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Short-form can be formal after all?

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Short-form can be formal after all?

Postby Shiroisan » Sun 03.25.2012 1:46 am

I always thought that short-form was to be used to represent casualness, intimacy or rudeness.

However, today I was reading a formal article provided by my textbook that says something in fine print at the bottom of the page that I never noticed before.

"*Note that this passage is in short form, which represents formality rather than casualness, as expected in journalistic and scholarly articles."

Now until I noticed that, I figured that the only reason this formal article was written in short form was so that we learners could have the opportunity to practice reading more short form entries. However, this was a real article!

Is there anyone knowledgeable who could elaborate on the formality of standard long-form speech vs. the supposed potential formality of short-form? It would be greatly appreciated.
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Re: Short-form can be formal after all?

Postby SomeCallMeChris » Sun 03.25.2012 2:23 am

I don't know what you were reading in particular, but I think it's not unusual for journal articles (as well as fiction, of course) to be written in である form, which is to say, the plain form except that である is used in preference to だ. If something is written だ as the copula and still called formal, that would be news to me.

Edit: Oh, well, there goes that notion. Yomiuri is written with だ rather than である, and obviously a leading newspaper is not being 'casual'. http://www.yomiuri.co.jp
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Re: Short-form can be formal after all?

Postby yangmuye » Sun 03.25.2012 2:55 am

Well, I don't know what exactly do you means by short form and long form, I assume you mean 常体 and 丁寧体(です・ます体).

です・ます体 are usually considered as 話し言葉, as it MUST be used when there is at least one listener. It shows that speaker's attitude is affected by the listener and he dare not to speak out his idea directly.
I don't what's the case in English, but In Chinese and Japanese, 敬 usually relates to 畏.

Formal articles, especially thesis and laws don't use です・ます at all.
As for だ and である, both are used for 書き言葉, but である is preferred for objective statement.

More and more books change to です・ます体, but there are still many which do not.
Writers write in です・ます体 when they want to share their views with the virtual listeners actively.

More over, formality and respect are two different things.
As a kind of 話し言葉, です・ます体 can be casual or formal, so is だ体. For example, you can see both んです(=のです) and んだ(=のだ).
である体 is less frequently used in 話し言葉.
Last edited by yangmuye on Sun 03.25.2012 4:15 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Short-form can be formal after all?

Postby SomeCallMeChris » Sun 03.25.2012 3:19 am

yangmuye wrote:Well, I don't know what exactly do you means by short form and long form, I assume you mean 常体 and 丁寧体(です・ます体).

In English we usually call 常体 'plain form' and 丁寧体 'polite form', but this is not universal, and I believe you understand Shiroisan's terms correctly.
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Re: Short-form can be formal after all?

Postby furrykef » Sun 03.25.2012 1:17 pm

SomeCallMeChris wrote:Edit: Oh, well, there goes that notion. Yomiuri is written with だ rather than である, and obviously a leading newspaper is not being 'casual'. http://www.yomiuri.co.jp

I've heard that newspapers prefer だ to である for brevity. Brevity's not so much of a concern online as it is in print, but old habits die hard.

Academic writing isn't so concerned about brevity, so they use である everywhere.
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Re: Short-form can be formal after all?

Postby jimbreen » Sun 03.25.2012 6:47 pm

furrykef wrote:Academic writing isn't so concerned about brevity, so they use である everywhere.


I recall the first time I went to an academic conference in Japan, and got a mild surprise when the written papers in front of me were all である, but the speakers used ます/です (and in cases でございます) throughout. I knew about 話し言葉 conventions, but I'd assumed that reading a paper would be, well, reading a paper.

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Re: Short-form can be formal after all?

Postby Shiroisan » Sun 03.25.2012 8:33 pm

Thank you for the enlightening replies so far. Just to note, the article I referred to used だ、not である。
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