about companies and other similar entities. For example, the offices or shop of a company called Kojima Denki might be referred to as "Kojima Denki-san" by another nearby company. This may be seen on the small maps often used in phone books and business cards in Japan, where the names of surrounding companies are written using san.

Although, strictly speaking, not an honorific title in this usage, san can also be attached to the names of animals or even food products. For example, a pet rabbit might be called usagi-san, and fish used for cooking can be referred to as sakana-san. Both uses would be considered feminine or childish (akin to "Mr. Rabbit" in English) and would be avoided in formal speech.

In western Japan (Kansai), particularly in the Kyoto area, Han (はん ?) is used instead of san.

Online, Japanese gamers often append a numeral 3 to another player's name to denote san (e.g. yoshimitsu3 conveys yoshimitsu-san), since the number three in Japanese is pronounced "san".

[edit] Kun

Kun ( in Kanji ?, くん in Hiragana) is an informal honorific primarily used towards males (it is still used towards females, but rarely). It is used by persons of senior status in addressing those of junior status, by males of roughly the same age and status when addressing each other, and by anyone in addressing male children. It can also be used by females when addressing a male that they are emotionally attached to. Usually it depends on the relationship between the two people. In business settings, women, particularly young women, may also be addressed as kun by older males of senior status. It is sometimes used towards male pets as well.

School teachers typically address male students using kun, while female students are addressed as san or chan. The use of kun to address male children is similar to the use of san when addressing adults. In other words, not using kun would be considered rude in most situations, but, like the rule for using san in reference to family members, kun is traditionally not used when addressing or referring to one's own child (unless kun is part of a nickname: "Akira-kun"—Akkun).

In the Diet of Japan, diet members and ministers are called kun by the chairpersons. For example, Shinzo Abe is called "Abe Shinzō-kun". The only exception was that when Takako Doi was the chairperson of the lower house: she used the san title.

[edit] Chan

Chan (ちゃん ?) is a diminutive suffix. It is an informal version of san used to address children and female family members. It may also be used towards animals, lovers, intimate friends, and people whom one has known since childhood. Chan continues to be used as a term of endearment, especially for girls, into adulthood. Parents often call their daughters chan and their sons kun throughout their lives, though chan can be used towards boys just as easily, in particular if it results in a nickname that is particularly pleasing to the ear; such nicknames often spread outside the family circle during the school years. This is still considered very feminine. Adults may use chan as a term of endearment to women with whom they are on close terms.

Chan can be considered a feminine mode of speech in that it is used mainly by, or towards, females. Its pattern of usage is similar to using "dear" when addressing someone in English. Males typically do not use chan when addressing other males, except when referring to very young children, and in idiomatic cases like Shuwa-chan (described below). When they do, it implies a particularly close relationship between them, such as long-time friends or business partners.

"Pet names" are often made by attaching chan to a truncated stem of a name. This implies even greater intimacy than simply attaching it to the full name. So for example, a pet rabbit (usagi) might be called usa-chan rather than usagi-chan. Similarly, Chan is sometimes used to form pet names for celebrities. For example, Arnold Schwarzenegger gained the nickname Shuwa-chan in Japanese. Pet-names may also use variations on chan (see "euphonic suffixes", below).

Although traditionally honorifics are not applied to oneself, some young women adopt the affectation of referring to themselves in the third person using chan, a mode of speech normally only found amongst small children. For example, a young woman named Maki might call herself Maki-chan rather than using a first person pronoun.

The Japanese media use chan when mentioning pre-elementary school children and sometimes elementary-school girls.

[edit] Senpai and kōhai

Senpai (先輩 ?) is used to address senior colleagues or mentor figures, e.g. students referring to or addressing more senior students in schools, junior athletes more senior ones in a sports club, or a mentor or more experienced or senior colleague in a business environment. As with English titles such as Doctor, senpai can be used either by itself as a title, or with a person's name in place of san.

Kōhai (後輩 ?) is the reverse of this. It is used to refer to juniors, but not normally to address them: kōhai are normally addressed by name +kun (addressing someone directly as kōhai would be somewhat rude).

[edit] Sensei

Sensei (先生 ?) is used to refer to or address teachers, practitioners of a profession such as doctors and lawyers, politicians, and other authority figures. It is used to show respect to someone who has achieved a certain level of mastery in an art form or some other skill. For example, Japanese manga fans refer to manga artists using the term sensei, as in Takahashi-sensei for manga artist Rumiko Takahashi; the term is used similarly by fans of other creative professionals such as novelists, musicians, and artists.

