I'm doing some research on gender-specific phrasing in the Japanese language. As a student, though, my understanding is still quite limited. I was wondering, generally speaking, will you ever hear (or how often do you hear) women use traditionally male particles like 'zo' or 'ze.' Have you ever heard men use particles like 'na no' or 'kashira'? That's pretty specific, but are differences like these noticeable in everyday conversation? Is it more or less obvious when speaking with friends?

If you have time to answer my questions, I'd really appreciate it. Either way, thank you very much!

Hello and thanks for an interesting question.  Yes, you do sometimes hear women using more "masculine" particles and vice versa, but as with other languages, doing so tends to reflect on the person's personality and/or sexuality.

I'd say it's more common for women to use masculine language than vice versa, but it would tend to make the speaker seem tough, rugged, rebellious if not actually butch.  I sometimes use those particles with my kids when we're playing and they want me to be the bad guy from a Power Rangers-type TV show... and they laugh!  It sounds like something that a villain or a tough guy would say.  My 6 year old son also uses those particles when he is trying to sound tough... it sounds kind of unnatural for a woman or a child to use them, but it sounds like they are TRYING to be tougher or more masculine.  It wouldn't sound strange for someone like a biker chick to speak that way.  ;)

For men to use women's language is less common and pretty much limited to gay or genderqueer people, or actors portraying them on TV.  For a man to use language like the examples you mentioned... it makes a pretty clear statement that he identifies as something other than a typical heterosexual male.  I have never heard a straight man use "kashira" for example.

Women in general tend to use more polite, grammatically correct language even when speaking with their friends.  I unconsciously copy my husband sometimes and catch myself sounding more "masculine" (i.e. tough, casual, impolite) than I intended.  For a woman, it makes her seem less sophisticated, more slangy, but does not necessarily make her sound like like a lesbian or transgendered.  For a man, using feminine language DOES have that connotation and therefore is pretty much only used by "out" gay men, who are fairly rare in Japan compared to the West.

I hope that helps.  If you have any more questions or if that wasn't what you were looking for, let me know.



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I have a BA in Japanese and International Relations, and have lived in Japan continuously for the past seven years. I rarely use English in my daily life anymore and have managed to do a decent job of integrating into my Japanese community. I own a home and have two children in Japan, have personally held student, working, and spouse visas and am currently in the process of applying for Japanese citizenship. I feel that I am able to answer a wide variety of questions based on my education and personal experience.

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