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Journal ArticleDOI

Tongues-tied: The making of a "national language" and the discovery of dialects in meiji Japan

01 Jun 2010-The American Historical Review (Oxford University Press)-Vol. 115, Iss: 3, pp 714-731
About: This article is published in The American Historical Review.The article was published on 2010-06-01 and is currently open access. It has received 11 citations till now. The article focuses on the topics: National language.
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Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: In this paper, the international language Esperanto exploded onto the scene in Japan, establishing a community of speakers and practitioners which has persisted to the present day and which was long the largest non-European national Esperanto movement in the world.
Abstract: In 1906, the international language Esperanto exploded onto the scene in Japan, establishing a community of speakers and practitioners which has persisted to the present day and which was long the largest non-European national Esperanto movement in the world. On the face of it this was an unprecedented and unexpected event in Japanese history. However, this article demonstrates that it was the culmination of a rich history of thinking (and implementing) ideas about Sekaigo (‘world language’) during the Meiji period. This intellectual tradition is an important and overlooked dimension of Japanese language debates – existing scholarship has focused on the creation of a standardised national language but, by writing international language back into the historiography, Japan’s ‘linguistic modernity’ is revealed as a more complex and multi-faceted phenomenon. Different international languages, including Mori Arinori’s English language proposal, treaty port pidgins, and planned languages including (but not limited to) Esperanto, reveal how the need for more effective transnational communication was seen as an emergent problem fundamental to modernity and modernisation, and one potentially as amenable to rational reforms and new intellectual developments as was national language.

5 citations


Cites background from "Tongues-tied: The making of a "nati..."

  • ...…by a greater proportion of the Japanese people.5 Not only did this involve streamlining a legacy of complex literary styles, it also involved the relegation of regional variation to the status of dialects and the elevation of the Edo/Tokyo vernacular style as a national standard (Shimoda, 2010)....

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Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: The authors provide a detailed overview and analysis of studies of the Japanese script reform debates that utilise contemporary works describing the origins and development of language problems and language rights issues, while considering the possibilities for future inquiries involving transnational and post-national aspects of script reform, whilst reflecting on the conspicuously gendered and ethnic dimensions of contemporary Japanese language policy-formulation itself.
Abstract: The transformation of the contemporary Japanese writing system stemmed from the simultaneous political and cultural problematizing of so-called kokugo (national language) and kokuji (national script). Debates surrounding the structure and function of the written form of Japanese played an ongoing role in Japanese language reform proposals and policy planning initiated between the mid-1860s and early 1990s. Despite the long history of the debates and the large body of literature treating them, a comprehensive review of the scholarship dealing with the various dimensions of Japanese script reform is currently unavailable. This article provides a detailed overview and analysis of studies of the Japanese script reform debates that utilise contemporary works describing the origins and development of language problems and language rights issues. The article subsequently considers the possibilities for future inquiries involving transnational and post-national aspects of script reform, whilst reflecting on the conspicuously gendered and ethnic dimensions of contemporary Japanese language policy-formulation itself.

2 citations

01 Jun 2018
TL;DR: In 1914, the novelist Natsume Soseki published his novel Kokoro as discussed by the authors, which incorporated themes of isolation and detachment into the tragedy of the main character Sensei, and became one of Japan's earliest and greatest modern Japanese writers.
Abstract: In 1914, the novelist Natsume Soseki published his novel Kokoro. Incorporating themes of isolation and detachment into the tragedy of the main character Sensei, Kokoro solidified Soseki as one of Japan’s earliest and greatest modern Japanese writers.1 Yet more than their themes made Soseki’s novels modern. By 1914, writers like Soseki used a simple, colloquial style of writing which radically differed from the more complex character-based system used by writers even thirty years prior. What fueled this change? Many point to the language reform movements of the Meiji Era, especially the genbunitchi and kokugo movements. These language reforms attempted to pioneer a new Japanese, one united and tailored for a modern world. Although they had a far-reaching effect in their own period, the long-term impact of these movements is more difficult to assess. Academics and politicians were most receptive to the calls for change, often leading the campaigns themselves. However, those in other circles had different, occasionally hostile attitudes towards the movements. Those involved in literature usually disliked the idea of script reform that would render their mastery of old styles obsolete. Educators in rural regions, though open to Western influence, resisted the attempted suppression of their local dialects. Due to the debates in academia, politics, literature, and education, the general public ended up accepting some of the ideas of the movements while rejecting others. Despite the attempts of the intellectuals and politicians to impose their language reforms upon the populace, the genbunitchi and kokugo movements only successfully modernized language once writers, educators and, most importantly, the general public adopted some of the reforms and drove a bottom-up linguistic modernization.

2 citations

Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: Writing by people diagnosed with Hansen’s disease and living in Rakusei-in as a site of affective communities in colonial Taiwan is introduced, looking at the way residents negotiated their institutionalization and colonial status in the official hospital publication.
Abstract: In recent years, much attention has been given to people affected by Hansen’s disease who write about their experience of the illness and quarantine policies in Japan. Scholarship has been focused on “popular” writing, by authors who became relatively well-known, such as Hōjō Tamio (1914-1937). However, the treatment of a few exceptional male writers as representative of all patient experience erases the multiplicities of diverse patient experience. One literary coterie that has received no critical attention is the work produced by writers institutionalized in the Japanese colonial hospital in Taiwan, Rakusei Sanatorium for Lepers of the Governor-General of Taiwan (Taiwan Sōtokufu Raibyō Rakusei-in, today Lesheng Sanatorium). The colonial government opened this hospital in 1930, and the hospital magazine began publication in 1934. Rakusei-in was one of three colonial hospitals established by the Japanese government and it was the only one to have a small, active group of writers producing work in the Japanese language. This paper introduces writing by people diagnosed with Hansen’s disease and living in Rakusei-in as a site of affective communities, looking at the way residents negotiated their institutionalization and colonial status in the official hospital publication. Ultimately, I demonstrate that in colonial Taiwan, writing by those suffering from Hansen’s disease served to create an affective community of Hansen’s disease patients. They participated in the reproduction of the ideologies underpinning Japan’s imperial project, while at the same time creating a space for some negotiation of their own identities on the margins of empire.

1 citations

Journal ArticleDOI
01 Jan 2015

1 citations


Cites background from "Tongues-tied: The making of a "nati..."

  • ...…context of the late-nineteenth century formation of nationstates, crossing gen as language with gens as nations can be read as a mirroring of the “splendidly eng-European conception of nation-ness as linked to a private-property language” (Anderson 2006, 68, as cited by Shimoda 2010, 715)....

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  • ...For a historical reading of the making of a standard, national Japanese language, and the “discovery of dialects,” see Shimoda (2010)....

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