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Lost in keigo? The language of diplomacy in Japanese-Iberian encounters around 1600

Thursday 19 May 2022, 5.30PM

Speaker(s): Birgit Tremml-Werner (Linnaeus University)

Co-organized with the Centre for Renaissance and Early Modern Studies and the York Asia Research Network. All are welcome to attend.

Politeness in its various forms is considered an important part of Japanese language and society and as stumbling blocks for intercultural learners. What role did politeness and the correct use of it in formalized communication and everyday life affect foreign visitors in late sixteenth and early seventeenth-century Japan? 

This talk will explore Iberian-Japanese encounters between 1590 and 1610, a period of intense contact with and expanding foreign communication involving different languages, scripts, beliefs, and thought systems. Within acts of communication and interpretation, politeness, and the adaptation of certain standards of communication, as well as social and cultural conventions and cultural codes affected the daily lives and the achievements of the parties involved. Drawing from linguistic studies, politeness research and global intellectual history, Tremml-Werner will introduce three different scenarios: (1) studies and language aids about polite language and politeness, (2) politeness in formal encounters, for instance in audiences with Japanese officials, and (3) politeness in written communication. With this multi-layered approach Tremml-Werner hopes to nuance implicit narratives of cultural misunderstanding as part of European trade in Japan, while discussing crucial aspects of diplomatic history, missionary linguistics and aspects of expansion in Asia more generally.

Location: Vanbrugh College V/N/123 Lecture Room