Honorific speech 敬語 is crucial to speaking Japanese, and it is very intricate. Its usage is mandatory in many situations. There are three broad categories of honorific speech in Japanese. You have been used to polite speech for a long time, so this is not going to be the focus of this lesson.
Respectful speech is speaking to or of a person whom one wishes to respect. It is not used in reference to oneself. Humble speech is speaking to someone on what you or your in-group are to do. Also, respectful speech is associated with 2nd and 3rd person whereas humble speech is associated with 1st person.
Culture Note: You should also be aware that using 敬語 to someone that one is usually cordial and casual with will cause division and a sense of separation.
Nouns are made honorific by the prefix 御～ which has three possible readings.
御～ is read as お～ when attached to native words as well as a number of 漢語 (Sino-Japanese words).
Motivations for using お～ with 漢語 is being a 和製語 (word created in Japan). It's nearly impossible to know whether an 音読み phrase was made in Japan without being told. However, a great hint is that the majority of these words relate to things of the modern era.
Yet another means of knowing whether お～ is used with a 漢語 is if its sense as a 漢語 has been lost in the general public and has essentially become Japanese (due to the lack or loss of a native equivalent).
Some words are somewhat difficult to read. For instance, お腹 is read as おなか and お上 is read as おかみ. As you can see, all words are listed. So, what about 世話? This is 当て字, meaning せわ is native and the spelling blurs this fact.
1. お‐ is always incompatible with 'long words' several morae long, and it is also note used with words that start with o
2. A rarer but more honorific form of お～ is おん～. Examples include 御自ら and 御母上.
I owe her a lot for everything.
I would appreciate it if I receive your scolding.
Please go in front.
She was told that [they] would like her to bring along her nieces as companions to the small children of the deceased lady. .
From 姨捨 by 堀尾辰.
Word Note: Though お方 now refers politely to a gentleman/gentlewoman, in the past it was used to refer to a noble woman or daughter, as is the case in this setting.
Since his sin is so grave, you cannot rest his soul no matter how great of a sutra you evoke.
From 吾輩は猫である by 夏目漱石.
Word Note: お経 is an interesting exception. 経 is a Sino-Japanese word of Chinese origin and does not take ご, which we are about to get to. This must mean that the word is treated as if it is a native word, just like other old loans such as 馬.
Spelling Note: Because the novel from which this example comes from is so old, spelling conventions are not quite the same. ありがたい, when it is written in 漢字 today, is typically spelled as 有り難い. As you can see, the 漢字 are flipped.
Although a phrase may have an honorific suffix in it, it doesn't mean that it is respectful. One example is お里が知れる, which means "to reveal one's upbringing". This refers to Japanese dialects and is felt to be a rude expression. A much more polite way is なまり･方言・アクセントで出身が分かる.
As another example of words with お that are not honorific, consider the word お化け. This is an alternative way of saying 化け物. Both refer to Japanese-style ghosts/monsters. お化け can also refer to something just really abnormal. There are a lot of important お化け that you should know about. Important ones include 轆轤首, 天狗, and から傘お化け.
お + 外来語
What if you wanted to make a loanword like ワイン or コンピューター? You add nothing. However, there are several exceptions. In relation to drinks, おビール is questionable, but some people, particularly women, do use it. It is also appropriate in the business arena. There is no problem with using お酒, お茶, or お冷 because they are 'Japanese' words. Likewise, although you can say お洋服, you cannot say おスーツ or おコート.
おタバコ is not that common unless you're in a service industry. Similar words that are odd unless you're in a secretarial position include お車 and お薬 despite being native words. おズボン would also be seen in the trades or by women who frequently add お to more words than men typically do such as おジュース. おソース is on the same lines as おしょう油.
A decent amount of people also say things like おトイレ. It is strange to a lot of people, though. Interestingly, お手洗い is proper Japanese.
お + 漢語
As mentioned above, there quite a few words that are from Chinese or based on Chinese morphemes that take お. Consider the following examples.
|お電話||Phone||お時間||Time||お砂糖||Sugar||お宅||Home||お礼状||Thank you note|
Ironically, お宅 does also mean "nerd". In honorifics, though, it seriously refers to someone else's home.
*: All of these words happen to be used to mean "bill", but there is huge disagreement on how they should be used. おあいそ is largely felt to me rude in Tokyo, but it is frequently used in West Japan. The reason why some say it's rude is because it should be what a business should say to a customer. Meaning, it is they who may have not shown affability to you as they should have. Thus, a customer referring to this is rude. Others, though, think the opposite and that the customer should use it.
お会計 is the word of choice for younger generation. It is the word most likely to be on your receipt at any given place. However, there are those who think only the business side should use it because it is referring to actual accounting. お勘定 is rather neutral in being used by the customer, but the percentage of young people who use it is dropping.
**: This word can also be ご返事, which is deemed to be the original form and always proper. However, over 60% of people no longer use it. So, it is fair to say that there is no practical difference between the two. Be aware of sticklers.
ご～ is used only with 音読み compounds that are often considered formal and typically have a native Japanese word equivalent.
