Print

Print


On 5/4/12, Logan Kearsley <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> On 4 May 2012 09:24, David McCann <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>> On Fri, 4 May 2012 00:44:06 +0200
>> Christophe Grandsire-Koevoets <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>>
>>> On 3 May 2012 17:46, David McCann <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>>>
>>> > On the question of Japanese, the use of a word like "boku" by men is
>>> > not a grammatical constraint, but a social one.
>>>
>>>
>>> Well, so is the use of "he" to refer to a woman. The sentence "he
>>> wants to talk to you" doesn't suddenly become ungrammatical when you
>>> learn that the referent for the subject is actually female. It
>>> becomes semantically incorrect (because it's considered socially
>>> unacceptable to call a woman a "he"), but grammatically it's still
>>> perfectly sound. Same with "boku" in Japanese, although due to the
>>> nature of Japanese pronouns the semantics are not as clear-cut.
>>
>> No. Would you say that some-one who referred to a table as "il" in
>> French had made a social gaffe or a semantic mistake? It would show
>> that either they didn't know the gender of "table" or they didn't
>> understand the rules for choosing between "il" and "elle". Either would
>> show a lack of grammatical knowledge. Using a pronoun of the wrong
>> gender is a grammatical error, unless you want to redefine "grammar",
>> in which case our discussions won't get very far!
>
> That's not the same thing. The choice of "il" vs. "elle" in French is
> determined by *grammatical* gender, a property of lexical items, and
> thus getting it wrong is a *grammatical* error. But the choice of "he"
> vs. "she" in English is determined solely by actual semantic gender, a
> property of referents, not lexical items, and thus is a semantic
> error, not necessarily a grammatical one (though it *could* be a
> grammatical error, if the reason for it is that the person speaking
> didn't actually know the distinction between "he" and "she"). No
> amount of grammatical or lexical knowledge is going to save you if you
> happen to be mistaken about the actual gender classification of the
> person you're referring to!
>
> Now, none of that resolves the question of whether or not it's a
> grammatical issue in Japanese. But that's kinda my point; how things
> work in French or in English is not evidence for how things work in
> Japanese. It requires someone knowledgeable specifically in how
> Japanese works to determine how much gender is a grammatical and how
> much a semantic category in this case.

That's easy: Japanese doesn't have grammatical gender. There is no
agreement of any kind, and there's only one class of nouns.

I'd say the situation here is a matter of pragmatics. As Christophe
said, "boku" is sometimes used by female singers just to fit the
meter, with no implication of masculinity, which suggests that any
connotation of maleness is dependent on context. I believe it's just a
particularly informal word, since men in formal situations use
"watashi" instead just like women do. Female speech in Japanese tends
to be more formal than men's; many of the most easily recognizable
features of female speech (using rhetorical questions with "ne?" in
place of plain statements, use of the softer "wa yo" instead of "yo")
are hedging strategies, at least in origin.