In Expressing Silence: Where Language and Culture Meet in Japanese, Natsuko Tsujimura discusses how silence is conceptualized and linguistically represented in Japanese. Languages differ widely in the specific linguistic and rhetorical modes through which vivid depictions of silence are achieved. In Japanese, sounds coming from insects, small animals, ocean waves, and leaves all evoke silence, and onomatopoeia plays an important role in simulating silent scenes. These linguistic mechanisms mediate the perception of the symbiotic relationship between sound and silence, a perception deeply embedded in the Japanese cultural experience. Drawing from a wide variety of rhetorical samples, Expressing Silence brings the tools of both linguistic and cultural analysis to bear in examining the remarkably rich array of representations of silence in Japanese language and culture. She finds that depictions of silence through language cannot be understood without exploring what sound or silence mean to the speakers. She analyzes a cluster of sounds in nature and onomatopoeic vocabulary for verbal portrayals of silence, consistent with a cultural pattern of practices that value sensate and affective reactions.
Natsuko Tsujimura is professor emerita of East Asian languages and cultures and adjunct professor emerita of linguistics at Indiana University Bloomington.
Chapter 1: Expressing Voids
Chapter 2: The Sound of Silence
Chapter 3: Mimetics and Silence
Chapter 4: Epilogue
About the Author
"Silence is simply absence of sound, right? Oh, my, no. In a world where the speed of texting and the intensity of brash words are the rule of the day, Natsuko Tsujimura, the renowned scholar of Japanese linguistics, dares to look at serenity and tranquility. She takes us by the hand into a profound and intense investigation that gently—even lovingly—embraces linguistics, rhetoric, philosophy, spirituality, and, ultimately, aesthetics. If you want to truly grapple with the meaning and function of mimetics in general and in Japanese, in particular, in literature and in everyday language, in the present and in the past, this book will help you. But it goes far beyond that. The examples are generous and chosen with a keen eye and ear. You can see the insects, not just hear them. You can reassess the culture-bound nature of language, while not overlooking individual variation. You can come to understand silence in a multimodal way that may actually help you to enjoy poetry, music, painting, and ordinary conversation in a richer way. It may even help you to live a more peaceful life."
"This engaging book adds up to nothing less than a 'rhetoric of silence' for Japanese—a linguistically and contextually detailed, culturally-informed exploration of the expressive repertoire that Japanese has evolved for evoking and interpreting a rich variety of silences."