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.
漢字 to learn this week: 尊、謙、径、譲、寧、釣、苗、検、拙、弊、詔、稿、著、査、朱
Nouns are made honorific by the prefix 御- which has three possible readings.
御- is read as お- when attached to native words or 和製語 (words created in Japan from 音読み. It is 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. Another way to figure out is whether a Sino-Japanese has a native equivalent. If not, then it most likely takes お-.
1). When used with お-, はら becomes なか.
2). 世話 is 当て字 and a native word.
3). A rarer but more honorific form of お- is おん-. Examples include 御自ら, 御母上, etc.
4). お宅 is also used as an insult equivalent to "nerd".
5). 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.
I know her a lot for everything.
I am bestowed with your scolding.
Please go in front.
ご- is used only with 音読み compounds that are often considered formal and typically have a native Japanese word equivalent.
Notes: The adverb ゆっくり may also be used with ご-. *主人 means "master" but "(someone's) husband when ご- is attached.
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|
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".
5). 粗 means "crude/course/inferior" and these meanings are implied in the humble words whether the thing(s) in question are as such.
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.|
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）|
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|
Next Lesson → 第89課: Honorifics III: Adjectives & the Copula
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.