Real-Time Language Change Study on Honorifics

The Institute conducted a series of real-time language change studies in several localities (e.g. Tsuruoka in Yamagata Prefecture, and Hokkaido). These studies aimed to clarify the dynamism of language change through two or three surveys with the same content at twenty-year intervals. Both the Tsuruoka and Hokkaido studies examined the process of language change towards standard Japanese (Tsuruoka study) and towards a regional koine (Hokkaido Study).

In the same way, the Institute applied the same framework to the study of honorific usage. NINJAL chose Okazaki city in Aichi Prefecture, and conducted large-scale surveys in 1953 and 1972. This study, different from both Tsuruoka and Hokkaido studies, seeks to find the relationship between the change in social structure and the use of honorifics at different points of the time. This figure shows the survey results of the attitudes on whether or not one should use honorifics towards the oldest or senior family members. The same question was asked in both the 1953 and 1972 surveys. The result shows that the percentage of respondants who said that honorifics should be used decreases in the second survey in all age groups. This result indicates that non-use of the honorifics at home has become widespread; this tendency can be only verified through a real-time study framework.