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Japanese Native Speakers’ Derogatory Language Use Against Men and Women


  • Oliver Braun

Summary, in English

This thesis explores the differences between how Japanese native speakers use insults and derogatory language toward men and women. Initially, impoliteness is described as an area of sociolinguistics that explores face-threatening acts, the offensiveness of which is modified by various factors, such as the interlocutors’ relationship and gender. Then, gendered language is described as a subset of role language. Next, female speech is described and discussed as a spontaneously occurring aspect of the Japanese language, and as a manufactured ideal for how women should speak created after the Meiji restoration. This linguistic ideal of a woman should use polite and elegant language — an idea that lingers on to this day. From this theoretical background emerges the research question: “Is there a difference in how speakers of Japanese use derogatory and insulting language against men and women?” To investigate this, a survey was distributed to and answered by 12 participants. The survey consisted of two parts. In the first part, the participants were asked to judge the offensiveness of sentences, each containing one of the selected 10 Japanese derogatory words. The sentences were contextualized using the information about the interlocutors’ relationship, as well as their gender — shown through the use of male and female names. After that, the participants were given a list of 30 terms and asked what gender they associated with the words and how likely they were to use them in a friendly context. The results showed a pattern of the women’s use of insults being perceived as more offensive compared to men’s use of those same words. Thus, this thesis suggests that the use of derogatory language by women is seen as more offensive compared to its use by men.


Publishing year




Document type

Student publication for Bachelor's degree


  • Languages and Literatures


  • impoliteness
  • gender
  • insults
  • derogatory language


  • Mechtild Tronnier