The Role of Parental Input in the Early Acquisition of Japanese Politeness Distinctions

Franklin Chang, Tomoko Tatsumi, Hirofumi Hayakawa, Misa Yoshizaki, Natsuki Oka
2021 Collabra: Psychology  
Japanese polite language (teineigo) varies with the speaker-addressee relationship as well as social norms. Descriptive studies have found that young Japanese children use polite-speech early in development. This claim was experimentally tested in 3- to 6-year-old Japanese children and correct use of polite verb forms was found even in the youngest children. The early acquisition of these verb forms is surprising, because there is a Japanese social norm that parental speech to children is
more » ... not polite, so it is not clear how children acquire the knowledge of how to use polite forms. To examine this, a large scale corpus analysis of polite language was performed using a probabilistic measure of the intended addressee. We confirmed that parental speech is mostly not polite, but parents also produced a substantial amount of polite language that varied appropriately with addressees and this can help to explain the early use of polite speech in Japanese children under experimental conditions.
doi:10.1525/collabra.18989 fatcat:f3kbprnmhvcy7mje2b6fa2hejm