1. The adverb ゆっくり may also be used with ご～. *
2. 主人 means "master" but "(someone's) husband when ご～ is attached.
3. There are times when adding ご results in Double Keigo (二重敬語). For instance, in ご芳名 (your good name), ご令息 (son), ご逝去 (death), the nouns themselves are already honorific. But, because they have for whatever reason been reanalyzed as being not honorific enough, ご is always attached to them.
I'm very sorry to have put you into any trouble.
Would you be so kind as to give me instruction on tea ceremonies?
Thank you very much for giving me corrections.
み～ is used with nouns particular to religion or grand importance. Although rarely seen, it is even possible to use おみ～ and おんみ～.
|Comes From||New Meaning|
|Palanquin||御輿・神輿 （みこし）||Portable Shrine|
|Liquor||御神酒 （おみき）||Sacred Wine|
|Rock of spirit||御影石||Granite|
HONORIFIC NOUNS WITHOUT 御
There are other means to show respectful and humble speech in nouns. For respectful nouns, 貴～ is apart of many respectful Sino-Japanese words. However, most, with exception to 貴社 "your honorable company" are rarely used. Death especially has several respectful variants.
Several humble nouns begin with 粗(そ), 拙(せつ), and 弊 (へい). All three characters have negative/humble connotations. 愚（ぐ）～ is a humble prefix added to the 音読み of characters used for family. For representing respectfulness in terms of family, the suffix ～上（うえ） is used. Or, you may use 賢（けん）～.
|Noun||HON.|| H or R?|
| Production; work||著作||拙作||H|
INTERPRETING THE CHART: R = Respectful & H = Humble
1. 御所 refers to the "old imperial palace".
2. 詔 refers to an "imperial decree".
3. Whenever a word refers to royalty, that said variant is not used in reference to regular people.
4. 粗品 may also mean "little gift". This would still be 書き言葉的.
5. 粗 means "crude/course/inferior" and these meanings are implied in the humble words whether the thing(s) in question are as such.
6. Sometimes using the right word can be tricky. For instance, whenever people take entrance exams for college (入学試験) and companies (入試試験), people these days are starting to want to use 御校 and 御社 respectively instead of 貴校 or 貴社. The problem with this is with 御 being read as おん, it may sound quite unnatural in the spoken language if it were not for abnormal situation in which one is in front of many people you don't know. Although 貴校 and 貴社 may get used in letters between groups in an almost equal mentality, the most important thing in 敬語 is still to be conscious overall of ways to speak politely. Thus, it is quite OK to use those words.
HONORIFIC VARIANTS FOR DEATH
|崩御 （ほうぎょ）||The honorable death of royalty.|
|卒去 （そっきょ）||Death of king or queen or a high ranking court official.|
| 逝去 （せいきょ）||A more honorific word for the passing of an individual.|
| 薨去 （こうきょ）||Death of an imperial member or high court.|
|薨御 （こうぎょ）||The death of a crowned prince or minister.|
Word Note: It is unlikely that you will see some of these words, but there is always that chance. "To die" is generally a euphemism for several other verbs such as 死亡する (to decease), 死去する (to part), and 亡くなる (to pass away)".
HONORIFIC PHRASES WITH HONORIFIC PREFIXES & SUFFIXES
There are also many set phrases that include the prefixes お～ and ご～ and the honorific endings ～さん and ～さま.
|お気の毒さま||I'm very sorry|
|ご面倒さま||Could I trouble you|
|ご苦労さま||Much obliged for hardship|
FORMAL SINO-JAPANESE WORDS
Some nouns are naturally formal because they are Sino-Japanese. These examples are by no means it, and you have seen many already. You will also see more in coming lessons through example sentences.
|Tomorrow||明日 （みょうにち）||This year ||今年、本年 （こんねん、ほんねん）|
|Breakfast||朝食 （ちょうしょく）||Day after tomorrow||明後日 （みょうごにち）|
|Next year||明年 （みょうねん）||Day before yesterday||一昨日 （いっさくじつ）|
| Last night||昨夜 （さくや）||Today||本日 （ほんじつ）|
|The other day||先日 （せんじつ）||Around...||約 （やく）|
Word Note: Some of the words are typically heard as well. But, when it comes down to deciding what variant of a word you should use when speaking respectfully, you would choose these words.
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner, in fact, have 4 sets of expressions based on politeness with each set using a different verb for "to eat".
|P|| 朝御飯（あさごはん）|| 昼御飯（ひるごはん）||[晩・夕]御飯（[ばん・ゆう]ごはん）||食べる|
Word Note: 夜ご飯 is becoming more acceptable as more people are now eating dinner later in the evening.
1. When do you use お-?
2. When do you use ご-?
3. How do you use adjectives in honorific speech?
4. What are the two types of honorific speech?
5. Make a sentence in honorific speech with the copula.
6. Make a sentence in honorific speech with an adjective.
7. Make a sentence in honorific speech with a noun.
8. Show how a noun may change meaning when used with an honorific prefix.
9. Explain the usage of honorifics in your own words.