Why can't I speak in kanji? Indexing social identities through marked script use in Japanese manga

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3 Citations (Scopus)


Going beyond broad descriptions of kanji as “adult” or hiragana as “childish”, this study investigates how variant applications of these two Japanese scripts can play a role in indexing identity within written dialogue. Looking at differing standards for kanji and hiragana use throughout the dialogue in three Japanese manga (comics), the study examines the contexts where kanji-absent, kanji-light, and locally unmarked orthographic styles are used, modified, or abandoned in each text to identify the specific contexts that motivate each local orthographic style. For two of the manga, supplementary data is provided by an interview with the author. The findings show that while all three authors use kanji and hiragana in ways that reflect the scripts’ respective links to adults and children, the conventions serve to index features the author treats as defining of particular identities rather than character age. Furthermore, comparison of the orthographic practices across the three manga shows each author putting their own mark on broadly recognized orthographic styles, and in doing so participating in the maintenance, circulation, and development of language ideologies rather than just images of each script.
Original languageEnglish
Article number100297
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalDiscourse, Context and Media
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2019


  • Japanese script
  • Indexicality
  • Kanji
  • Language ideology
  • Comics
  • Manga


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