Volume 26, Issue 2
  • ISSN 1018-2101
  • E-ISSN: 2406-4238


The present paper analyses speech level shifts in Japanese from a different perspective. By applying Symbolic InteractionistRole Theory, speech level shifts are categorised as the linguistic realisation of aninteractional role, or ‘dissociative role’ Icall in this paper. Dissociative roles are improvised identities, which occur when the speaker perceives a psychological change in relation to the other participant in the on-going interaction. Plus-level shifts (shifts from plain to polite forms, ) are triggered when the speaker experiences cautious, attentive, thoughtful and/or grateful feelings at a certaintime of interaction, which conforms to the original nature of honorifics. This prompts a dissociative role which creates a certain psychological distance between this role and the other interactant. On the other hand, minus-level shifts (shifts from forms to plain forms) are the implementation of the speaker’s another dissociative role, which is assimilated with the other interactant, giving rise to empathy or drawing the other into the speaker’s world. Whether plus or minus level shifts occur, the interactants’social roles, i.e.,their original roles when the situation is defined, continue to exist throughout the discourse. The interactants are fully aware of their social roles such as teacher and student, friends, family members, and senior and junior in company(= Institutional Roles in this paper). However, when an Improvised Role is created, it is forwarded to the on-going interaction and linguistically implemented as a speech level shift.This paper also clarifies that both speech level shifts and the so-called ‘conventional’honorifics are situationally determined, and that they are not separate entities but the two ends of continuum by examining the features they share from the viewpoint of ‘roles’.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


  1. Altheide, L. David
    (2000) Idendity and the definition of the situation in a mass-mediated context. Symbolic InteractionVol. 23.1: 1-27. doi: 10.1525/si.2000.23.1.1
    https://doi.org/10.1525/si.2000.23.1.1 [Google Scholar]
  2. Antaki, Charles , and Sue Widdicombe
    (1998) (eds.)Identities in Talk. London: Sage.
    [Google Scholar]
  3. Asada, Hideko
    (2001) Keigo de tokunihon no byodofubyodo [Equality and inequality in Japan by means of honorifics]. Tokyo: Kodansha Co.
    [Google Scholar]
  4. Barke, Andrew
    (2011) Situated functions of addressee honorifics in Japanese television drama. In B.L. Davies , M. Haugh , and A.J. Merrison (eds.), Situated Politeness, London: Continuum International Publishing Co., pp.111-128.
    [Google Scholar]
  5. Benwell, Bethan , and Elizabeth Stokoe
    (2006) (reprinted 2007). Discourse and Identity. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  6. Bicchieri, Cristina
    (2006) The Grammar of Society –The Nature and Dynamics of Social Norms. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  7. Blumer, Herbert
    (1969) Symbolic Interactionism: Perspective and Method. Berkeley: University of California Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  8. Brown, Penelope , and Stephen Levinson
    (1987) Politeness: Some Universals in Language Usage. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  9. Bucholtz, Mary , and Kira Hall
    (2005) Identity and interaction: A sociocultural linguistic approach. Discourse Studies7.4-5: 585-614. doi: 10.1177/1461445605054407
    https://doi.org/10.1177/1461445605054407 [Google Scholar]
  10. Burke, J. Peter
    (ed.) (2006) Contemporary Social Psychological Theories. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  11. Burr, Vivien
    (2002) The Person in Social Psychology. Sussex: Psychology Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  12. Chin, Bunshun
    (2003) Doonendai no shotaimendooshiniyorukaiwanimirareru “da-tai” enoshifuto –shookisiyasuijookyoo to sonohindo o megutte [Shifts to da-style observed in conversations between new people of the same age group –Concerning their occurrence circumstances and frequencies]. Nihongo Kagaku 14: KokuritsuKokugoKenkyuujo, pp.7-28.
