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With whom is it considered proper to use 尊敬語・謙譲語・丁重語 instead of 丁寧語?

I mean saying おいでになります・伺います・参ります instead of 行きます.

The often given example is for a service-person speaking with a customer, but what about when speaking with 先生 or coworkers?

In particular, inside a company, would it be normal to use 尊敬語・謙譲語・丁重語 with anyone older or higher in rank? It seems like that might be too excessive.

Does usage depend on factors such as context or personality?

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Your examples are 尊敬語・謙譲語・丁重語 in addition to 丁寧語, not instead of. Without 丁寧語, it would be おいでになる・伺う・参る. –  dainichi Apr 11 '13 at 5:18
    
丁重語 is not in my dictionary! –  Tim Apr 11 '13 at 15:48
    
@Tim: That can't be a very good dictionary ;). It means "courteous language". However, I had to admit, I've never really encountered it in any way that's specific or separate from the others mentioned in the question. I have a book here on my shelf on how to use 敬語, and it only covers 尊敬語 and 謙譲語, with 丁寧語 being basically assumed. In all my years of Japanese, I have never encountered a situation where 丁重語 was expected. –  Dave M G Apr 12 '13 at 1:41
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Related question about 丁重語 –  Dave M G Apr 12 '13 at 3:47
    
@DaveMG: I have just seen this but even so a belated thanks for the comment and link. FYI:I use the Apple dictionary whose sources are 大辞泉、類語例決辞典&プログレッシブ英和・和英中辞典. It has 丁重 but not 丁重吾. –  Tim Mar 1 at 1:10

2 Answers 2

It is considered proper to use 尊敬語 to refer to anyone who is 目上 to you. That includes relationships within your company, organization, or office. However, you must remember that you do not use 尊敬語 to refer to people that are part of your "in-group" when the person you're talking to is part of your "out-group". Instead, you use 謙譲語 to refer to them. If my understanding of 丁重語 is correct (I've never heard this term used before, so I may be missing the point here), then it is generally used whenever you would use 尊敬語・謙譲語.

Whether or not you use 丁寧語 is almost completely unrelated to your use of 尊敬語・謙譲語, it instead depends on your relationship with the person you're speaking to, not the status of who you're talking about. You should use 丁寧語 at work in general, especially if you're talking to someone 目上. If you're talking to someone who is 目下 to you, then you don't need to speak to them with 丁寧語 but you can.

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In particular, inside a company, would it be normal to use 尊敬語・謙譲語・丁重語 with anyone older or higher in rank? It seems like that might be too excessive. Does usage depend on factors such as context or personality?

This is very tricky even for a native Japanese, and it does vary among companies. One has to observe others and gauge what the temperature is (aka 空気を読む).

That said, in business settings, 尊敬語・謙譲語 as opposed to 丁寧語 is generally not used if you speak often with the person. This is probably because it's somewhat more cumbersome to communicate, and it also signals a distance. If you are using 尊敬語・謙譲語, you are in theory being respectful, but it also means you aren't going to have a close relationship. Therefore it's possible to offend people by using 尊敬語・謙譲語. Also, if you use overly respectful language when the situation doesn't warrant it, you can actually sound disrespectful (aka 慇懃無礼). With 丁寧語 you are generally safe.

Conversely you can offend people by using タメ口, but when you are very close to a higher ranking/older person and the person isn't very 体育会系 (i.e. cares a lot about hierarchy), then using タメ口 can bring the relationship much closer. It's all about being very observant, like many aspects of life in Japan are ;) However, with 丁寧語 you can become very close, too so it's not an issue if you have to use 丁寧語.

To recap, if you are in doubt, stick with 丁寧語. If the person is so higher ranking that you are unlikely to talk to them on a daily basis (like 3 ranks above etc.), then it should be safe to use 尊敬語・謙譲語.

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