Word Wise: All in the Mind 意識

By Richard Medhurst

The mind is a mystery. It’s hard to draw a firm line between the domains of knowledge, emotion, and opinion. This uncertainty is reflected in language, including the Japanese word 意識, which covers a range of situations related to the mind. The English “conscious” is a good starting point for considering this term. If an accident victim is described as 意識不明, this can be rendered as “unconscious,” but 意識 can also refer to being “conscious” in the sense of being aware. For example, 意識を高める means to “raise awareness,” whether of a product or a political issue, while 問題を意識する is to “be aware of a problem.”

With a phrase like ターゲット層を意識したデザイン, we move from simply knowing to actively considering. This is a design produced with the target market or audience “in mind.” If an athlete says 金メダルしか意識しない, this could be translated as “I’m only thinking about the gold medal.”

Noun phrases provide a number of different senses or feelings, such as 目的意識 (a sense of purpose), プロ意識 (a sense of professionalism), 危機意識 (a sense of crisis), and 罪の意識 (a feeling of guilt). One other common compound is 意識調査, which can be thought of as being an “attitude survey,” although in practice it seems more natural to me to shorten to “survey” in such cases as a “customer survey” or “employee survey.” In a political context, this is an “opinion poll.”

If you have any thoughts or feelings on 意識, please comment below or on the Facebook group page (member approval required).

(Illustration: Stuart Ayre)



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