Sensei can also be used fawningly, as evinced by adherents in addressing or talking about charismatic business, political, and religious leaders (especially unordained ones). Japanese speakers will also use the term sarcastically to ridicule overblown or fawning adulation of such leaders, and the Japanese media frequently invoke it (rendered in katakana, akin to scare quotes or italics in English) to highlight the megalomania of those who allow themselves to be sycophantically addressed with the term. A further, similar use is to address or refer to someone who acts in a self-important or self-aggrandizing manner.

As with senpai, Sensei can be used not only as a suffix but a title by itself, translating to "Professor" or "Teacher".

In Japanese Budo (武道 ?) (martial arts) , Sensei typically refers to someone who is the head of a dojo (道場 ?), also referred to as Dojocho (道場長 ?). In this case, the relative rank of the Sensei is less important than the fact that the individual runs their own dojo.

[edit] Sama

Sama ( ?) is the formal version of san. This honorific is used primarily in addressing persons much higher in rank than oneself and in commercial and business settings to address and refer to customers. It also appears in words used to address or speak of persons or objects for which the speaker wishes to show respect or deference, such as okyaku-sama (customer) or Tateishi-sama (a stone revered as a manifestation of the divine). Additionally, Japanese Christians will refer to God in prayer as Kami-sama and Jesus as Iesu-sama. -sama is regularly used by the press to mention female members of the Imperial Family (as in Masako-sama). People will also affix sama to the names of personages who have a special talent or are considered particularly attractive, though this usage can also be exaggerated, tongue-in-cheek or ironic. Examples include "Tanaka-sama" to refer to a young man named Tanaka who is considered rather handsome by his admirers and the "Leo-Sama" (or "Rio-sama") that has become the media's pet name for Leonardo DiCaprio. Further, sama can be used to express arrogance (or self-effacing irony), such as in the arrogant male pronoun ore-sama ("my esteemed self") for "I". Referring to oneself with -sama is considered to be highly egotistical.

Sama also follows the addressee's name on postal packages and letters and is frequently seen in business e-mails.

It is worth noting that the sama appearing in such set phrases as o-machidō sama ("sorry to keep you waiting"), o-tsukare sama (an expression of empathy for people who have been working long and hard), and go-kurō sama (an expression recognizing someone's labors), though written with the same kanji, is etymologically and semantically distinct from the sama used as term of address.

In the same way that chan is a version of san, there is also chama from sama, typically used for an older person. There is also the much less frequently used tama, which is the most childish. This form is usually used by young children for older siblings (like "Onii-tama", meaning "big brother"), or someone they admire.

[edit] Shi

Shi ( ?) is used in formal writing, and sometimes in very formal speech, for referring to a person who is unfamiliar to the speaker, typically a person known through publications whom the speaker has never actually met. For example, the shi title is common in the speech of newsreaders. It is preferred in legal documents, academic journals, and certain other formal written styles. Once a person's name has been used with shi, the person can be referred to with shi alone, without the name, as long as there is only one person being referred to.

[edit] Other titles

[edit] Occupation-related titles

Instead of the above general honorifics, it is fairly common to use the name of the person's job after the name. It is common for sports athletes to be referred to as xxx-senshu (選手 ?) rather than xxx-san. The Japanese soccer-player Robert Cullen is referred to as Karen-senshu. A master carpenter might have the title tōryō (棟梁 ?), meaning "master carpenter", attached to his name, and be referred to as "Suzuki-tōryō" rather than "Suzuki-san". Television lawyer Kazuya Maruyama is referred to by television presenters and in promotional literature as Maruyama-bengoshi (丸山弁護士 ?) (literally "Attorney Maruyama"), but would be called Maruyama-sensei by a private client. A minority of educated Japanese now prefer to address their attorneys as xxx-bengoshi because the traditional appellation xxx-sensei is felt to be unduly deferential.

Inside companies, it is also common to refer to people using their company rank, particularly for those of a high rank, such as a company president, shachō (社長 ?), or other titles such as buchō (部長 ?), a department chief, etc.

[edit] Honorific job titles

The name of a job may have two versions. For example, "translator" may be hon'yakuka (翻訳家 ?) or hon'yakusha (翻訳者 ?). Job titles ending in ka ( ?), literally "house", usually imply some kind of expertise and, thus, by the rules of modesty in Japanese, they are not usually used for oneself. The plain form with sha ( ?), literally "person", may be used by the person or in plain text, such as a book title. Similarly, there are jūdōka (柔道家 ?), or "judo experts" in judo, and manga authors are referred to as mangaka (漫画家 ?) or "manga experts".

In the case of farmers, the old name hyakushō (百姓 ?), literally "one hundred surnames", is now considered offensive (see kotobagari), and farmers are referred to, and refer to themselves as, nōka (農家 ?), or "farming experts".

