Sociolinguistics in Japanese Contexts

By Tetsuya Kunihiro; Fumio Inoue et al. | Go to book overview

20. Changes in life and changes in language
— stabilization of new expressions —

0. Introductory notes by the editors

In this chapter the author discusses familiar daily matters. He examines verbs pertaining to the use of electric machines from a semantic point of view and analyzes the usage of several verbs. He shows that various terms tend to be used in the early stages of the naming of a new concept. Next, he introduces a classification of the relationships between word and concept, and states his views on the ever-changing state of language at the end. This paper is thus, in reality, a sociolinguistic consideration of language change, centering on the formation of new expressions.

This chapter is concerned with the relationship between linguistic expressions and the referent. This topic is related to the German “Wörter und Sachen” studies in dialectology, which also utilize folkloristic methodologies, and to Linguistic Relativism and the Sapir-Whorf Theory which contends that language systems determine speakers’ views of the world.


1. A variety of expressions

Suppose a day’s work is over, and an average Japanese man is going to have a beer and watch television. What would he say to his family when he wanted them to switch on the television for him? The possibilities would include any of the expressions below, all of which may be translated as “Will you turn on the television?”

These five expressions are recorded in my notes. When I conducted a small survey of a large number of people in one location, two more expressions were reported :

For me, nagashite ‘let something flow’ means to generate sound in an auditorium or a big room for many people to listen to, so I do not find it suitable for use in a house. Misete ‘show’ does not directly apply to the operation of the television

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