Boy or Girl? The Rise of Non-Gender-Specific Names in Japan

Ivona Barešová



One current issue concerning Japanese given names is the increasing number of names lacking gender-distinctive features in their graphic and/or phonological form. Unlike in the past, recently even some of the most popular names are given to both boys and girls. This paper explores  this  phenomenon  in  the context of the changes in name selection in the last several decades, analyzing names given to 4,567 boys and 4,806 girls born 2008–2016. Comparing these two name sets from the point of view of their orthography, length, structure, and kanji selection brought forth the main distinctive features between current male and female names. A further analysis  revealed  some  features common to  the gender-neutral names, and various aspects related to losing gender distinction. The  explanations  of  the  parents’  reasons  for  selecting the particular  name, included in the corpus, provided some insight into why some  parents  select names that do not indicate the gender of their child.

Słowa kluczowe

name selection; Japanese given names; non-gender-specific names; gender-neutral names

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