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Tsutsui, Martha Satoko (2021) A Sociolinguistic Documentation of Honorific Verbs in Southern Amami Ōshima. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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This qualitative study describes the use and form of verbal honorifics in Southern Amami Ōshima, an endangered language spoken on the Amami Islands in the Ryukyuan archipelago in Japan. Due to historical and political factors, Amami honorific registers are currently only known by older speakers within the bilingual Setouchi community. As we know, speakers of endangered languages gradually shift until eventually no domains are left, though this stylistic shrinkage process is poorly understood in our field. This project examines the diminishing honorific registers and explores what honorific forms are remaining, and how speakers use them in unelicited daily communication during their day-to-day lives. Firstly, this project documents the remaining verbal honorific forms which are still used and known within the Setouchi community. Fieldwork methodology showed that addressee honorifics (including imperative mood) are more prominent in the Setouchi community than corresponding subject honorifics. Additionally, this thesis explored bilingual Amami speakers’ language choices for expressing politeness in light of limited Amami honorific forms by collecting data from speakers in a range of different communicative events where honorifics would be expected. This thesis found that standard language practices in the community today call for speakers to use Japanese in situations where honorific Amami would typically have been used. However, community members, including token speakers, still use Amami honorifics in day-to-day communication. Lastly, this thesis examined the functions and indexes of remaining Amami honorifics in the endangered language situation. Amami is no longer the unmarked code for politeness and deference. Rather, Amami speakers today draw on honorifics most commonly in the form of lexical touchstones, which they use as a wecode to index familiarity, intimacy, and localness.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
Keywords: Amami Ōshima, Ryukyuan, honorifics, stylistic shrinkage, language documentation, pragmatics
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses
Supervisors Name: Anne Pauwels
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 14 Jan 2022 10:51

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