Volume 22, Issue 4
  • ISSN 1018-2101
  • E-ISSN: 2406-4238


This study qualitatively examines how male individuals in subordinate positions in a Japanese workplace construct institutional identities in superior-subordinate interactions in the workplace. The analysis demonstrates that the male subordinates’ use of the form (the addressee honorific form) in conjunction with their epistemic stance contributes to the display of different facets of institutional identities. It also shows that individuals in subordinate positions draw on various discourse strategies, such as incomplete phrases and the plain form (the non-honorific form), so as to obscure the social relationships between superiors and themselves, as well as to avoid performing the role of ‘work subordinate’, who is obligated to obey superiors. Confirming the findings of previous research on identity construction, this study demonstrates that by strategically manipulating their linguistic resources, male subordinates can display different institutional identities on a moment-by-moment basis in a given context. Furthermore, the study contributes to the examination of power relations in workplace discourse, as well as touching upon a gender difference in language use.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


  1. Antaki, Charles , and Sue Widdicombe
    (1998) Identity as an achievement and as a tool. In C. Antaki , and Widdicombe (eds.), Identities in Talk. London: Sage, pp.1–14.
    [Google Scholar]
  2. Baxter, Judith
    (2008) Is it all tough talking at the top?: A post-structuralist analysis of the construction of gendered speaker identities of British business leaders within interview narratives. Gender and Language2: 197–222. doi: 10.1558/genl.v2i2.197
    https://doi.org/10.1558/genl.v2i2.197 [Google Scholar]
  3. Chiles, Tina
    (2007) The construction of an identity as “mentor” in white collar and academic workplaces: A preliminary analysis. Journal of Pragmatics39: 730–741. doi: 10.1016/j.pragma.2006.11.015
    https://doi.org/http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2006.11.015 [Google Scholar]
  4. Clifton, Jonathan , and Dorien Van De Mieroop
    (2010) “Doing” ethos - A discursive approach to the strategic deployment and negotiation of identities in meetings. Journal of Pragmatics42: 2449–2461. doi: 10.1016/j.pragma.2010.03.008
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2010.03.008 [Google Scholar]
  5. Cook, Haruko M.
    (1996) The use of addressee honorifics in Japanese elementary school classrooms. In N. Akatsuka , S. Iwasaki , and S. Strauss (eds.), Japanese/Korean Linguistics, vol. 5. Stanford, CA: CSLI, pp.67–81.
    [Google Scholar]
  6. (2006) Japanese politeness as an interactional achievement: Academic consultation sessions in Japanese universities. Multilingua25: 269–291. doi: 10.1515/MULTI.2006.016
    https://doi.org/http://dx.doi.org/10.1515/MULTI.2006.016 [Google Scholar]
  7. (2008) Style shifts in Japanese academic consultations. In K. Jones , and T. Ono (eds.), Style Shifting in Japanese. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company, pp.9–38. doi: 10.1075/pbns.180.00sty
    https://doi.org/10.1075/pbns.180.00sty [Google Scholar]
  8. (2011) Are honorifics polite? Uses of referent honorifics in a Japanese committee meeting. Journal of Pragmatics43: 3655–3672. doi: 10.1016/j.pragma.2011.08.008
    https://doi.org/http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2011.08.008 [Google Scholar]
  9. Fukuda, Chie
    (2006) Resistance against being formulated as cultural other: The case of a Chinese student in Japan. Pragmatics16: 429–456.
    [Google Scholar]
  10. Holmes, Janet
    (2006) Gendered Talk at Work: Constructing Gender Identity through Workplace Discourse. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
    [Google Scholar]
  11. Holmes, Janet , and Meredith Marra
    (2002) Having a laugh at work: How humour contributes to workplace culture. Journal of Pragmatics34: 1683–1710. doi: 10.1016/S0378‑2166(02)00032‑2
    https://doi.org/http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0378-2166(02)00032-2 [Google Scholar]
  12. (2004) Relational practice in the workplace: Women’s talk or gendered discourse?Language in Society33: 377–398. doi: 10.1017/S0047404504043039
    https://doi.org/http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0047404504043039 [Google Scholar]
  13. Holmes, Janet , and Maria Stubbe
    (2003) Power and Politeness in the Workplace: A Sociolinguistic Analysis of Talk at Work. London: Longman.
    [Google Scholar]
  14. Jacoby, Sally , and Patrick Gonzales
    (1991) The constitution of expert-novice in scientific discourse. Issues in Applied Linguistics2: 149–181.
