Portland State University. Department of World Languages and Literatures
Term of Graduation
Date of Publication
Master of Arts (M.A.) in Japanese
World Languages and Literatures
1 online resource (vii, 192 pages)
Okay is one of the most commonly used words in the English language. It is also one of the most commonly borrowed English-origin loanwords across all of the world's languages. Although there is a wealth of research on the communicative functions of English okay, there is comparatively little research on the many borrowings of the word in various other languages. In order to address this gap in the literature, this study explores the differences in discourse/pragmatic function between the English word okay, and the Japanese borrowing of the word, okkē.
Extensive research in discourse analysis, pragmatics, and conversation analysis shows that English speakers use okay to accomplish a variety of discourse/pragmatic functions. The functions of okay established in the relevant literature are: (1) A marker of transition. (2) A structural marker in monologic speech. (3) A marker of irony or sarcasm. (4) A tag question. (5) A method of seeking or giving permission. (6) An assessment. (7) A response token.
In order to determine which of the functions listed above can be accomplished by Japanese speakers when they use okkē, this study analyses audio and video data of Japanese native speakers playing an augmented reality game. Evidence from the analysed data shows that Japanese okkē is used by Japanese speakers to accomplish the following functions: (1) A marker of transition. (2) A marker of irony or sarcasm. (3) An assessment. (4) A response token.
Additionally, it was found that the way in which Japanese speakers utilize okkē as a marker of transition is different in some cases from how English speakers utilize okay as a marker of transition. In group settings among Japanese speakers, the group members sometimes each repeat okkē tokens one person after another in order to indicate group consensus of readiness to transition. Other noteworthy differences found between okay and okkē are that (1) okkē tends to appear as the only word within a turn more often than okay. (2) okkē is used as a response token only to a completed utterance, while okay can be used as a response token to either a complete or incomplete utterance. (3) Unlike okay, okkē is sometimes used outside of any ongoing talk to mark physical action transitions such as walking to stopping.
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Fodor, Peter Janos, "The Discourse/Pragmatic Functions of Japanese Okkē" (2021). Dissertations and Theses. Paper 5868.