The decline in the use of sibling names

31 May 2024
Room D1

The decline in the use of sibling names

The author’s research across the year found that the use of sibling names, such as ‘oniichan (elder brother)’ and ‘oneechan (elder sisiter)’ in conversational use and as address forms have declined dramatically among younger Japanese primary school children. In Japanese, siblings are categorized according to age and gender; however, age boundaries are no longer clearly defined. This trend has also overturned Suzuki’s (1973) common belief that “Japanese families address each other from the viewpoint of the youngest member of the family” (e.g., a grandmother calls her daughter “mother”), which has long been held as a pragmatic principle in Japanese language studies. However, this is a common belief that has been overturned. In this study, the prevailing changes in the use of family names among Japanese families is clarified through interviews with women in their 40s, 50s, and 60s who used family names for their own childhood, inquiring how they used sibling names for their children from a mother’s perspective (when they were raising their own children) in addition to researching the issue of children addressing their elder brothers and sisters in the modern context. It is assumed that many women of the 40s, 50s and 60s raised their children by adopting just their names without using ‘oniichan’ and ‘oneechan’, although they themselves had grown up using ‘oniichan’ and ‘oneechan’. Furthermore, the differences in democratization of employing sibling names among the regions of Japan will be revealed.



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