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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Evidentiality and Politeness in Japanese


According to language socialization theory, language learning does not occur in isolation but is intimately related to the process of becoming a competent member of the target language society (Ochs & Schieffelin, 1984). To become competent members of society, language learners must learn, among other things, how to display their knowledge appropriately, using epistemic markers (evidentials) effectively. In this paper, the importance of epistemic markers in language socialization is discussed from the perspective of the second language classroom, the broader goal of the study being to more fully understand what second language learners must acquire in order to become competent members of the target language community. Through analysis of a conversation among Japanese teachers outside the classroom, this paper investigates the linguistic resources for constituting epistemic stance in Japanese. Like English, Japanese evidentiality can be marked with adverbials and idiomatic phrases. In addition, Japanese is rich in sentence-final particles which directly index interactive contexts. The function of epistemic markers in Japanese discourse is investigated, focusing on how epistemic markers, such as sentence-final particles, adverbials, and hedges function to reduce speaker responsibility.

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