    [Google Scholar]
  15. Makino, Seiichi
    (2002) When does communication turn mentally inward?: A case study of Japanese formal-to-informal switching. In N. Akatsuka , and S. Strauss (eds.), Japanese/Korean Linguistics, vol. 10. Stanford, CA: CSLI, pp.121–135.
    [Google Scholar]
  16. Mills, Sara , and Louise Mullany
    (2011) Language, Gender and Feminism: Theory, Methodology and Practice. Oxon: Routledge.
    [Google Scholar]
  17. Morita, Emi
    (2002) Stance marking in the collaborative completion of sentence: Final particles as epistemic markers in Japanese. In N. Akatsuka , and S. Strauss (eds.), Japanese/Korean Linguistics, vol. 10. Stanford, CA: CSLI, pp.220–234.
    [Google Scholar]
  18. Mullany, Louise
    (2007) Gendered Discourse in the Professional Workplace. Basingstoke: Palgrave. doi: 10.1057/9780230592902
    https://doi.org/10.1057/9780230592902 [Google Scholar]
  19. Ochs, Elinor
    (1993) Constructing social identity: A language socialization perspective. Research on Language and Social Interaction26: 287–306. doi: 10.1207/s15327973rlsi2603_3
    https://doi.org/http://dx.doi.org/10.1207/s15327973rlsi2603_3 [Google Scholar]
  20. (1996) Linguistic resources for socializing humanity. In J. Gumperz , and S. Levinson (eds.), Rethinking Linguistic Relativity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp.407–437.
    [Google Scholar]
  21. Ogasawara, Yoko
    (1998) Office Ladies and Salaried Men: Power, Gender, and Work in Japanese Companies. Berkeley/Los Angeles/London: University of California Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  22. Okamoto, Shigeko
    (2004) Ideology in linguistic practice and analysis: Gender and politeness in Japanese revisited. In S. Okamoto , and J.S. Shibamoto Smith (eds.), Japanese Language, Gender, and Ideology: Cultural Models and Real People. New York: Oxford University Press, pp.38–56.
    [Google Scholar]
  23. Okamoto, Shigeko , and Janet S. Shibamoto Smith
    (2008) Constructing linguistic femininity in contemporary Japan: Scholarly and popular representations. Gender and Language2: 87–112.
    [Google Scholar]
  24. Rees, Charlotte E. , and Lynn V. Monrouxe
    (2010) “I should be lucky ha ha ha ha”: The construction of power, identity and gender through laughter within medical workplace learning encounters. Journal of Pragmatics42: 3384–3399. doi: 10.1016/j.pragma.2010.05.004
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2010.05.004 [Google Scholar]
  25. Schnurr, Stephanie
    (2009) Constructing leader identities through teasing at work. Journal of Pragmatics41: 1125–1138. doi: 10.1016/j.pragma.2008.10.002
    https://doi.org/http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2008.10.002 [Google Scholar]
  26. Spencer-Oatey, Helen
    (2000) Rapport management: A framework for analysis. In H. Spencer-Oatey (ed.), Culturally Speaking: Managing Rapport through Talk across Cultures. London: Continuum, pp.11–46.
    [Google Scholar]
  27. Sunaoshi, Yukako
    (1994) Mild directives work effectively: Japanese women in command. In M. Bucholtz , A.C. Liang , L.A. Sutton , and C. Hines (eds.), Cultural Performances: Proceedings of the Third Berkeley Women and Language Conference. Berkeley, CA: University of California, pp.678–690.
    [Google Scholar]
  28. Takano, Shoji
    (2005) Re-examining linguistic power: Strategic uses of directives by professional Japanese women in positions of authority and leadership. Journal of Pragmatics37: 633–666. doi: 10.1016/j.pragma.2004.06.007
    https://doi.org/http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2004.06.007 [Google Scholar]
  29. Thomas, Jenny
    (1995) Meaning in Interaction: An Introduction to Pragmatics. London/New York: Longman.
    [Google Scholar]
  30. Vickers, Caroline H.
    (2010) Language competence and the construction of expert-novice in NS-NNS interaction. Journal of Pragmatics42: 116–138. doi: 10.1016/j.pragma.2009.05.010
    https://doi.org/http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2009.05.010 [Google Scholar]
  31. Vine, Bernadette
    (2004) Getting Things Done at Work: The Discourse of Power in Workplace Interaction. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company. doi: 10.1075/pbns.124
    https://doi.org/http://dx.doi.org/10.1075/pbns.124 [Google Scholar]
  32. Zimmerman, Don H.
    (1998) Identity, context and interaction. In C. Antaki , and S. Widdicombe (eds.), Identities in Talk. London: Sage, pp.87–106.
    [Google Scholar]
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was successful
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error