AAS Annual Meeting

Japan Session 159

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Session 159: Language Ideologies in Japan: Power and Identities

Organizer: Noriko Watanabe, Kwansei Gakuin University, Japan

Language has played an important role in the construction of modern nation-states, and Japan is no exception in this regard. Standardization of speech and creation of new writing styles provided the foundation for the modern Japanese as it was conceived as a tool for communication among the country’s citizens. While developing a new language for the modern nation, Japanese also reinvented the inherited cultural institutions of power, such as kanji and honorific language, which are rich linguistic resources but which also contribute to the preservation of the cultural power structure as Bourdieu would point out. Facing a new social order and the arrival of the multicultural co-existence society (tabunka kyoosei shakai) in the new millennium, Japan is now shifting toward a multilingual and multicultural nation within the context of globalized linguistic order. At this critical juncture of cultural and linguistic change, this panel examines issues of power, identities and ideologies of language by revisiting longstanding language ideological debates, and providing insights into the future of the diverse nation. What ideologies are present in the emerging multilingual and multiethnic conception of Japan, and how do they shape social, ethnic, and cultural identities of groups and individuals? Topics discussed include minority language and its revitalization, honorific language toward the emperor, language ideologies of the resident Korean population, and debates over writing of personal names. In order to invite exchange of ideas, the last 30 minutes will be dedicated to active discussions among the panelists and the audience.

Language revitalization ideologies in the Ryukyus
Patrick Heinrich, Independent Scholar, Japan

If language ideologies are “sets of belief about language articulated by users as a rationalization or justification of perceived language structure and use” as Silverstein convincingly claims, then language revitalization cannot be without its own sets of language ideologies. After all, language revitalization requires changes of language use patterns, and, in most cases, also changes of language structures. Departing from the example of language ideologies supportive of Ryukyuan language revitalization, I argue that one of the major difficulties in language revitalization is having new ideologies being accepted. To be more precise, the problem is twofold. On the one hand, established ideologies continue to pass as fact to many, including many linguists, and they are also constraining the activities of many language activists. On the other hand, existing differences in the distribution of power continue to sustain dominant ideologies, which takes to the effect to that those arguing in support of new ideologies are perceived to be ideological, while those reproducing the established dogma are not. The effect is crucial. Language ideologies in support of language maintenance fail to align enough support and commitment to the aim they propagate. At the same time, current attempts to maintain both monolingual nation-state ideology and the endangered Ryukyuan languages are bound to fail. On the basis of almost 10 years of fieldwork in the Ryukyus, the current presentation depicts this dilemma, and points out at the prospects of both dominating and emancipative language ideologies in the Ryukyus.

The Language Ideology among Zainichi Korean Residents in Japan
Tatsuro Maeda, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, Japan

After the division of the Korean peninsula into two countries in 1948, the Korean residents in Japan, or Zainichi communities also split into two political groups. The two powers in Zainichi society had vastly different political attitudes and ideologies, but still maintained the same language ideology that Korean language is the core of their ethnicity. That is, the National Language, or Kuk-Go, should be learned by all Koreans because it shows royalty to their “own country” or “motherland”, even though most of the Zainichi population never lived in Korea. The “Kuk-Go” ideology is, in this sense a carbon copy of Imperial Japan’s “Kokugo” ideology. Kokugo is not simply a name of language, but it dictates all aspects of ethnic identity, including spiritual, political, cultural, and historical domains. During the colonization of Japan, the hegemonic Kokugo ideology left very little room for education in/of Korean language, and even after that many of the second generation Zainichi did not and do not speak Korean as a heritage language. Despite the precarious language situation, the language ideologies and the ethnic movement of the Zainichi communities continue to problematize the proficiency of the Zainichi population and focus on memories of the colonial. Although such ideologies can foster a motivation for language acquisition, they inadvertently keep young people at distance from Korean language.

Imperial Honorifics and Egalitarian Society
Noriko A. Sugimori, Kalamazoo College, USA

Until the end of World War II, imperial honorifics were taught at school, supplying a linguistic tool for Japanese people to function socially and advance within their society, but analyzing these imperial honorifics requires careful examination of changes in society. Since the emperor system was reinvented when building the modern nation state, the nationalistic traditionalist ideology linked use of imperial honorifics to Japanese identity and excellence. This nationalistic traditionalist ideology has been opposed to language modernization ideology, which regarded the use of honorifics as an obstacle to Japan’s modernization. Extending past work on imperial honorifics, this paper examines how the ideologies of imperial honorifics of national language bodies, language specialists, and newspapers (management and union) have shifted in modern Japan. The National Language Council in 1952 praised newspapers’ postwar simplification policy of imperial honorifics as an ideal for the new democratic Japan, but it failed to acknowledge the contentious issues surrounding imperial honorifics. My paper will analyze the ideologies of national language bodies and discuss further simplification of imperial honorifics by newspapers in the 2000s. The paper also examines shifting ideologies with actual honorific use in national daily newspapers. Lastly I will explore the meaning of imperial honorifics for an egalitarian, multilingual, and multicultural society.

Individual identities envisioned: personal names and Japanese script
Noriko Watanabe, Kwansei Gakuin University, Japan

The present paper examines the reason for the existence of and the changes in the List of Kanji for Personal Names, and it identifies the language ideological underpinnings of the debates surrounding the list. Use of kanji has been linked to a variety of cultural and political ideologies. Glorified or demonized, kanji is not simply a written form of spoken language but is an ideologically coded conundrum from which Japanese writing does not seem to be able to detach After the List of Kanji for Interim Use was established in 1946 to ensure easy access to public documents and to facilitate democratization, the number of kanji on approved kanji lists has grown steadily, and the idea of limiting kanji use seems to be losing ground. In particular, the List of Kanji for Personal Names has grown more than ten times over since its inception. Allowing more kanji in official documents certainly lends itself to perpetuation of the cultural power structure and its habitus. However, in this era of individualism and fragmented identities, kanji in personal names may be serving as a resource suitable for diversity and multiplicity of individual identities as they are envisioned by the name-givers. The debates over the List of Kanji for Personal Names are further complicated by the fact that personal names in the Family Registry are also laden with cultural significance and private meanings, inviting a clash between the state’s control and name-givers’ desire for expressing their hopes for the next generation.