Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Fall 2016

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors



First Advisor

Kira Hall

Second Advisor

Andrew Cowell

Third Advisor

Michiko Kaneyasu


In this thesis, I explore Japanese feminine language and its various indexical meanings in the popular fictional manga and anime series Sailor Moon. Feminine speech in Japanese society, often discussed in the literature as Japanese Women’s Language, is ideologically associated with a fragile and soft-spoken woman, commonly summed up to index a stance of powerlessness. However, efforts to abolish negative stereotypes of femininity in Japan have emerged in two ways. First, women may tend to use neutral or masculine speech forms and ignore the expectation to perform femininity. Second, there are efforts to “re-ideologize” feminine language as indexing a stance of power, which may be observed by a woman’s choice to use and contextualize feminine linguistic forms in a new way.

Since these diverse uses of feminine speech are not recognized in the ideology that surrounds Japanese Women’s Language, I aim to illustrate the various indexicalities of Super-Feminine Sentence Final Particle wa in Japanese fictional language. Questions to be considered include the following: Are there efforts for re-ideologizing Japanese Women’s Language and is this being portrayed in media? Is the dynamic use of natural feminine linguistic expression mirrored through different mediums in popular culture? What other stances besides fragility and soft-spokenness are portrayed through use of feminine linguistic variables? I will be examining in particular the Japanese feminine sentence-final particle wa and the contexts in which it is uttered in the popular Japanese series Sailor Moon. The language used in this anime is the standard Tokyo dialect. In this series, this dialect is also shared by minor characters who exhibit what is called yakuwarigo ‘role language’, a linguistic variety that is said to be modeled after various linguistic stereotypes of regional identities, elderly Japanese men, foreigners living in Japan, and finally, gender (Teshigawa & Kinsui 2011). My analysis reveals that even though the female stereotype is portrayed when both yakuwarigo 'role language' and Japanese Women’s Language are used in media, many other qualities besides normative femininity are also indexed by main characters’ uses of feminine language forms, such as the Sentence Final Particle wa.