Research Seminar | Mysterious Address Term anata ‘you’ in Japanese – School of Languages and Cultures Research Seminar | Mysterious Address Term anata ‘you’ in Japanese – School of Languages and Cultures

Research Seminar | Mysterious Address Term anata ‘you’ in Japanese

[SLC New Colleagues Research Seminar Series]

The Mysterious Address Term anata ‘you’ in Japanese

– Dr Yoko Yonezawa (Japanese Studies)


Both scholars and native speakers of Japanese recognise the second-person singular pronoun anata ‘you’ as problematic. Many avoid it in conversation, considering it ‘hard to use’ due to its ability to produce contrasting social effects (e.g., it can be polite or impolite, intimate or distant). Scholars have long searched for a semantically loaded meaning in anata, under the assumption that all Japanese personal reference terms involve social indexicality. I take a new approach, revealing that anata is in fact semantically simple and its powerful expressivity is explained only in pragmatic terms.

Drawing on diverse data made up of two spoken corpora, advertisements, perceptual surveys of over 400 speakers from the Tokyo Metropolitan area, contemporary TV dramas representing distinct personal relationships and social contexts, and metalinguistic discourse in newspapers in the historical context of Japan’s post WWII modernisation, this study brings to bear a thorough understanding of key issues in pragmatics, such as common ground, sociocultural norms, and shared understandings, in order to fully explain the meaning and usage of this single linguistic item.


Speaker Profile

Dr Yoko Yonezawa

Dr Yoko Yonezawa received her PhD in Linguistics in 2017 from the Australian National University. Her research focuses on the interface between language and culture. She is interested in how social cognitions are embedded into grammar in Japanese, how the use of certain linguistic items might perform to express identity, and how they might be connected to the formation of language ideology. She also brings her knowledge of Japanese to cross-linguistic studies and linguistic typology.


SLC New Colleagues Research Seminar Series: 

This series of new colleague lectures is presented by the SLC Research Committee to welcome newcomers in research positions. Presentations allow school colleagues and the wider community to get to know the research interests of recent arrivals.


Friday 2nd of September, 3pm

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The event is finished.


Sep 02 2022


3:00 PM


via Zoom


Dr Yoko Yonezawa, Department of Japanese Studies, School of Languages and Cultures

Other Organizers

Japanese Studies

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