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I'm having trouble putting this question into words, especially short enough to use as the question title, basically I'm confused about what the term "keigo" applies to:

  • Is it just the addition of honorific, humble, polite, respectful elements to what otherwise might be called a "non keigo" utterance?
  • Or is it a term which covers the whole process or set of rules governing when to apply and not apply such elements?

So is it possible to contrast vanilla plain Japanese to keigo Japanese? Where is the line drawn? When a single honorific, humble, polite, or respectful element is added to an utterance does it become a keigo utterance? To make an utterance totally non keigo do I have to go so far as to remove the o- prefix from mizu? Is keigo a continuum or an optional extra?


EDIT to clarify the difference between this and my previous keigo question:

The previous question was to find out if "keigo" was a technical/linguistic/grammatical term or just a general term. Now that I know it's a technical term I'm trying to pin down with this question what it means and when it should and shouldn't be used.

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I think this is a rather hard question to answer, since you'll find people using the term keigo in both ways. I prefer to use in the first sense, but it's practically inevitable that Keigo training manuals will also teach about the second one. –  Boaz Yaniv Jun 15 '11 at 9:04
    
An answer that it's definitely used both ways would be perfectly acceptable - many if not most words have multiple senses or uses that can blur and overlap. Of course an answer with a reference might be best of all. –  hippietrail Jun 15 '11 at 11:31
    
I'll post it just because no else put anything in, but I still don't know if it's really much of an answer. Then again, it might be the best answer you can have to this question. –  Boaz Yaniv Jun 15 '11 at 18:23
    
Can you clarify the difference from your previous question by editing the question? –  Tsuyoshi Ito Jun 15 '11 at 19:00
    
@Tsuyoshi. English composition has always been my weak point sorry. My previous question was to find out if "keigo" was a technical/linguistic/grammatical term or just a general term. Now that I know it's a technical term I'm to pin down what it means and when it should and shouldn't be used. Please let me know if 1) the difference btw the questions still isn't clear to you and 2) if you can suggest ways to make it clear to other readers generally. –  hippietrail Jun 16 '11 at 0:13

1 Answer 1

I think this is a rather hard question to answer, since you'll find people using the term keigo in both senses. I prefer to use in the first sense, but it's practically inevitable that keigo training manuals (especially those directed at foreigners) will also teach about the second one, since knowing keigo without knowing when and where to apply is kinda pointless.

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Are there some references we can check that verify one sense over the other or that both senses are valid? –  hippietrail Jun 16 '11 at 4:57
    
@hippietrail: What do you mean by 'verify' here? –  Boaz Yaniv Jun 16 '11 at 6:59
    
A book or website on Keigo or honorifics or Japanese linguistics, or a dictionary perhaps, that defines what is and what is not keigo. Which of the senses do such resources concord with? –  hippietrail Jun 16 '11 at 7:12
    
A dictionary of Japanese linguistics perhaps? Not that I know of any, but there probably should be at least one (in Japanese of course). I think it would concord with the first sense, but this is just a guess. –  Boaz Yaniv Jun 16 '11 at 7:52

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