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Beyond ‘power and solidarity’: Indexing intimacy in Korean and Japanese terms of address

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This study examines the nominal address terms in Korean and Japanese and argues that the notion of ‘Intimacy’ plays a crucial role in choosing an appropriate nominal address term in both languages. In the past several decades, a long list of researchers working in diverse languages have evaluated the validity of the Power and Solidarity semantics proposed by Brown and Gilman (1960), which provided a ground-breaking framework to account for the selection of pronominal address terms in the T-V languages. Building on the Power and Solidarity semantics, we propose to fine-tune it by adding Intimacy as the third dimension crisscrossing the first two well-established dimensions. We take Power and Solidarity as socially prescribed notions while Intimacy is personally defined. We demonstrate how this highly subjective notion dictates and often manipulates the ways the Korean/Japanese speaker selects an appropriate nominal address term. In particular, we argue that the Korean selection of pseudo-kinship terms over the neutral title ssi, or the Japanese use of chan/kun by adult speakers in lieu of the default ‘Last Name+san’, cannot be accounted for without applying Intimacy as a crucial indexing device. Furthermore, we suggest that Intimacy is not an ad hoc dimension specific to Korean and Japanese, but that it is relevant to all languages whether or not a given language has an overt way of encoding it.

Keywords: Address terms; Indexicality; Japanese; Korean; intimacy; power and solidarity

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2013


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