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Honorifics Similarities of the Guugu Yimidhirr and Japanese Languages - Essay Example

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The Guugu Yimidhirr language is specific to the far north of Queensland, Australia. The Guugu Yimidhirr language does have similarities with the modern Japanese language. They do employ a system of deference to their speech that is used in one of three categories: polite language, respectful language, and humble language. …
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Honorifics Similarities of the Guugu Yimidhirr and Japanese Languages
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Download file to see previous pages One of the most intriguing qualities of the Guugu Yimidhirr language is its honorific system; in other words, the way in which deference is paid to certain members of the family or the society with the use of a specific word over another. In particular, the honorific system requires the use of deference words and tone to a brother-in-law or father-in-law. The Japanese and Guugu Yimidhir languages were born for essentially the same purpose: to solidify a social structure that organically evolved to support a burgeoning community and, eventually, a larger nation. Where the Guugu Yimidhirr language has maintained its more traditional deference language primarily for use in speaking to brothers- and fathers- in law who in turn provide essential services for the community, Japanese culture has evolved and with it the use of deferential language for business purposes. Whorfian theory can be used in terms of the Aboriginal group, however Japanese language has not been a mirror unto itself and has changed to accommodate the needs of its society.
The function of the honorifics within the Guugu Yimidhirr language is to essentially uphold an established social structure. The culture of these people is such that a certain stratification is basic to the continuation of the societal framework: deference must be paid to those members of society who are, in terms of the culture, of higher importance and reverence within the community and the society on the whole. Brothers-in-law and fathers-in-law are considered honorable members of the community in that they are wise and instrumental to the running of day-to-day life. This is a generally accepted view of Guugu Yimidhirr, with many subscribers to the idea that the language is what the society was initially, and now is, fixed upon.
In contrast to this theory, however, Foley suggests that the key to understanding the use of honorifics within this particular language is to bring the Whorfian theories into play; in short, to examine the idea that the words used in context are not merely a product of initial societal roles but that they are currently responsible for shaping the worldview of the Guugu Yimidhirr themselves (Foley 1997). Being raised in an environment where it is socially unacceptable to say Balin-ga (porcupine) to your father- or brother-in-law instead of the deferential nhalngarr (Shopen 1979) means that children are acculturated to believe in the existing social structures and to use them with little resistance.
Shopen points out that the deferential vocabulary within Guugu Yimidhirr is not a substantial sub-language, but instead a special set of words and phrases that are interchangeable with parts of the regular language. This is notable because it shows that the social structure is not completely, strictly stratified, but that it merely demands a level of respect for those on whom the community depends.
Modern Japanese Honorifics
The Japanese language today is another, like Guugu Yimidhirr, that has evolved over centuries and in doing so has developed and maintained honorifics. The three specific levels of Japanese honorifics, delineated by linguists, are Polite, Respectful and Humble Language. Teineigo, or Polite Language, is marked by the use of special sentence and verb endings: desu and masu, respectively (Maynard 1997). This is the language version taught to non-native speakers of Japanese. Sonkeigo, or Respectful Language, is used in reference to superiors and is characterized by the use of alternate words. For example, instead of using the verb suwaru as would be done when referring to oneself sitting down, the phrase o kake ni natte kudasai is used to ask someone in a superior position (this includes customers) ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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