Is Korean Really a Listener-Responsible Language like Japanese?: A Contrastive Analysis of Discourse in Apologies between Korean and Japanese


  • Sumi YOON Kanazawa University, Japan



Speaker responsibility, listener-responsibility, Japanese, Korean, apology


According to Hinds’ typology of languages on discourse level, Japanese and Korean are both considered listener-responsible languages, whereas English is classified as a speaker-responsible language (Hinds, 1987). However, in conversation, Yoon (2009) demonstrated that Korean should be classified as a speaker-responsible language based on her contrastive analysis of daily conversations between married couples in Japanese and Korean, where address terms and fillers are used as contextualization cues (Gumperz, 1982) to convey a speaker's intention to the interlocutor metacommunicatively. The purpose of the present study is to show that Japanese is listener-responsible, while Korean is a speaker-responsible language on the level of conversational communication. In order to test the hypothesis, surveys and recordings of real conversations of Japanese and Korean people were conducted and analyzed.

The informants in the present study consisted of four groups: Japanese university students who live in their own country, Japanese university students who live in the U.S., Korean university students who live in their own country and Korean university students who live in the U.S. A Discourse Complete Test (DCT) was completed by Japanese and Korean university students to compare the differences in speaker responsibility in apologies. The results suggest that Korean should be classified as a speaker-responsible language for understanding in conversations, since Korean speakers produce many more utterances and convey more information per utterance to the interlocutor than Japanese speakers. Furthermore, it is found that the responsibility for the understanding of utterances correlate with daily use of American English, especially in the case of Japanese university students.


Download data is not yet available.


Beebe, L. M., Takahashi, T., & Uliss-Weltz, R. (1990). Pragmatic Transfer in ESL Refusals. In R. C. Scarcella, E. Anderson, & S. C. Krashen (Eds.), On the Development of Communicative Comoetence in a Second Language (pp. 55-73). New York: Newbury House.

Blum-Kulka, S., House, J. & Kasper, G. (1989). Cross-Cultural Pragmatics: Request and Apologies. Norwood, NJ: Ables.

Brown, P. & Levinson, S. (1987). Politeness: Some universals in language usage. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Gumperz, J. J. (1982). Discourse Strategies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hinds, J. (1987). Reader Versus Writer Responsibility: A New typology. In U. Connor & R. B. Kaplan (Eds.), Writing Across Languages: Analysis of L2 Text (pp. 141-152). MA: Addison-Wesley.

Hinds, J. (1990). Inductive, Deductive, Quasi-inductive: Expository Writing in Japanese, Korean, Chinese, And Thai. In U. Connor and A. M. Johns (Eds.), Coherence in Writing: Research and Pedagogical Perspectives Alexandria (pp. 89-109), VA: Teachers of English to speaker of Other Languages Inc.

Hong, M. (2006). Kansyato syazaihyogenno nikkanhikaku [A contrastive study of expressions of thank and aplogy between Japanese and Korean]. Nihongogaku [Japanese linguistics], 25(6), 84-89.

Ide, R. (1998). ‘Sorry for your kindness’: Japanese interactional ritual in public discourse. Journal of Pragmatic, 29, 509-529.

Ikeda, R. (1993). Syazaino taishyo kenkyu: Nichibe taisyokenkyu [A contrastive Study of apology: A contrastive study between Japanese and American]. Nihongogaku [Japanese linguistics], 12(12), 13-21.

Jin, S. (2004). Nikkanniokeru syazaihyogenno ikkosatsu [A study of apology expressions in Japanese and Korean]. Nihongo nihonbunka kenkyu [Studies of Japanese Language and culture], 14, 23-35.

Kim, Y. (1996). Ilponekyoyukuy kwancemeyse pon hankwukinuy kamsawa sacoyphyohyeney kwanhan kochal [The expressions of apology and Thank in Korean the view from Japanese education]. Ileilmwunhak [Japanese language and literature], 6, 213-227.

Kondo, F., & Taniguchi, H. (2007). A Comparative Study of Percetions of Apology Stategies between Japanese and Americans. Gendai Syakaigaku [Modern Sociology], 9, 131-154.

Naotsuka, R., & Sakamoto, N. (1981). Mutual understanding of different cultures. Tokyo: Taishukan.

Ogoshi, M. (1993). Shazaino taisho kenkyu: Nikan taisho kenkyu [A contrastive study of apology: A contrastive study between Japanese and Korean]. Nihongogaku [Japanese linguistics], 12, 29-38.

Takigawa, Y. (2006). Misunderstandings in Intercultural Communication: Different Strategy in Making the point in a story Between Japanese and Americans. Osakajogakuindaigakukiyo [Memoirs of Osaka-Jogakuin-University], 3, 15-23.

Tao, L. (2007). The Construction of Semantic Formulas on Apologizing Expressions n the Chinese. Ningensyakaikankyookenkyuu [Human-Socio Environment Studies], 14, 19-38.

Yamamoto, M. (2003). Kanshanoshazaihyogen ‘sumimasen’; ‘sumimasen’ga kanshato shazaino ryohono imio motsuwak [Two meaning of “Sumimasen”: Apologies and Thankse. Shinshudaigaku ryugakusenta kiyo [Journal of International Student Center, Shinshu University], 4, 1-13.

Yoon, S. (2008). Comparison between Korean and Japanese address terms as a contextualization husband-wife’s dialogue. Inquiries into Korean Linguistics, 3, 377-387.

Yoon, S. (2009). A Contrastive Study of Metacommunicative Functions of Address Terms between Husband and Wife in Korea and Japan. Current Issues in Unity and Diversity of Languages: Collection of the Papers Selected from the International Congress of Linguists (CIL), 18, 3819-3831.



23. 01. 2012



Research articles

How to Cite

YOON, S. (2012). Is Korean Really a Listener-Responsible Language like Japanese?: A Contrastive Analysis of Discourse in Apologies between Korean and Japanese. Acta Linguistica Asiatica, 1(3), 73-94.