Why is the こ prefix for pronouns used in derogatory speech in the presence of the other person, like:




Or maybe the question should not be why it's not こ〜, but rather "why not そ〜", as in referred speech I hear あの野郎, or あいつ, but never そいつ.

In comparison what would その or そいつ sound in these examples? Would そ〜 give more nobility? Recognition of the other person, while こ〜 makes them more subordinate?

  • 2
    There is a difference between using a certain word TOWARDS someone and using it IN THE PRESENCE of someone. Hint: Who are you really talking to? @Hideki has a good answer below. Oct 6 '15 at 16:11
  • 1
    @l'électeur That should be a part of the answer! It is not obvious how it works in Japanese. For example in my mother tongue it is possible to use possessive to show contempt (especially alongside diminutive) like "no, my (little) professor, you are wrong". That might roughly correspond to including professor in こ〜 "area" (although it does not, according to other answer).
    – macraf
    Oct 6 '15 at 23:36

In a conversation, こ〜 (これ、この人、こいつ and so on) points to something / someone near the speaker. そ〜 points to something / someone near the listeners, and あ〜 points far from both. But こ〜 and そ〜 don't point to the speaker / listeners themselves.

Now, what if you think / murmur to yourself about the listeners in the middle of the conversation? You are now both the speaker and listener. People who once were the listeners are now just a topic of your thought, so you point to them by using こ〜。 For example,


When you use こ〜 to point to the listeners, you are pretending to be speaking to yourself which conveys nuances such as anger against the listeners.

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