Making Sense of Intra And Inter-Speaker Variations in Kobe Women’s Interview Discourse over 30 Years

Dr Lidia Tanaka1, Prof Kaori Okano2

1La Trobe University, Bundoora, Australia, 2La Trobe University, Bundoora, Australia

This paper examines the discourse of non-tertiary educated working class women in Kobe in ethnographic interviews that Okano has conducted since they were high schoolers in 1989. It identifies inter and intra-speaker variations over time in selected linguistic features; and explores alternative ways to understand these variations, by analysing linguistic and sociological data in combination. We can understand such variations at least partially as being influenced by critical life events (e.g., marriage, divorce, childbirth, employment, further study, moving to other regions), and as individual speakers’ deliberate attempts to project a particular personae (e.g., professional woman, good mother, close friend) and influence the nature of their conversation/ relationship with the interviewer.  The significance of this study lies in explaining linguistic variations of the same individuals over 30 years in combination with ethnographic and sociological data. By examining the interview discourse of these Kobe women, it contributes to the limited amount of Anglophone sociolinguistic research on non-standard Japanese (e.g., Okamoto, 2008). It also makes an innovative contribution to Japanese dialectology by studying pragmatic or stylistic aspects rather than phonology or syntax


Lidia Tanaka is currently an Honorary Associate, in the Department of Languages and Linguistics at La Trobe University, where she taught in the Japanese program for more than twenty years.

Her research interests are in language and gender, and language in communicative interactions such as radio programs, television interviews, parliamentary sittings, and dyadic interactions. Her publications include journal articles such as ‘Communicative stances in Japanese interviews: Gender differences in formal interactions’, Language and Communication, book chapters such as Language, gender and Culture [In F. Sharifian (Ed.) The Routledge Handbook of Language and Culture.] and is the author of Gender, language and culture: A study of Japanese television interview discourse (John Benjamins, 2004). She is currently working in an ARCD (2018) project “ Thirty Years of Talk”.

Kaori Okano, PhD, is a Professor in Japanese/Asian Studies in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, La Trobe University. She researches social inequality (minoritized social groups) and education, multicultural and antiracist education, the politics of eating at school, and the longitudinal study of life course. She is currently engaged in ARCD project, ‘Thirty years of talk’. Her recent publications include: Discourse, gender and shifting identities in Japan (2018, with Maree), Rethinking Japanese Studies: Eurocentrism and the Asia-Pacific region (2018, with Sugimoto), and Nonformal education and civil society in Japan (2016).


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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