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Aizuchi (Japanese: 相槌 or あいづち, IPA: [aizu͍t͡ɕi]) is the Japanese term for frequent interjections during a conversation that indicate the listener is paying attention and/or understanding the speaker. In linguistic terms, these are a form of phatic expression. Aizuchi are considered reassuring to the speaker, indicating that the listener is active and involved in the discussion.
Aizuchi are frequently misinterpreted by non-native speakers as the listener showing agreement or fully comprehending what is being said.
Common aizuchi include:
- "hai", "ee", or "un" (yes, with varying degrees of formality)
- "sō desu ne" (I see.)
- "sō desu ka" (is that so?)
- "hontō", "honto", "hontō ni", "maji", or (in Kansai) "honma" (really)
- "naruhodo" (I see, that's right)
These can be compared to English "yeah, yeah", "yeah, ok", "got it", "yep", "uhuh" or "go on", but are more pronounced and important in Japanese.
Business relations in particular can be hampered by non-native speakers assuming that their Japanese counterparts have been agreeing to their suggestions all along, when in reality the Japanese have only been saying that they follow or understand the suggestions – "got it", not "agreed".
Aizuchi can also take the form of so-called echo questions, which consist of a noun plus "desu ka". After Speaker A asks a question, Speaker B may repeat a key noun followed by "desu ka" to confirm what Speaker A was talking about or simply to keep communication open while Speaker B thinks of an answer. A rough English analog would be "A ..., you say?", as in: "So I bought this new car"; reply: "A car, you say?".
- Nodding, Aizuchi, and Final Particles in Japanese Conversation, Volume 39, Issue 7, July 2007, Pages 1242-1254, Journal of Pragmatics