You would think that sentence structure would matter in songs and poems, especially when they have directed or dedicated lyrics, e.g. to a stranger, the president, someone of higher status.

Alternatively, is 丁寧語, 尊敬語, or 謙譲語 even remotely usable in lyrical art?

I am speculating that this is related to polite language impeding the relaying of emotion. There's a somehow related article discussing if 警護 makes communication difficult, which is another question on its own.

  • There are many examples of songs that use です/ます in the lyrics. Plain form is probably just preferred because it's shorter.
    – rintaun
    Nov 20, 2013 at 9:28
  • Mostly because songs are considered literature? "Polite form" only matters when you are talking; anything written would traditionally be completely in plain form.
    – ithisa
    Nov 20, 2013 at 12:05
  • Also, even things like Christian praise songs to God use plain form (although with archaic grammar) instead of mouthfuls of keigo or something.
    – ithisa
    Nov 20, 2013 at 13:18
  • 1
    For an example of a song with polite language, see 「モルヒネ」 by 椎名林檎.
    – user1478
    Nov 20, 2013 at 16:42
  • @rintaun It would be great to know how the convention converged, but I think that would be a linguistic question, or is it?
    – Helix Quar
    Nov 21, 2013 at 3:29

1 Answer 1


Wild speculation here, but the Japanese polite conjugations seem especially unsuitable for singing. です and ます sound weird with a fully-voiced す taking a full mora, yet Japanese poetry is very strict with moras - almost always, for example, っ and ん do take a full note in songs.

In addition, they take up lots of space, which is really at a premium with Japanese songs, as the verse form (5/7/5...) was influenced by the much more concise Classical Chinese language (albeit with a twist; CC poems usually are constant 5 or 7 lines); in fact when fantranslating anime songs into English, one big problem seems to be how little semantic content the lyrics have, due to the low information rate of Japanese (words are longer): I would often need to make up meanings, such as by translating 白い雲 as "dazzling white clouds" etc.

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