Accepted Paper:

Resignifying Japanese gendered language ideologies: a feminine boy's strategies against metapragmatic commentaries of "fag" speech  

Author:

Ayumi Miyazaki (International Christian University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper analyzes how a boy who employs feminine linguistic practices persistently negotiates other students’ metapragmatic commentaries (Silverstein 1976) about his “okama-fag” speech, and how the boy, in doing so, shifts the configuration of Japanese gendered language ideologies.

Paper long abstract:

This paper analyzes how a boy who employs feminine linguistic practices, including feminine first-person pronouns, persistently negotiates and resists other students' metapragmatic commentaries (Silverstein 1976) about his "okama-fag" speech, and how the boy, in doing so, shifts the configuration of Japanese gendered language ideologies.

Language ideologies, Inoue (2006) explains, are an assemblage of "metapragmatic" statements, which cover various forms of people's "reflective social practices of language use," including "everyday commentaries about how people speak." My longitudinal ethnography reveals that girls and boys craft varieties of non-traditional, gender-crossing first-person pronouns and constantly mark, comment on, and evaluate one another's pronoun use. Through these metapragmatic activities, these students create new sets of indexical meanings of Japanese gendered language. For instance, girls' use of the plain masculine "boku" in informal context goes unmarked, and girls' use of the most masculine pronoun, "ore" is often validated as cool.

Traditional language ideology is most firm, however, with respect to boys' feminine speech, which is constantly marked, made fun of, and discouraged as "kimoi-disgusting." This paper analyzes ethnographic and interview accounts of how a feminine boy copes with those frequent accusations by using various strategies, such as evading the topic, marking back, and shifting his feminine speech and tone to masculine ones, and how in doing so he gradually questions and resignifies (Butler 1997) the boundary of the feminine/masculine and the meaning of the desirable masculinity. Metapragmatic activities thus provide a crucial window to elucidate how language ideologies are constructed, negotiated and shifted.

Panel P095
Exploring and theorizing the working of language and power in multilingual Japan (CLOSED - 6)