The strategic use of speech style shifts in Japanese radio


  • Lidia Tanaka La Trobe University


Speech styles reflect not only the relationship between speakers but also the formality of an interaction. In many languages, Asian in particular, speech style is encoded in a complex pronominal and honorific system. Which speech style speakers choose depends on social factors such as age, status, type of relationship, and the situation. Speakers are expected to choose the appropriate style, particularly in formal situations, because the use of incorrect style can incur social consequences.

However, momentary shifts of speech styles have been observed in casual and formal Japanese interactions even though all social factors remain the same. This study looks at such speech style shifts used in radio phone-in programs and demonstrates that they are strategically used to conduct the program in an informative and engaging way. These findings provide a different perspective for viewing speech style: not as an exclusive encoder of social relationships, but as psychological and discourse functions particular to ‘institutional’ broadcasting settings.



How to Cite

Lidia Tanaka. (2020). The strategic use of speech style shifts in Japanese radio . Working Papers in Culture, Discourse and Communication, 4. Retrieved from