Tohoku Japanese in Gone With the Wind

From: Mie Hiramoto. 2009. Slaves speak pseudo-Toohoku-ben: the representation of minorities in the Japanese translation of Gone with the Wind. Journal of Sociolinguistics 13(2): 249–263.

This study provides linguistic evidence that the use – and non-use – of Standard Japanese (SJ) in literary translation indexes social marginality in two societies (Japan and Southern American), and is based on socio-economic distribution rather than actual linguistic distribution. The main focus of this study is the investigation of the intertextuality and the transduction of the speech of the minority characters (namely, male and female slaves and poor whites) in the Japanese translation of Gone with the Wind (GWTW). While it is certain that the minority characters’ use of non-Standard Japanese – which strongly resembles the stigmatized Toohoku dialect, or Toohoku-ben (TB) – is a translation of the original non-Standard English (SE), the assignment to them of something resembling a particular regional Japanese dialect reinforces linguistic inferiorization of the slaves and poor whites, as well as TB speakers. The use of this pseudo-dialect is an important element in the linguistic representation of marginal characters and likewise underscores the salient marginality of TB in Japanese language ideology.

Two examples follow.

Sukaaretto-joosama, arigatoogozeemasu-da.
Sore wa, washi nimo wakatte-iru-da.

Yes’m [Miss Scarlett], thankee kinely, Ma’m.
Ah knows it …
NOTES: Polite verb ending gozaimasu pronounced as gozeemasu and followed by plain copula da. Washi ‘I, me’ is not commonly used by females in SJ (although it is in some regional dialects). Miss Scarlett uses the feminine form atashi.

Sungari (shingari) no hoosha desuda, Sukaaretto-joosama.
Zutto ushiro no hoodesudayo.

Back wid de las’ cannon, Miss Scarlett.
Back dar!
NOTES: TB “zuuzuu-ben” fails to distinguish su and shi so susu ‘ash’ and shishi ‘lion’ are homophones, and shingari ‘rear guard’ sounds like sungari. Polite copula desu followed by plain copula dayo.

The author wrote her dissertation on Japanese regional dialects spoken by immigrants to Hawai‘i, where Tohoku dialect features were stigmatized and Chugoku dialect features became the local standard among immigrants. Immigrants from Tohoku, esp. Fukushima, were far outnumbered by those from Chugoku, esp. Hiroshima.

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Filed under Japan, language, migration, slavery, U.S.

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