Honorific job titles such as sensei, which is applied to teachers, doctors, and lawyers, also have plain forms. For example, in plain language, a teacher is a kyōshi (教師 ?), a doctor is an isha (医者 ?) or ishi (医師 ?), and a lawyer is bengoshi (弁護士 ?). The polite versions are used when addressing or talking about the person, but the plain forms are used when referring to their profession.

[edit] Titles for criminals and the accused

Convicted criminals were once referred to without any title, though today with the title hikoku (被告 ?, defendant). For example, Matsumoto-hikoku of Aum Shinrikyo. Suspects awaiting trial are referred to by the title yōgisha (容疑者 ?, suspect) for the same reason.

Though these titles were made for political correctness, they have become derogatory as time passes. When Gorō Inagaki was arrested for a traffic accident in 2001, some media referred him with the new-made title menbā (メンバー ?), originating from the English word member, to avoid use of yōgisha (容疑者 ?, suspect).[citation needed] This title, however, was criticized as an unnatural term and became derogatory almost instantly.

The title jukeisha (受刑者) indicates a criminal serving a sentence.

[edit] Titles for companies

As mentioned above, companies often refer to each other's offices informally using the company name plus san. In correspondence, the title onchū (御中 ?) is added to the company name when the letter is not addressed to a specific person in the company. Furthermore, it is considered highly important to mention the status of the company, either incorporated, kabushikigaisha (株式会社 ?), often abbreviated with the kanji kabu ( ?) in brackets, or limited, yūgen gaisha (有限会社 ?), often abbreviated with the kanji ( ?) in brackets either before or after the company's name.[citation needed]

There are also separate words for "our company", heisha (弊社 ?), (which literally means "clumsy/poor company") and "your company", kisha (貴社 ?) in writing or onsha (御社 ?) in speech (these last two literally mean "honoured company"). Heisha or onsha can also be replaced with the more neutral tōsha (当社 ?) (literally "this company") or jisha (自社 ?).

For organizations that provide professional services, such as law or accounting firms, sha may be substituted by jimusho (事務所 ?), meaning "office", in the above constructs.

See also Japanese etiquette.

[edit] Dono/tono

Dono and tono (both written 殿) roughly mean "lord" or "master". This title is no longer used in daily conversation, though it is still used in some types of written business correspondence. It is also seen on certificates and awards, and in written correspondence in tea ceremonies. The word dono originally meant the residence of the aristocracy. It's often translated as "Lord" or "Lady" in English subtitles, though noble status is not necessarily implied; it is more akin to general terms such as "milord" or French "monseigneur". Dono is similar to sama, but the former is less formal and often carries undertones of personal affection.

Note: Dono and tono are more common in anime and manga, particularly in period works, and often come up in two forms:

  1. submissive: Using its "lord" or "master" roots, this form of dono is often considered to show slightly less respect than sama and more than san.[1]
  2. equal: This form of dono is used by a powerful or important person to address another powerful or important person with a great deal of respect without elevating the addressee above the addresser.[2]

[edit] Ue

Ue ( ?) literally means "above" and, appropriately, denotes a high level of respect. While its use is no longer very common, it is still seen in constructions like chichi-ue (父上 ?) and haha-ue (母上 ?), reverent terms for one's own, or someone else's, father and mother, respectively. Receipts that do not require specification of the payer's name are often filled-in with ue-sama.

[edit] Royal and official titles

  • Heika (陛下 ?) is affixed to the end of a royal title, with a meaning similar to "Majesty" reserved for reigning sovereigns. For example, Tennō heika (天皇陛下 ?) means "His Majesty the Emperor" and Kōgō heika (皇后陛下 ?) means Her Majesty the Empress. Kokuō heika (国王陛下 ?) is His majesty the King and Joō heika (女王陛下 ?) is Her Majesty the Queen. Heika by itself can also be used as a direct term of address, similar to "Your Majesty".
  • Denka (殿下 ?) is affixed to the end of a non-sovereign royal title, with a meaning similar to "Royal Highness" or "Majesty". For example Suwēden Ōkoku, Vikutoria Kōtaishi denka (スウェーデン王国、ヴィクトリア皇太子殿下 ?) "Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Victoria of the Kingdom of Sweden".
  • Kakka (閣下 ?) means "Your Excellency" and is used for ambassadors and heads of state.
  • Hidenka (妃殿下 ?) is used as an honorific if one is addressing a consort of the prince.

[edit] Martial arts titles

Martial artists often address their teachers as sensei. Junior and senior students are organized via a senpai/kōhai system.

Various titles are also employed to refer to senior instructors. Which titles are used depends on the particular licensing organization.

