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Feminist linguistics partly revolve around a concept of with job titles associated biological gender.

In English and German one would associate the neutral word "doctor" with a man: it is the "socio-cultural gender" independent of biological/sexus and grammatical gender/genus, the latter being non-existent in Japanese, but essential for e.g. German.

Does this association due to e.g. historical reasons exist in Japanese?

I am aware that the distinction of male and female language usage is central to communication in Japanese, wheras in English it is not as important or doesn't even exist. Therefore I also wonder whether there are job title variations with the same sexus used differently by men and women, or variations with different sexus used the same way by both genders (like in English)?

Regarding the latter, English turns towards more neutral terms, while German tends to be inclusive with the result of incorrect inflection. For Japanese, I only found that there are 和製英語 that make any division (オーエル and サラリーマン).

To be clear, I am also aware that in Japanese, just as in English and German, neutral but masculine-read terms like 兄弟 that include two variations but are one variation themselves exist (generic masculine). This question is about job titles specifically.

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  • Are you asking about these things?: “看護師" vs. "看護士”
    – aguijonazo
    Aug 30, 2022 at 8:12
  • This also seems related: Are there any issues with sexism in the Japanese language?
    – aguijonazo
    Aug 30, 2022 at 8:13
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    The word for “doctor”, 医師, is gender-neutral to begin with. I don’t particularly associate it with either gender. However, there is this word 女医. That it exists might be an indication that some people assume 医師 is male. I do assume 俳優 (“actor”) is male. I see no pejorative sense in 女優 (“actress”), though. I see them as two different things. I guess it’s because the gender (they play) itself is an important part of the profession, unlike doctors, whose job is to cure people whether they are men or women. But this is opinion-based.
    – aguijonazo
    Aug 30, 2022 at 9:16
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    I remember once my teacher mentioned (a version of) this quiz, which is not really a quiz in Japanese (since we don't think a doctor is a man).
    – sundowner
    Aug 30, 2022 at 12:31
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    And we don't assume 神 is male...
    – aguijonazo
    Aug 30, 2022 at 13:17

1 Answer 1

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First, I would like to point out that "male and female language" is a rather tunnel-visioned way of understanding the richness of Japanese role languages. Japanese is a language where five different members of the same family may have five different ways of saying "Hey I'm hungry" or "I know that!". Although there are "samurai speech", "tough guy speech", "wise old man speech", "charao speech" and so on, there is no such thing as "male language" used by all males. The speaker's gender is only one of the many contributing factors.

Whether there are job title variations with the same sexus used differently by men and women

Do you mean something like "This job has to be called A by males but B by females"? I don't think there is such a job. Maybe you have some misconceptions about "male and female language". Still, some jobs are referred to in several different ways, and some are preferred by certain social groups. For example, a medical doctor may be called 医師, 医者, お医者, お医者さん or お医者様. All of these sound differently, and the frequency of their use varies with age, region, social status as well as sex—of course, something like this is very common in any language!

variations with different sexus used the same way by both genders (like in English)

The vast majority of job names/titles in Japanese are fundamentally gender-neutral, and has no gender-specific forms. But there are exceptions.

  1. The "main" noun has always been gender-neutral, but a gender-specific version is also widely used whenever necessary (医師/女医♀️; 魔法使い/魔女♀️; 忍者/くノ一♀️; 神/女神♀️; 皇帝/女帝♀️; 警官/婦警♀️)
  2. The main noun is technically gender-neutral, but is strongly associated with a certain gender, so gender-specific version has to be used appropriately (王(♂️)/女王♀️; 俳優(♂️)/女優♀️)
  3. The job was normally called with a clearly gender-specific name in the past, but a gender-neutral version has become a norm (看護婦♀️→看護師; 保母♀️→保育士; 家政婦♀️→家事手伝い; スチュワーデス♀️→客室乗務員; 鉱夫♂️→鉱山労働者)
  4. The job is only for one gender for cultural/religious reasons, so no gender-neutral version is available (巫女♀️; 力士♂️)
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  • >Do you mean something like [...]? Yes, that was what I meant. It seems to be a complex topic. Thank you for the elaborate answer. I understand that my question was very tunnel-visioned. Sep 2, 2022 at 18:16

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