Maji ssu ka? Isn't that honorific? Ambiguity of New Japanese honorific ssu

Nobuaki Akagi, Mio Bryce, Hiroshi Suzuki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Japanese honorifics used by younger generations are dynamic sites of tensions and discrepancies due to disagreeable conceptions and interpretations among different generations and social groups. It has become a social issue in modern Japanese society often described as keigo no midare ‘disorder in honorific’. This article examines the increased use of ssu by young Japanese speakers as a substitution of the polite form copular desu. This honorific expression plays a role as a relatively new polite form to convey ambivalent emotions to express respect and concurrently their desire to seek affinity and engagement. By analysing Japanese fictions, popular cultures and online-blog comments on the use of ssu, we demonstrate diversity in the social perception of this new honorific.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)505-523
Number of pages19
JournalPragmatics and Society
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 20 Nov 2020


  • Japanese honorifics
  • language change
  • politeness
  • social criticism
  • social identity
  • youth language
  • Social criticism
  • Language change
  • Politeness
  • Youth language
  • Social identity

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