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Coming to terms with age: Some linguistic consequences of population ageing

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Chapter Summary

Chronological age is an important measurement in human development. The basic question to be dealt with in this chapter is in how far population ageing influences the linguistic encoding of age in Japan. Japanese is known as a strongly socially encoded language that provides a rich formal repertoire for the expression of variables such as the interactants' relative status, sex, and age. Age relationships play an important part in everyday linguistic interaction in Japan and are assessed by both chronological and institutional age. The fictive use of kinship terms towards the elderly still seems to be a widespread phenomenon. One of the Japanese key expressions with regard to ageing and age is the term rōjin. The recent changes in the Japanese lexicon of age reflect a combination of universal tendencies of language change and specific socio-demographic circumstances.

Keywords: Japan's elderly; Japanese lexicon; linguistic encoding; population ageing



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