    [Google Scholar]
  13. Cook, Minegishi Haruko
    (1996a) Japanese language socialization: Indexing the modes of self. Dicourse Processes22: 171-197. doi: 10.1080/01638539609544971
    https://doi.org/10.1080/01638539609544971 [Google Scholar]
  14. (1996b) The use of addressee honorifics in Japanese elementary school classrooms. In N. Akatsuka , S. Iwasaki , and S. Strauss (eds.), Japanese/Korean Linguistics5. Stanford: CSLI Publications, pp. 67-81.
    [Google Scholar]
  15. (1997) The role of the Japanese masuform in caregiver-child conversation. Journal of Pragmatics28: 695-718. doi: 10.1016/S0378‑2166(97)00071‑4
    https://doi.org/10.1016/S0378-2166(97)00071-4 [Google Scholar]
  16. (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]
  17. (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/10.1016/j.pragma.2011.08.008 [Google Scholar]
  18. Coulmas, Florian
    (1981) Poison to your soul –thanks and apologies contrastively viewed. In F. Coulmas (ed.), Conversational Routine. The Hague: De Gruyter, pp.69-91.
    [Google Scholar]
  19. (2005) [reprinted 2010] Sociolinguistics –The Study of Speaker’s Choices. Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press. doi: 10.1017/CBO9780511815522
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511815522 [Google Scholar]
  20. Davies, L. Bethan , Michael Haugh , and J. Andrew Merrison
    (eds.) (2011) Situated Politeness. London: Continuum Publishing Company.
    [Google Scholar]
  21. Deckert, K. Sharon , and H. Caroline Vickers
    (2011) An Introduction to Sociolinguistics –Society and Identity. London: Continuum Publishing Company.
    [Google Scholar]
  22. de Fina, Anna
    (2010) The negotiation of identities. In M.A. Locher , and S.L. Graham (eds.), Interpersonal Pragmatics. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton, pp.205-224.
    [Google Scholar]
  23. de Fina, Anna , Deborah Schiffrin , and Michael Bamberg
    (eds.) (2006) Discourse and Identity. Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press. doi: 10.1017/CBO9780511584459
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511584459 [Google Scholar]
  24. Drew, Paul , and Marja-Leena Sorjonen
    (1997) Institutional dialogue. In T.A. van Dijk (ed.), Discourse as Social Interaction. London: Sage, pp.92-118.
    [Google Scholar]
  25. Erdelyi, H. Matthew
    (1994) Dissociation, defense, and the unconscious. In D. Spiegel (ed.), Dissociation –Culture, Mind, and Body. Washington DC: American Psychiatric Press, Incorporation, pp.3-20.
    [Google Scholar]
  26. Gecas, Viktor and Peter J. Burke
    (1995) Self and identity. In K.S. Cook , G.A. Fine , and J.S. House (eds.), Sociological Perspectives on Social Psychology. Boston: Allyn & Bacon, pp.41-67.
    [Google Scholar]
  27. Geyer, Naomi
    (2008) Interpersonal functions of style shift: The use of plain and masuforms in faculty meetings. In K. Jones , and T. Ono (eds.), Style Shifting in Japanese. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company, pp. 39-70. doi: 10.1075/pbns.180.00int
    https://doi.org/10.1075/pbns.180.00int [Google Scholar]
  28. Goffman, Erving
    (1959) The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. Anchor Books (reprinted by Penguin Books, 1990).
    [Google Scholar]
  29. (1963) Stigma: Notes on the management of spoiled identity. New York: Simon & Schuster.
    [Google Scholar]
  30. Haugh, Michae I , and Yasuko Obana
    (2011) Politeness in Japanese. In D.Z. Kádár , and S. Mills (eds.), Politeness in East Asia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 147-175. doi: 10.1017/CBO9780511977886.009
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511977886.009 [Google Scholar]
  31. Hayashi, Makoto
    (1999) Where grammar and interaction meet: A study of co-participant completion in Japanese conversation. Human Studies22: 475 –499. doi: 10.1023/A:1005492027060
    https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1005492027060 [Google Scholar]
  32. Heath, Joseph
    (2011) Following the Rules –Practical Reasoning and Deontic Constraint. New York: Oxford University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  33. Hewitt, P. John
    (1989) Dilemmas of the American Self. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  34. (1991) Self and Society: A Symbolic Interactionist Social Psychology. Needham Heights: Allyn and Bacon.
