Prosodic Characteristics of Japanese Polite Speech Spoken by Native Speakers
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The demands of teaching advanced communication at a level higher than the beginners' level have become more obvious with an increase in the number of Japanese language learners. A key concern of L2 learners of Japanese is the risk of sounding rude in their new language environment. Intonation is one factor that can completely change the interpretation of an utterance. Nevertheless, L2 learners have a limited knowledge of Japanese intonation, such as the use of a falling tone for a declarative sentence and a rising tone for an interrogative sentence. Prosody plays an important role not only in intelligibility but also in speakers' attitudes and emotions. This study focuses on politeness as a variable in investigating possible language specific requirements for Japanese speech. Using desu, masu forms, which are polite forms introduced at beginners' level, two different scenarios, polite and non-polite, were prepared for the same sentence. Ten native speakers recorded sentences for each scenario and ten other native listeners provided politeness scores on their performance. The subject of prosodic features of polite speech has not received much attention in teaching Japanese, since perceptions of politeness can be influenced by various factors and can be difficult to objectively assess. This study identified the common prosodic features used by native speakers in polite speech, which can be used to teach L2 learners the role of these features in listeners' perceptions of politeness.
NINJAL Research Papers
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Laboratory Phonetics and Speech Science