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When writing on Lang-8, I often end up writing both formal and casual versions (for practice), with labels. I also wish occasionally to discuss formality, and thus need words to talk about the different levels.

With formal language, 丁寧語{ていねいご} is pretty universal. (Keigo is another story, but I think I understand its terms pretty well.) However, over time, I have tried (and been corrected many times) to use various words for casual language, and never found the right one.

  • タメ語{ご}: I was told this was often used as a gambler's slang and that it was a bit too rough to use in average casual language.
  • 友達言葉{ともだちことば}: No one has ever told me anything is wrong with this, but it is frequently corrected to various other terms below.
  • 普通体{ふつうたい}: Seen this one only once, and I've never even heard of it before that.
  • くだけた表現{ひょうげん}: Was given this one today in place of 友達言葉.
  • カジュアル: The loanword for "casual", and I've been told to use it a couple times.

What is the difference between the language represented by these various words? Are some more acceptable than others? Are some more formal?

And most importantly, how do I know which of these words to use to talk about casual, friendly language?

  • I am not sure everyone understands タメ語 even if it is the word I use. Only use 敬語 and タメ語, there should not be any confusion. – oldergod Mar 31 '15 at 1:41
  • カジュアル is used more and more frequently and I have heard タメ口 more than タメ語. Saying that the consensus in the office seems to be タメ語. You could always say, 友達同士に使う言葉 although that is more of a explanation. カジュアル means casual as it does in English. タメ語・タメ口 also mean informal language (and will often be used to explain your lack of formality in your speaking) 田中さんは上司だから、タメ口を使うところじゃないよ! – The Wandering Coder Mar 31 '15 at 2:40
  • @TheWanderingCoder The wiki entry is for タメ口 rather than タメ語, so maybe that is more common? You can also use the word 常体 to talk about (e.g., speaking in) plain form. – Kimball Mar 31 '15 at 6:04
  • Another word you might consider is 気安い. – snailboat Mar 31 '15 at 6:14
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It depends on what you're specifically trying to say.

Linguistics

If you're trying to specifically contrast 「です」・「ます」 vs 「だ」・「る」, then you have a few options:

  1. Use 「敬体」 and 「常体」.

    (Note that they refer to the style (文体), not specific words like, say, 「丁寧語」 does; that is, 敬体≒丁寧語を用いた文体. If you are being anal about it.)

    However, if you use these, no one will understand you except linguists or very well-read people, which should make sense, given that it's not normally useful to contrast this specific aspect of the language and the words are not particularly intuitive.

  2. Use 「丁寧体」 and 「普通体」.

    They are an, in my opinion, slightly more intuitive pair (which also refer to 文体s); however they are just as uncommon and also currently only in used by linguist-types AFAIK.

  3. Use 「ですます体(or 調)」 and 「だ体」.

    「ですます体」 is probably the most intuitive word that refers to 敬体・丁寧体, and is pretty common. 「だ体」 is also pretty intuitive, yet I feel like I rarely see it used compared to 「ですます体」.

  4. Use 「丁寧語」 and ☹.

    This is this most common of all the technical words; that said, it is still a technical word (and its technical meaning is slightly different from 「丁寧体」 as earlier described, but no one really cares about this to be honest :-). Understood by virtually anyone.

General Concepts

If you want something that people would understand, I'd personally recommend 「敬語」 and 「タメ口」 -- there's no one that won't understand that pair.

In common speech, they mean "respectful speech" and "casual speech" respectfully; basically they are as general as the English translations sound. So, 「タメ口」 doesn't just mean using 「だ」 but also contractions like 「ちゃう」 , endings like 「な」, 呼び捨て, etc, etc.

(Note, there are some people that will complain that 「敬語」 refers to specifically 謙譲語 and 尊敬語. But in common speech it really does just mean "respectful speech" as a general concept.)

Regarding the other things you listed:

  • 「タメ語」 basically means the exact same thing as 「タメ口」, though I think it's slightly less common.
  • 「くだけた表現」 doesn't really refer to a style but to an expression if we're trying to nitpick. However, 「くだけた口調」 seems like something worth discussing. I feel the difference here is that it's pointing out a different aspect of style than 「タメ口」 to me -- I feel like a sentence using です・ます could be described as くだけた口調, as long as, well, it's くだけた (relaxed/informal) -- like say 「そうですねー!僕も行きたいです^^」. I'd be more reluctant to call that タメ口 but would call it くだけた口調. (This is purely my opinion.)
  • 「友達言葉」 seems pretty similar in meaning to 「タメ口」 to me -- I just think it's less common an expression.
  • 「カジュアル」 is just an adjective -- if you said something like 「カジュアルな口調」 I think it'd basically mean the same as タメ口. Has the benefit of being pretty intuitive like 「くだけた」.

tl;dr

I'd use 「タメ口」 almost always. Possibly use 「だ体」 or 「常体」 if I'm talking linguistics.

  • Mostly based on my non-native intuition, so take with a grain of salt. I figured you deserved an answer though. – Darius Jahandarie May 29 '15 at 4:08
  • I agree with your use of タメ口. I have heard it *almost* exclusively. Except for when this question was originally asked and I posed the question to the office. – The Wandering Coder May 29 '15 at 5:25

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