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black ripper
Posts : 3213
Points : 3937

Honorific suffix

on Thu Aug 29, 2013 3:05 am
These are just suffixes added to names to make them sound a little more polite. They can be added to both first and last names.

Japanese people usually don't say the names of people not in their in-group (close relatives, friends) without using some kind of honorific suffix. Just calling a person by their name (without one of these suffixes) is called "yobisute" and it's consider to be pretty rude. So, they use a suffix to make it more polite.

"San" is a suffix that is considered to be not too polite and not too casual. It can be used for men or women, young or old. It is just basic politeness and is probably the most commonly used of all these suffixes. Japanese usually use it to people they don't know personally, like 'Mr' or 'Mrs'

"Sama" is a more polite version of "san". Like "san" it can be used for both men and women, young and old. Usually "sama" is used in more formal situations or when talking about someone very high in social status such as members of the Japanese Imperial Family or other VIPs. When the Japanese media refers to the Imperial Family they always use the suffix "sama". And they use this suffix to person they truly respect.

"Chan" is a more casual version that "san". It is usually used when refering to young girls or women and implies a closeness and familiarity that "san" doesn't. While it is usually used for girls in can be used for little boys or in playful cute way for some men. But, you probably shouldn't go around calling grown men "chan" and some young boys might get a little upset too. You should only use "chan" with people you know pretty well.

"Kun" is probably the hardest one for most people to understand and they usually get it wrong. Generally, like "chan", "kun" is used with respect to young boys and is more casual than "san". But, "kun" can also be used by adults to address other adults. Usually, one of the adults is of higher status ( for example: a boss) and they use "kun" to address their employees (men or women). Also, "kun" can be very polite and used respectively when refering to other members of the same organization. For example, "kun" is the expression that is often used by members of the Japanese Parliment (men or women) to address each other. So, "kun" is not just for little boys like most people think.

The suffix "shi" can also be used for men or women. "Shi" tends to be primarily used in written Japanese and has around the same degree of politeness as "sama".

is another diminutive that expresses endearment. Like "chan", it is used for babies and young children, but is exclusively used for boys instead of girls.

"Senpai" is used to address or refer to one's senior colleagues (lower rank black belts) in a school, dojo, or sports club. So at school, the students (gakusei) in higher grades than oneself are senpai. Teachers(sensei) are not senpai. Neither are students of the same or lower grade: they are referred to as kōhai or gakusei. In a business environment, colleagues with more experience are senpai, but one's boss is not a senpai. Like "doctor" in English, senpai can be used by itself as well as with a name. Due to the phonological rules of the Japanese language, although spelled senpai, the n sound turns to an m sound, thereby being pronounced sempai.
A kōhai is a junior, the reverse of senpai, but it is not normally used as an honorific; kun is used for this function instead.
Gakusei means student and is not normally used as an honorific.

Bozu - something like 'little brat'

When you refer to members in your family within your own in-group you can use the following expressions.

mother: okaasan
father: otousan
grandfather: ojiisan
grandmother: obaasan
uncle: ojisan
aunt: obasan
older sister: oneesan (came from ane...onee, nee)
older brother: oniisan (came from ani...onii, nii)
younger brother: otouto
younger sister: imouto

You can drop the "o" and change the "san" to "chan" if you want to sound really casual and informal (*obaachan is not incorrect. In fact, it's very common). Also, be careful about the long vowels in some of those expressions like "okaasan", "otousan", "obaasan", "oniisan", etc. ("okasan", "otosan", "obachan", "onichan", etc. are incorrect.)

If you are talking about your own family to someone outside of your in-group then I think you would say

mother: haha
father: chichi
grandfather: sofu
grandmother: sobo
uncle: ojisan
aunt: obasan
older sister: ane
older brother: ani
younger brother: otouto
younger sister: imouto

Tono , pronounced dono , when attached to a name, roughly means "lord" or "master". It does not equate noble status; rather it is a term akin to "milord" or French "monseigneur", and lies in between san and sama in level of respect. This title is not commonly used in daily conversation, but it is still used in some types of written business correspondence, as well as on certificates and awards, and in written correspondence in tea ceremonies. It is/was also used to indicate that the person referred to has the same (high) rank as the referrer, yet commands respect from the speaker.
When used in conversation in present day it is often used as a joke expressing an exaggeration of age. This is also commonly used in anime/manga; particularly by foreigners, old people, and people of low standing, especially in shonen anime/manga.

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