The way the Japanese speak

- Developing teaching materials for education of spoken Japanese based on contrastive studies among Japanese, English and Chinese -


While talking, the Japanese often suck air through their teeth or in between their tongue and the alveolar fridge/palate but are generally very reluctant to admit it. Contrary to their belief that only male adults suck air, it is found that in reality, many people, for example, some young female speakers, suck air, as exemplified in the following movie. Let us tentatively term this action as "air-supping."

An example of air-supping by a female student
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Male: yappa Shindai-ni kuru-no-ga Osaka-no hito-ga ooi-kara-ka-na?
(This is because Kobe University students are mostly from Osaka, right?)

Female: [sss] so-nan-ka-naa. demo nanka Osakaben-to Kobeben-no chi nee, hanashi-te-ru-no kii-te-temo yoku waken-nai.
([sss] I am not sure. I cannot distinguish between the Osaka and Kobe dialects from their talks.

In many cases, Japanese air-supping is a meaningful communicative action; however, its meaning differs from those observed in English and Chinese. Japanese air-supping acts as a filler, politeness marker, and hedge.


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