Abstract: This study analyzes the linguistic behavior of female characters in shojo (girls) and ladies (women) manga (Japanese comics) and discusses the portrayal of female gender identities in the context of popular print media. Considering the great impact that Japanese print media has had over Japanese women's speech patterns throughout history, a linguistic analysis of female characters' speech patterns in shojo and ladies manga may reveal the kinds of representations of language and gender in manga and how these representations may affect Japanese women's gender identity today. Based on data collected through quantitative and qualitative approaches, the discussion focuses on the gender identities of shojo and adult women in shojo and ladies manga.
Language symbolizes social identity. Through language, certain social identities, including gender identity, are crafted that may either correspond to or oppose mainstream norms and values (Holmes, 1997). This study explores how gender identity is expressed through language use in manga, Japanese comics. On the surface gender identity in the Japanese language appears to be relatively straightforward. Gender differences in Japanese are usually marked both syntactically and lexically. For example, Japanese women and men are expected to use particular sentence final expressions and certain words that are different from each other in order to be considered "feminine" or "masculine" (Ide, 1990). The linguistic differentiation of gender tends to make Japanese women's language sound softer, politer, and less assertive, and makes Japanese men's language sound more assertive, vulgar, and less polite.
In her theory of indexicality, Ochs (1992) states that many linguistic features associated with one gender or the other "index social meanings (e.g. stances, social acts, social activities), which in turn help to constitute gender meanings (p340)." According to her theory, indexicality is defined as a property of speech through which particular stances or acts constitute cultural contexts, such as social identities. This connection between speech and social meanings is evident in the use of Japanese women's language. The softer and politer characteristics of Japanese women's language index "femininity," or the preferred image of Japanese women in society. Several studies report, however, that the speech styles of Japanese women have recently begun to change (Kobayashi, 1993; Miyazaki, 2002; Okamoto, 1996; Takasaki, 1993, etc.). Specifically, young Japanese women have been found to use feminine speech less often; they have started using masculine and neutral speech.
These findings are based on the actual speech of Japanese women and/or their self-report on their language use. No systematic studies, however, have previously investigated how Japanese women are linguistically depicted in contemporary print media. Print media has greatly influenced Japanese women's speech in the past. Sentence final expressions, which are typical of Japanese women's language were originally constructed in popular print media, specifically the genre of domestic novels in late Meiji period (late nineteenth century) (Inoue, 2002). In that period, women began to use feminine linguistic forms from domestic novels, and they became prominent in women's speech. At the same time, the ideological meanings behind these forms, ryosai kenbo (good wife, wise mother), also became widespread. Therefore, popular print media can influence one's speech choice and the social identity associated with it.
Manga are an extremely popular pastime among Japanese people regardless of sex, age, education, occupation, and social classes (Ito, 2000). It is most commonly published in a magazine form that normally contains about twenty serialized and concluding stories (Schodt, 1996). These manga magazines sell approximately 1.7 billion copies per year, or 4650000 copies per day (Ito, 2000). Even though manga is read by all sorts of Japanese people, different manga magazines target specific genders and age groups, and the range of a particular manga's topics largely depend on the intended audience.
This study focuses on shojo manga (comics written for girls) and ladies manga (comics written for adult women) magazines. Shojo manga is targeted primarily at girls from elementary school through high school (Tsurumi, 1997). The majority of themes in shojo manga is romantic love, though other themes, such as fantasies, mysteries, and science fiction are also included. Ladies manga, in contrast, aims predominantly at adult women. Ladies manga deal with the typical reality adult Japanese women often encounter, such as love, career, mother-child relations, social problems, divorce, relationships with the in-laws, and others (Ito, 2002).
Shojo and ladies manga magazines are selected for analysis because their readers and writers are almost entirely female. They are written "of women, by women, and for women (p 54)" (Fujimoto, 1991). As Talbot (1992) discusses, even though the characters in print media such as books and magazines are imaginary, a writer can use a variety of strategies to establish a rapport with the readership. Some techniques include claiming a common background, showing that one knows what the reader is like, and 'speaking the same language' as the targeted readership (Talbot, 1992). The projected gender identities of female characters in manga magazines, therefore, are likely to reflect the characteristics of the desired readership.
At the same time, however, manga may influence the readers in framing their gender identities as well as their linguistic behavior. As Ito (2000) argues, "It is very influential for children and adults alike because it 'teaches' the readers the roles, expectations, rights, duties, taboos, and folkways of Japanese society whether the reader is aware of it or not (p 14)." Ogi (2003) also states that one of the roles ladies manga performs is to offer alternate role models to adult women. Therefore, in addition to studying people's actual linguistic behavior, it is important to examine the kinds of representations of language and gender in manga and how these representations may affect Japanese women's gender identity. This study analyzes the linguistic behavior of female characters in shojo and ladies manga and discusses the portrayal of their gender identities in the context of popular print media.
This study poses the following two questions to explore gender identity expressed through language use in manga.
1. How and to what extent do the female characters' speech patterns, the use of gendered forms in particular, in shojo and ladies manga magazines differ according to the characters' ages?
2. Under what circumstances or settings are traditional and unconventional women's language used in manga magazines?
Conventional characteristics of Japanese women's speech
Japanese male and female speech differences have been extensively examined in linguistic research (Ide, 1979; Mizutani & Mizutani, 1987; Smith, 1992). Traditionally, feminine and masculine speech are largely marked by many grammatical and pragmatic elements such as sentence-final expressions, self-reference and address terms, vocabulary, pitch range, intonation, and the use of honorifics. Among these, sentence final expressions, which reveal the speaker's sentiments in a conversation, clearly distinguish the gender of the speaker (McGloin, 1990). For instance, the use of the copula da carries the modal function of the speaker's certainty and definiteness toward the propositional content of the sentence (Matsumoto, 2002). The copula da is identified as masculine in most Japanese textbooks (Mizutani & Mizutani, 1987). Other sentence finals, such as ze, yo, and na, by tradition, are also used exclusively by male speakers. They express abruptness, forcefulness, and assertiveness.
Female Japanese speakers, on the other hand, conventionally use other sentence finals, including wa, no, …