    [Google Scholar]
  35. Hewitt, P. John , and David Shulman
    (2003 [reprinted 2011]) Self and Society –A Symbolic Interactionist Social Psychology(eleventh edition, originally published in 2003). Boston: Pearson Education, Inc.
    [Google Scholar]
  36. Hill, Beverly , Sachiko Ide , Shoko Ikuta , Akiko Kawasaki , and Tsunao Ogino
    (1986) Universals of linguistic politeness. Journal of Pragmatics10: 347-371. doi: 10.1016/0378‑2166(86)90006‑8
    https://doi.org/10.1016/0378-2166(86)90006-8 [Google Scholar]
  37. Hyland, Ken
    (2012) Disciplinary Identities –Individuality and Community in Academic Discourse. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  38. Ide, Sachiko
    (1989) Formal forms and discernment: Two neglected aspects of universals of linguistic politeness. Multilingua2: 223-248. doi: 10.1515/mult.1989.8.2‑3.223
    https://doi.org/10.1515/mult.1989.8.2-3.223 [Google Scholar]
  39. (2006) Wakimae no Goyoo-ron [The pragmatics of wakimae]. Tokyo: Taishukan Shoten.
    [Google Scholar]
  40. Ikuta, Shoko
    (1983) Speech level shift and conversational strategy in Japanese discourse. Language Science5: 37-53. doi: 10.1016/S0388‑0001(83)80012‑6
    https://doi.org/10.1016/S0388-0001(83)80012-6 [Google Scholar]
  41. Ishizaki, Akiko
    (2000) Denwarenraku no kaiwaniokerusupiichireberushifuto [Speech level shifts in message delivery on the phone]. Gengo Bunka to Nihongo Kyoiku, Ochanomizu Women’s College, Japanese and Culture Research Group, pp.62-74.
    [Google Scholar]
  42. Jones, Kimberly , and Tsuyoshi Ono
    (eds.) (2008) Style Shifting in Japanese. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company. doi: 10.1075/pbns.180
    https://doi.org/10.1075/pbns.180 [Google Scholar]
  43. Johnson, C. Greer
    (2006) The discursive construction of teacher identities in a research interview. In A. de Fina , D. Schiffrina , and M. Bamberg (eds.), Discourse and Identity. New York: Cambridge University Press, pp. 213-232. doi: 10.1017/CBO9780511584459.011
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511584459.011 [Google Scholar]
  44. Joseph, E. John
    (2013) Identity work and face work across linguistic and cultural boundaries. Journal of Politeness Research9.1: 35-54. doi: 10.1515/pr‑2013‑0002
    https://doi.org/10.1515/pr-2013-0002 [Google Scholar]
  45. Kinuhata, Tomohide , and Changsu Yang
    (2007) Yakuwari-go toshiteno “guntai-go” no seiritsu [The development of military terms as role-terms]. In S. Kinsui (ed.), Yakuwari kenkyuu no chihei [The horizon of studies on role-terms].Tokyo: Kurosio Shuppan, pp. 179-192.
    [Google Scholar]
  46. Liddicoat, J. Anthony
    (2004) The projectability of turn constructional units and the role of prediction in listening. Discourse Studies6.4: 449-469. doi: 10.1177/1461445604046589
    https://doi.org/10.1177/1461445604046589 [Google Scholar]
  47. Linguistic Politeness Research Group
    (eds.) (2011) Discursive Approaches to Politeness. Berlin/Boston: Mouton De Gruyter.
    [Google Scholar]
  48. Makino, Seiichi
    (2002) When does communication turn mentally inward?: A case study of Japanese formal-to-informal switching. In N.M. Akatsuka , and S. Strauss (eds.), Japanese /Korean Linguistics, Vol. 10. California: CSLI Publications, pp. 121-135.
