This study sets out to investigate the self-reference systems in spoken
Japanese and Thai with a view to comparing and contrasting the two. The study is
primarily concerned with self-reference in the metropolitan varieties of spoken Japanese
(Tokyo) and Thai (Bangkok). After a review of previous treatments of self-reference
terms and pronouns in Japanese and Thai, four types of self-reference terms - pronouns,
status terms, personal names and other nouns - are analysed to show their...[Show more] meanings and
ranges of usage.
The analysis is based on data from a combination of sources:
(a) an extensive self-report questionnaire survey organised especially to highlight three
types of speaker contrast: Japanese/Thai, student/employee and male/female speakers;
(b) examples of Japanese/Thai natural conversation, for example, mass media extracts;
(c) personal observations and informal interviews with representative native speakers.
In most cases (b) and (c) confirmed the data collected in (a), suggesting the general
validity of questionnaire results of this type.
The self-reference systems in Japanese and Thai are discussed from a
comparative perspective. The comparison shows differences and similarities in formal
categories and in patterns of usage. In general, relationships of intimacy and power in the
Japanese and Thai self-reference case are more problematic and complex than was
proposed in the two-dimensional model by Brown and Gilman ( 1960), involving
parametric variation referred to there as "power" and "solidarity". While these high.-level
variables can furnish a first approximation to the Japanese and Thai cases and provide
relevant insights, more specific factors such as gender, age, kinship relationship,
occupation, formality, overhearer presence and emotional switch were found to be
important in arriving at a fuller picture of how self-reference operates in the two
languages. In particular, age and gender were found to be especially important factors in
self-reference term selection but they do not operate exactly the same in the two
languages. The notion of pronoun scope has been used in this study to account for how certain pronominal forms are selected and also to facilitate intra-language and cross-language comparisons. Substantial diachronic change has marked both the Japanese and
Thai systems. Overt prescriptive training was found to have some effect on speaker's
choices - more so in Japanese than in Thai. These and other sources of variation to the
general picture outlined in this study are considered.
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