Opinions on Honorific speech in Japanese

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"Keigo" redirects here. For the given name, see Keigo (given name).

The Japanese language has many honorifics, parts of speech which show respect, and their use is mandatory in many social situations. Honorifics in Japanese may be used to emphasize social distance or disparity in rank, or to emphasize social intimacy or similarity in rank.

The system of honorifics in Japan is very extensive, including various levels of respectful, humble, and polite speech, and it closely resembles the honorific systems of the Korean language and, in some elements, Chinese. It includes both special vocabulary and special grammatical forms.

Honorific speech is often longer, sometimes much longer, than more direct speech. Some extreme but not uncommon examples include the following.

When asking a question: the first is casually between friends, the second is a junior person asking a superior in a formal meeting:

聞いていい?
Kiite ii?
Ok to ask (a question)?
聞かせていただけると嬉しいのですが。
Kikasete-itadakeru to ureshii no desu ga.
I would, however, be delighted if I may be permitted to ask (a question).

When asking for cooperation: the first is usual and polite, the latter is very formal, but often found in writing, especially posters or flyers.

御協力下さい。
Go-kyōryoku-kudasai.
Your cooperation, please.
御協力の程お願い申し上げます。
Go-kyōryoku no hodo o-negai mōshiagemasu.
We respectfully request the favor of a measure of your cooperation.

This latter example includes two honorific prefixes, nominalization of a verb (for formality), a respectful form, and two humble forms.


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