The Project


Japanese differs from many languages in that while it lacks a grammatical gender, like the le or la in French, it has implied gendered language in an everyday social context. For example, words are not gendered, but if someone says 「腹減った」(はらへった hara hetta “I’m hungry”)instead of 「お腹すいた」(おなかすいた onaka suita), they’re associated with the male gender because of the “rough” connotation associated with the former phrase. This is all despite the fact that neither phrase is inherently gendered. This appears in many aspects of Japanese, from phrasing, to particles, to pronouns and honorifics.

But like all things gender-related, gendered language in Japanese is nothing more than a social construct developed over time, with roots in “court women’s speech” (nyooboo kotoba 女房言葉) during the fourteenth century, then popularized after the standardization of the Japanese language during the Meiji Restoration into the turn of the twentieth century. Despite the manufactured history of a “women’s” or “men’s” language, many people today simply recognize it as an innate difference between men and women and their speech styles, rather than a learned habit.

For more detail on the history and features of gendered language in Japanese, see the References page for additional readings. Also check out the Methods page, where we discuss specific linguistic features and how we utilized them in our analysis.


Naturally, a second language learner of Japanese could create an awkward scenario by using language that is not associated with their presented gender. Paige did this many times by using linguistic features in Japanese that were associated with “male” speech, and was corrected for some things but not others. When watching older movies or listening to older female speakers, she would hear linguistic patterns that didn’t show up in more contemporary shows, even with a difference of only 20 years. She was curious about how gendered language use could be changing in Japan, and after enlisting Gina, this research project was born.

The People

Gina D'Amore

Gina is a senior Linguistics and Psychology major at Pitt. She is interested in the intersections between the cognitive sciences, sociology, and education. She also finally discovered that she likes coding, now, in her last semester at Pitt and hopes to make use of this insight

Paige Bruckner

Paige is a current junior Linguistics major at Pitt, and is looking to work with computational linguistics or natural language processing in the future. She wants you to listen to all the songs mentioned on the website because they are bangers.