Interlocution and writing stylistics in shopping malls in Japan

Author: KIDA Tsuyoshi (Dokkyo University)
Speaker: KIDA Tsuyoshi
Topic: Semiotics and Semiology
The CALA 2021 General Session


This paper will focus on the writing styles of verbal transcriptions seen in urban commercial spaces in Japan to discover a new type of performativity hidden behind these signs and thus show a change of market strategy in contemporary society. Based on the recent advancements in sociolinguistics of writing, market sociology, and urban anthropology, the study will illustrate a new type of performativity. A language can have its own writing system, and the Japanese language, three systems and the Latin alphabet. In addition, there are “calligraphic styles”, some of which are learned by school children, belonging to literacy in a broader sense. Beyond its primary function to convey a digital information, each writing style works as a language register. Since the seminal work of Austin (1962) refined by Searle (1969), the notion of three-way performativity (locutionary-illocutionary-perlocutionary) had been applied to marketing semiotics, but has come back to academic debates when the anthropology of writing had revisited it (e.g. Fraenkel 2006), with the emergence of new scriptural practices in social networks services in the current era, Web 2.0. Such an evolution represents a change of marketing behavior and strategy towards a logic of participation that prevails over persuasion (e.g., Beasley & Danesi 2002, Umiker-Sebeok 1987). The change of language practice and consumption behavior in society gives rise to an evolution of the classical scheme of performativity, which has become a four-way structure by integrating “interlocutionary force” (Aïm & Billiet 2015). Now, participative marketing can be seen in public urban spaces too. In fact, sign owners-producers can exploit such a marketing strategy through a choice of writing styles, and options are available due to the diversity of Japanese writing system. Selecting a style is an expression of intention and marker of targeting specific audiences by the message sender. Thus interlocutionary relationship is hidden in writing stylistics. This paper will analyze Japanese writing styles in shopping spaces in urban areas, in considering modulations of writing style as interlocutionary devices.


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Keywords: Interlocution, performativity, writing, public space, urban anthropology, marketing semiotics