    [Google Scholar]
  49. Maynard, K. Senko
    (2001) Koisurufutari no kanjookotoba: Doramahyoogen no bunseki to nihongoron [Emotional language between the couple in love: Analysis of expressions in a drama and discussion on Japanese language]. Tokyo: KurosioShuppan.
    [Google Scholar]
  50. (2004) Danwa Gengogaku [Linguistics of Discourse]. Tokyo: Kurosio Shuppan.
    [Google Scholar]
  51. McCall, J. George
    (2003) Interaction. In L.T. Reynolds , and N.J. Herman-Kinney (eds.), Handbook of Symbolic Interactionism. California: AltaMira Press, pp. 327-348.
    [Google Scholar]
  52. Mead, H. George
    (1934) Mind, Self, and society. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. MedicineNet.Com (2011) www.medterms.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=38857
    [Google Scholar]
  53. Megumi, Maeri
    (2002) The switching between desu/masu form and plain form: From the perspective of turn construction. In N.M. Atatsuka , and S. Strass (eds.), Japanese Korean Linguistics10: 206-234.
    [Google Scholar]
  54. Miller, R. Elizabeth
    (2013) Positioning selves, doing relational work and constructing identities ininterview talk. Journal of Politeness Research9.1: 75-95. doi: 10.1515/pr‑2013‑0004
    https://doi.org/10.1515/pr-2013-0004 [Google Scholar]
  55. Mimaki, Yoko
    (1993) Danwa no tenkaihyooshikitoshitenotaiguureberushifuto [Speech level shifts as a marker of development of discourse]. Osaka Kyoiku University Kiyoo1.42-1: 39-51.
    [Google Scholar]
  56. Mullany, Louise
    (2010) Gender and interpersonal pragmatics. In M.A. Locher , and S.L. Graham (eds.), Interpersonal Pragmatics. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton, pp. 225-250.
    [Google Scholar]
  57. Nishida, Naotoshi
    (1995) Keigo [Honorifics]. Tokyo: Tokyo-do Shuppan (the third print).
    [Google Scholar]
  58. Norris, Sigrid
    (2011) Identity in (Inter)action –Introducing Multimodal (Inter)action Analysis. Göttingen: Mouton De Gruyter. doi: 10.1515/9781934078280
    https://doi.org/10.1515/9781934078280 [Google Scholar]
  59. Obana, Yasuko
    (2000) Understanding Japanese: A Handbook for Learners and Teachers. Tokyo: Kurosio Publishers.
    [Google Scholar]
  60. (2012a) Politeness as role-identity-application of Symbolic Interactionism. Gengo to Bunka, Kwansei Gakuin University, Language & Education Research Centre15: 1-16.
    [Google Scholar]
  61. (2012b) Re-examination of yoroshikuonegaishimasu –The routine formula as the linguistic implementation of one’s tachiba-role. Journal of Pragmatics44: 1535 -1548. doi: 10.1016/j.pragma.2012.06.020
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2012.06.020 [Google Scholar]
  62. Ohkubo, Kanako
    (2009) Sonkeigo, kenjoogo no kinoonikansurukoosatsu –Kekkonhirooen noshikai no hatsuwa wo rei ni –[On the functions of deferential and humble terms –Examples from the wedding MC’s utterances –]. Shakai Gengo Kagaku12.1: 162-173.
    [Google Scholar]
  63. Okamoto, Shigeko
    (1999) Situated politeness: Manipulating honorific and non-honorific expressions in Japanese conversation. Pragmatics9: 51-74. doi: 10.1075/prag.9.1.05oka
    https://doi.org/10.1075/prag.9.1.05oka [Google Scholar]
  64. (2009) Politeness and perception of irony: Honorifics in Japanese. Metaphor and Symbol17: 119-139. doi: 10.1207/S15327868MS1702_3
    https://doi.org/10.1207/S15327868MS1702_3 [Google Scholar]
  65. Omoniyi, Tope , and Goodith White
    (2006) Introduction. In T. Omoniyi , and G. White (eds.), The Sociolinguistics of Identity. London: Conitinuum, pp. 1-8.