[edit] Shōgō

Shōgō (称号 ?, "title", "name", "degree") are martial arts titles developed by the Dai Nippon Butoku Kai.[3] The Kokusai Budoin,

  • Renshi (錬士 : れんし ?): instructor.
  • Kyōshi (教士 : きょうし ?) refers to an advanced teacher.
  • Hanshi (範士 : はんし ?) refers to a senior expert considered a "teacher of teachers". This title is used by many different arts for the top few instructors of that style, and is sometimes translated "Grand Master".
  • Meijin (名人 ?): awarded by a special board of examiners. See also Meijin.

[edit] Other titles

  • Kyōshi (教師 : きょうし ?), which in everyday Japanese can be a more modest synonym for sensei, is sometimes used to indicate an instructor.
  • Oyakata (親方 : おやかた ?), master, especially a sumo coach. The literal sense is of someone in loco parentis.
  • Shihan (師範 : しはん ?), merely means chief instructor; unlike the titles above it is not related to grade. (In the Isshin-ryū school of karate-do, Shihan is used to refer to 5th degree black belts or higher.)
  • Shidōin (指導員:しどういん ?), intermediate instructor, also unrelated to grade.
  • Shishō (師匠 : ししょう ?) is another title used for martial arts instructors.
  • Zeki (関 : ぜき ?), literally "barrier", used for sumo wrestlers in the top two divisions (sekitori).
  • hōshi (法師: ほうし ?), Buddhist monk
  • shushō (首相 ?), Prime Minister of Japan

[edit] Honke

Honke (本家 ?) is a title historically used to refer to the eldest son of a Japanese family. The honke was the keeper of the koseki, or family record, in which marriages of wives and descendants were recorded. The bunke (分家) was a family branch established by a collateral of the honke. This title was a very honorable appointment, and was never written or used by the family leader as a form of self-identification, as it would be considered boasting, and thus impolite.

[edit] Euphonic suffixes and wordplay

In informal speech some Japanese people may use contrived suffixes in place of honorific titles. This is essentially a form of wordplay, with suffixes being chosen for their pleasant sound, or for the friendly or scornful connotations of the suffix. Although the range of such suffixes that might be coined is limitless, some have gained such widespread usage that the boundary between an honorific title and mere affectation has become a little blurred. Examples of such suffixes include variations on chan (see below), nobaka (which has both positive and negative connotations), bee (scornful) and rin (friendly).[4] Note that unlike a proper honorific, use of such suffixes is governed largely by how they sound in conjunction with a particular name, and on the effect the speaker is trying to achieve.

[edit] Variations on chan

Playful variations of chan include chin (ちん ?), tan (たん ?), and chama (ちゃま ?). Chin and tan are mispronunciations stereotypically attributed to small children and are thus perceived as baby talk, hence their association with cuteness—though "chin" can also be used to give a character a slightly delinquent, psychotic feel—especially if the character speaking is older, and still using it to address people they nominally respect. Tan, on the other hand, is popularly used in the names of moe anthropomorphisms, artistic memes on Japanese imageboards typified by a female character, usually depicted in cosplay, representing a non-human being, inanimate object, concept, or phenomenon, or a popular consumer product. Well-known examples include OS-tan (representing computer operating systems) and Bisuke-tan (representing KFC biscuits). Some of these characters, such as Binchō-tan, are real corporate mascots. Chama, a portmanteau of sorts combining chan and sama, is sometimes used when the character being addressed is young, but still is respected by the speaker.

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ In the anime Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-Ohki, the character Mihoshi is addressed by her computer unit as "Mihoshi-dono". Likewise, when used by Himura Kenshin in the anime Rurouni Kenshin when referring to women it is intended to show great humility and respect for the addressee.
  2. ^ In the anime Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-Ohki, the characters Seto-sama, Zetto and Washu address the main character Tenchi as "Tenchi-dono" out of respect for his great abilities. A more blatant usage is in the anime Naruto when Sarutobi addresses Orochimaru disguised as the Fourth Kazekage as "Kazekage-dono" out of equality of both being Kage-level ninja.
  3. ^ Patrick McCarthy. "Dai Nippon Butokukai". http://www.fighttimes.com/magazine/magazine.asp?article=293. Retrieved on 2007-08-25. 
  4. ^ Rin is thought to have been inspired by European girl's names like Katherine and Marilyn; see http://kotobakai.seesaa.net/article/8173861.html
  • Poser, William J. (1990) "Evidence for Foot Structure in Japanese". Language 66.1.78-105. Reprinted in Natsuko Tsujimura (ed.) Japanese Linguistics: Critical Concepts in Linguistics. Oxford: Routledge, 2005, pp. 159–190.

[edit] External links

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