As has often been noted, in Japanese society much is made of the in/out group distinction. The way you relate to, talk to, and consider people depends to a great extent on whether that person is part of your group or, conversely, outside of your group.
These groups can be as simple as your family, but also your college club, a company, etc.
Today we will look briefly at the appropriate way to describe someone. This depends on your relationship to the person you are talking about.
If, for example, you are talking about your own mother to a neighbor, you would use the word はは (haha), which means "mother." If the neighbor was talking about the same person--your mom--he would would say お母さん (oka-a-san). You are talking about a person in your group; he is talking about a person not in his group.
Below is a list of terms for various people, and which to use depending on the relationship of the person you are referring to. The first example, on the left, is how you describe a person in your group (e.g., your own father), the second is how you describe someone outside of your group.
Husband: 主人 (shujin) ; ご主人 (go shujin)
Wife: 妻 (tsuma) ; 奥さん (okusan)
father: 父 (chichi) ; お父さん (oto-san)
mother: (see above)
child: 子供 (kodomo) ; お子さん (oko-san)
parents: 両親 (ryoshin) ; ご両親 (go ryoshin)
妻は元気です (tsuma ha genki desu)。奥さんはどうですか (okusan ha dou desu ka)。
My wife is well. How is your wife?
Note: when you address your mother, for example, directly, you call her お母さん (oka-a-san). And father should be お父さん (oto-san).
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Thursday, April 10, 2008