    [Google Scholar]
  66. Perinbanayagam, Robert
    (2012) Identity’s Moments –The Self in Action and Interaction. Lanham: Lexington Books.
    [Google Scholar]
  67. Saito, Junko
    (2010) Subordinates’ use of Japanese plain forms: An examination of superior-subordinate interactions in the workplace. Journal of Pragmatics42: 3271-3282. doi: 10.1016/j.pragma.2010.06.014
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2010.06.014 [Google Scholar]
  68. Sandstrom, L. Kent , D. Daniel Martin , and Gary Alan Fine
    (2010) Symbols, Selves, and Social Reality. New York/Oxford: Oxford University Press (third edition).
    [Google Scholar]
  69. Schwartz, J. Seth , Luyckx, Koen and Vignoles, L. Vivian
    (eds.) (2012a) Handbook of Identity Theory and Research, Volume 1. NewYork: Springer.
    [Google Scholar]
  70. Schwartz, J. Seth , Koen Luyckx , and L. Vivian Vignoles
    (eds.) (2012b) Handbook of Identity Theory and Research, Volume 2. New York: Springer.
    [Google Scholar]
  71. Spencer-Oatey, Helen
    (2007) Theories of identity and the analysis of face. Journal of Pragmatics39.4: 639-656. doi: 10.1016/j.pragma.2006.12.004
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2006.12.004 [Google Scholar]
  72. Stanley, Raffel
    (1999) Revisiting role theory: Roles and the problem of the self. www.socresonline.org.uk/4/2/raffel.html (Sociological Research Online)
  73. Stryker, Sheldon
    (2002) Traditional symbolic interactionism, role theory, and structural symbolic interactionism –The road to identity theory. In J.H. Turner (ed.), Handbook of Sociological Theory. New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers, pp. 211-231.
    [Google Scholar]
  74. Takeda, Naoko
    (2011) Dooitsudanwaniokerusupiichireberushifutonitsuite no koosatsu[On speech level shifts in the samd discourse]. MA dissertation, KwanseiGakuin University.
    [Google Scholar]
  75. Turner, H. Jonathan
    (2002) Face-to-Face: Toward a Theory of Interpersonal Behavior. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  76. (2011) Extending the Symbolic Interactionist theory of interaction processes: A conceptual outline. Symbolic Interaction34.3: 330-339. doi: 10.1525/si.2011.34.3.330
    https://doi.org/10.1525/si.2011.34.3.330 [Google Scholar]
  77. (2013) Symbolic interactionist theories of identity. In J.H. Turner (ed.), Contemporary SociologicalTheory. California: Sage Publications, pp.331-355.
    [Google Scholar]
  78. Turner, H. Ralph
    (2002) Role theory. In J.H. Turner (ed.), Handbook of Sociological Theory. New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers, pp. 233-253.
    [Google Scholar]
  79. Vryan, D. Kevin , Patricia A. Adler , and Peter Adler
    (2003) Identity. In L.T. Reynolds and N.J. Herman-Kinney (eds.), Handbook of Symbolic Interactionism. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, INC., pp. 367-390.
    [Google Scholar]
  80. Ylänne-McEwen, Virpi
    (2004) Shifting alignment and negotiating sociality in travel agency discourse. Discourse Studies6.6.4: 517-536. doi: 10.1177/1461445604046592
    https://doi.org/10.1177/1461445604046592 [Google Scholar]
  81. Yoshida, Mayumi , and Chikako Sakurai
    (2005) Japanese honorifics as a marker of sociocultural identity. In R.T. Lakoff , and S. Ide (eds.), Broadening the Horizon of Linguistic Politeness. Amsterdam: John BenjaminsPublishing Company, pp. 197-215. doi: 10.1075/pbns.139.18yos
    https://doi.org/10.1075/pbns.139.18yos [Google Scholar]
  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): Identity; Japanese; Role; Speech level shifts; Symbolic Interactionism
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