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Teineigo vs jishokei in emails 2017/11/8 20:12
A question to the Japanese out there:

The other day my husband (Italian) wrote me an email as part of his Japanese homework and used 丁寧語 (ます・です), which is simply the form he is most comfortable with as he is studying at about N4 level. When I, German, replied I used 辞書形 in the assumption that within a couple one speaks in plain form so also emails would be in plain form (and well, to make him exercise his Japanese grammar). When he reviewed my answer with his teacher, she told him that in Emails it should be ます・です. In SMS, Line... 辞書形 however would be fine.

At this answer I kind of wondered, if you speak with your husband / wife (close friends, relatives...) in plain form, do you then really use ます・です form when you write him/her an email?

So I would like to hear the experience of the Japanese (or experienced foreigners) out there, what you are doing. Thanks!
by LikeBike  

Re: Teineigo vs jishokei in emails 2017/11/9 17:30
I don't exactly understand 辞書形 as it seems to be a term used only when teaching Japanese language to foreigners, but, yes, we have the habit of writing emails and postal mails and any other written form in teineigo even among married couples, best friends and family, who speak more casually when face to face with each other.

By the way, the theme of keigo (including teineigo) has popped up on this forum many times, and as I've written in the past it's a bit misleading to explain that "keigo" is "formal speech". I wouldn't say it's an incorrect interpretation, but keigo is more of a "standard" expression. Then why do you call it "keigo" (respectful language)? Because you're supposed to respect all human beings no matter what. Only your close ones will still love you no matter how casually or roughly you speak to them.

So I guess we sort of unconsciously think, "I'm sitting down to write something instead of just having words pop out of my mouth. So I'm going back to basics and use some standard language."

Back to the topic, this was the first time I've seen the term 辞書形 so correct me if I'm having the wrong impression, but it would be weird to me if married couples are speaking to each other in forms used in dictionaries.

For example, when I look up バイク on a dictionary, it says ガソリン エンジンを取り付けた自転車。Now, if my husband were to ask me "What's a バイク?" I'm not really sure if I would answer, "ガソリン エンジンを取り付けた自転車。" I would more likely say, "まあ、ガソリンとかエンジンを取り付けた自転車だね。" So I might use expressions like these on my emails sometimes to make it sound sort of real. But "ガソリン エンジンを取り付けた自転車。" sounds too plain and cold to me to use to your hubby. Anyway, it's common for me to write "ガソリン エンジンを取り付けた自転車ですよ。" or something, even to my husband.

Hope it helps.
by Uco rate this post as useful

Re: Teineigo vs jishokei in emails 2017/11/9 17:34

Whoops, someone's gonna point out that you don't attach gasoline to a bicycle. You know that's not what I meant!
by Uco rate this post as useful

Re: Teineigo vs jishokei in emails 2017/11/9 18:10
Thanks for the answer and explanation why you use teineigo in written! Kind of makes sense.

Regarding 辞書形 that's how we foreigners are being taught to call the dictionary form of verbs. Something like たべるinstead of食べます。An other expression used in class is "plain form", which encompasses actually more than jishokei only. jishokei really would only be 食べるBut not食べない.

I am not really sure what Japanese call the "plain form", i.e. all those forms that are not keigo or teineigo, but 食べる、食べない、食べた,... I ever only came across the expression "plain form".

by LikeBike rate this post as useful

Re: Teineigo vs jishokei in emails 2017/11/9 19:02
In our case (myself Japanese, my husband is non-Japanese and is quite experienced in the local language), when I write short e-mail messages to him (and he to me), yes I tend to use the plain/dictionary form for the verbs, like (when I am headed home) 駅に着いたよ。スーパーから何か買って帰るものある? ("I'm at the station. Anything I should get from the supermarket?" ...what a domestic talk, but anyways).

By the way when we talk, depending on the day we might talk in English or in Japanese, or even mixed, but when we speak in Japanese the verbs are also mostly in plain/dictionary form, though I certainly use "-deshou?" instead of "-darou?" for sentence endings.

What his teacher said might also depend on what kind of e-mail text he was supposed to write - business e-mails, friends' e-mails, etc. Also it depends on his proficiency, as students usually start off on polite speech, and it would be easier for beginners.

To Uco-san,
I've been trained as a language teacher so I'm familiar with those names. Verbs ending in "-ru/u" are called dictionary form, and when you use them as main verbs in sentences that is called "plain speech," and those ending in "-desu/masu" are called polite (or desu/masu) form, and when used polite speech (teinei-go). Kei-go (honorifics) is respectful, humble, etc., expressions, so that's one notch politer.
by AK rate this post as useful

Re: Teineigo vs jishokei in emails 2017/11/9 23:48
Thank you both for your explanations on jishokei. I did get the gist of it from the internet, but being unfamiliar to the term, I couldn't fully grasp the contents.

I ever only came across the expression "plain form".

I've never come across the Japanese equivalent of that expression either. I've heard people use the term "futsuu-kei" and more casually people so-call it "tame-guchi". But in reality, we use the expression "da/dearu-chou" as opposed to "desu/masu-chou". For example, I deal with editors on a daily basis, and we say things like 原稿の文体は「です/ます」調ではなく「だ/である」調でお願いします。

I think this is also because not all people have the same understanding of the term 敬語 (or of 普通語 or 辞書形 for that matter). My understanding from repeatedly learning so at schools in Japan is that 敬語 consists of 丁寧語、尊敬語、謙譲語 and the difference between these three has nothing to do with the grade of politeness. But some people have a different understanding, which is fine with me.

By the way, in ancient times people wrote quite differently from how they spoke. For example, it is said that people didn't actually talk like how it was written in novels of the Heian period such as 源氏物語 . The older the era, the bigger the tendency. For example, our grandfathers may have written postal mail with terms like 候 (sourou), but they would never verbally talk like that.

Perhaps for many people, email, which was one of the first form of correspondence when we saw the arrival of the internet age, carries on that tradition. Meanwhile, newer and shorter means of correspondence like mobile phone texting tends to be closer to how you really speak. Or at least, I gather that that was sort of what the OP's husband's teacher was trying to say. Like, "Watch your email language, because the other party may not be sharing the same tone, yet."

To begin with, things like texting and social networking media has a whole different format which includes illustrated (and even animated) icons, so sometimes it's even difficult to follow tradition in that format.

Just my 2 cents.
by Uco rate this post as useful

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