April 15th, 2012

Gendered first-person pronouns in Japanese?

In a recent IRC discussion, someone mentioned that Japanese first-person pronouns could be gendered in some contexts. That got my attention, because I remembered this as an uncommon language feature, and I found that according to WALS, Japanese doesn't have it. So I'm wondering whether WALS is wrong on that point, whether I'm looking at the wrong feature or misunderstanding what WALS says, or whether WALS and the people who mentioned this were speaking of different things, eg grammar vs. gender-related social rules about language taboos, or different registers or contexts like normal speech vs. song.

The pronouns mentioned and their genderness connotations, as described by one of the discussion participants, were:
- ore: almost entirely male - there are apparently some girls that use it, but that's weird and deviant, so...
- boku: slightly less male, but still. Male, generally (also pretty young!)
- washi: solely the province of old men!
- watashi: either
- atashi: feminine
- waga: fairly archaic, so I was told not to gender it, when it came up in my honours thesis, but if nothing else it's heavily status-based (from what I've seen it used
in pop culture, anyway), which tends to nudge it to the male end of the spectrum anyway. I've only seen it used by a woman once.)

Anyone (native Japanese speaker and or familiar with language genderedness in Japanese) can clear this up?
  • viata

Awfully good

There is a number of very similar cases of amelioration in different languages when a word originally meaning "very bad", "terrifying" starts meaning "very". That is, awful in English (thanks awfully), terrible in French (terriblement gourmand), страшно in Russian (страшно красиво), 恐ろしく (恐ろしく頭が良い) in Japanese.
So, I've got two questions. 1. Can you continue the list (preferrably, with non-Indo-European languages)? 2. Have you seen a plausible explanation for this type of semantic change?
{APH} eng+lion

fffast languages vs. s-s-slow languages

Oh hey y'all.

I found this interesting article in Scientific American (link!) and had to share. :D It's only three paragraphs long, so I won't bother to copypasta or summarize here.

My thoughts (put under spoiler-tag for incoherent rambling):

[Spoiler (click to open)]* Ofc Spanish is spoken faster than English. Or at least, my dialect is compared to the English spoken here (Ottawa, Canada). I mean I've heard some pretty fast talkers, but lawd, beating Cuban Spanish in terms of talking speed is pretty damn hard, hahaha. And not to diss any fellow Cubans in the community or call them slow, BUT PEOPLE FROM THe GHETTOS OF SANTIAGO DE CUBA ARE THE FASTEST SPEAKERS IN ALL THE LAND. ***R.E.P.R.E.S.E.N.T.***

"¿Qué es lo que es?" [ke:sloke:s] ---> /ke:loke:/ or /ke:hloke:/

^ Just one example. When you put 2 and 2 together shit sounds amazingly fast. Bitches from La Habana hate on us 'cause we talk "like uncivilized monkeys". AT LEAST WE DON'T MIX UP /r/ and /l/ AND SAY ONE WHERE WE SHOULD SAY THE OTHER, UNLIKE Y'ALL UPPITY FUCKS LOL. ....lol ok I lied. Plenty of variants within the Cuban dialect interchange /l/ and /r/, including mine.

* It probably has to do with syllable structure? I mean, phonetically, I should think a language that follows a easy-breezy sound pattern like CVCVCVCV like, idk, Spanish, Japanese or Finnish would be quicker. I know I can't speak all that fast in English because I'm not a native speaker, but I also know that it's because English has some next-level (fucked-up imo :D) syllable structure that's like (C)(C)(C)V(C)(C)(C) or whatever the hell (I can't remember 100%, don't quote me on this). I wonder if Polish is hella slow too? Its consonant clusters are best described (IMO) as "consonantalclusterfuck" (try saying that 5 times fast).

* Still, this study seems funny. Only 59 people? What in the seven Westerosi hells? And what is this "English" or this "Spanish" they speak of? WHICH ONES?! 'Cause I definitely know that some English speakers are faster than others (not thinking of individuals here, I mean dialectally). Like, NYC English speakers sound hella fast to me, or maybe that's just the vibe that NYC folks give, idk. But Cuban Spanish would definitely be faster than Kathtellanoth (Castilian Spanish) what with their goddamn th's and s's in every other goddamn word in every other goddamn sentence. :D

Also, can native English speakers comment on how fast y'all are in comparison to each other? I really want to know who are the fastest English speakers in the land. And I mean dialect-wise, not individually. I mean, I guess you'll have to be subjective about it since the stupid study doesn't specify dialect but there's bound to be some generally agreed-upon consensus, mayyybe? :>

P.S. Castillian speakers, I don't hate you. ;) I just don't like the constant lisping you guys have (sounds like Parseltongue, seriously). :C I can't help it; I'm sure y'all find the lack of /s/ (or the aspiration of it into /h/) in the Caribbean dialects equally disturbing. :P Funny thing is, we don't need /s/ to mark plural. It's ridiculously easy to tell whether "la casa" being talked about is one or many just by the context. Mandarin does it; y'all should try it. ;)