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CommandsA Cross-Linguistic Typology$
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Alexandra Y. Aikhenvald and R. M. W. Dixon

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198803225

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198803225.001.0001

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Imperatives and commands in Japanese

Imperatives and commands in Japanese

(p.169) 8 Imperatives and commands in Japanese

Nerida Jarkey

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines the forms and usage of imperatives and command strategies in contemporary standard Japanese. Although commands are highly face-threatening acts in any language, speakers of Japanese encounter particular challenges in using them in socially acceptable ways. Commands are generally only given to those considered ‘below’ the speaker in the social hierarchy, and are normally considered appropriate only when used toward ‘in-group’ members. Further restrictions relate to the identity the speaker wishes to convey. Numerous command strategies have emerged to avoid using the most direct imperative forms, and some of these strategies have gradually come to be reinterpreted as imperative forms themselves, suggesting a loss of their original euphemistic qualities. Furthermore, when issuing commands, speakers often go to considerable lengths to soften the face threat, for example by giving reasons for the command, adding markers of hesitancy, or softening illocutionary particles, and using appropriate honorific language forms.

Keywords:   Japanese, imperatives, commands, identity, gender, face threat, honorifics, taboo

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