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LINGUIST List 24.994

Tue Feb 26 2013

Review: Applied Linguistics; Sociolinguistics: Heinrich (2012)

Editor for this issue: Joseph Salmons <jsalmonslinguistlist.org>

Date: 03-Feb-2013
From: Ken Knight <kknight1uga.edu>
Subject: The Making of Monolingual Japan
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Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/23/23-856.html

AUTHOR: Patrick Heinrich
TITLE: The Making of Monolingual Japan
SUBTITLE: Language Ideology and Japanese Modernity
SERIES TITLE: Multilingual Matters
PUBLISHER: Multilingual Matters
YEAR: 2012

REVIEWER: Ken Knight, University of Georgia

Heinrich’s monograph examines the philosophical underpinnings of Japanese
language policy that grew out of the desire to establish a sense of
homogeneity among a set of vastly different dialects and eventually include
even mutually incomprehensible languages. He works to deconstruct the myth of
linguistic homogeneity in Japan. Heinrich begins by explaining how modernist
ideologies arise and goes on to explore various Japanese movements, mainly of
the 20th century, and their ultimately devastating effects on autochthonous
minority languages and Japanese dialects.

The first chapter describes the isomorphism of language and nation in Europe
and other historical models and motivations for modernization in Japan.
Heinrich offers an overview of class disparity in language usage in pre-modern
Japan. The last half of the chapter gives a very approachable introduction to
the evolving study of language ideology by discussing the historical
development of ideology as well as various approaches to studying ideology. He
focuses on recent sociolinguistic attempts to define language ideology and
frameworks by scholars like Woolard and Kroskrity as well as contributions by
Japanese linguists related mainly to “Japanese language imperialism” and “the
language of Japanese women.” (13) Heinrich describes adapting more general
non-linguistic approaches to the study of ideology proposed by a literary
theorist (Eagleton) and a historian (Thompson), resulting in “a descriptive
approach to ideology which pays attention to power relations and can therefore
remain critical … (but which) does not explicitly demand taking sides with any
of the parties involved in any ideological struggle.” (17-18) Finally,
Heinrich discusses variation within the speech community, which defies the
idea of homogenous speech propagated by “language ideology brokers.” (18)

In the second chapter Heinrich examines an early proposal by Mori Arinori for
modernization. Mori believed that the Japanese language was inferior to
Western languages and proposed to replace the national language of Japan with
an artificial English lacking the “exceptions” of American English. (25)
Correspondence with Western counterparts reveals Mori’s ignorance of the
possibility of increasing class distinctions within Japan and ultimate
cultural subjugation by English-speaking nations. Mori’s proposal succeeded
in highlighting the problems of diglossia and lowered literacy rates as well
as the desire for a unified language of education, quickly leading to “the
creation of an empowering ideology linked to language.” (41)

Chapter 3 discusses the ‘genbun itchi’ movement, which strove to unify spoken
and written language in Japan by adopting stylistic reform of the written
language used largely by elites. Conflict erupted within the pages of the
journal Bun as popular writers of the late 19th century began using writing
styles more representative of spoken language than those adopted by their
contemporaries, who retained Edo-period writing conventions. By the 20th
century ‘genbun itchi’ had become the normative style and the language of all
classes. In Chapter 4 Heinrich reveals how the ‘genbun itchi’ movement
provided substantial published evidence of the ability of Japanese to reform
their language and make it accessible to all. Evolving notions about what a
national language should be were promoted and perfected by linguist Ueda
Kazutoshi and the resulting Standard Japanese was codified by the National
Language Research Council that he helped to create.

Chapter 5 describes the political and linguistic domination of the Ryukyuan
and Ainu languages by the Japanese from the Meiji period up until WWII and
then under the post-war US administration in Okinawa. Although many readers
will be familiar with the facts related to this period of language shift, the
motivations, especially those arising from within these two broad speaker
groups, are at times surprising and yet predictably related to group survival.

In Chapter 6, as we enter the post-WWII period, we find another extreme
proposal when Shiga Naoya, the popular author, proposes that Japanese be
replaced by French, a language that he did not speak. Heinrich offers the
first English translation of Shiga’s seminal article, revealing the
significant doubts post-war Japanese intellectuals held regarding the standing
of their own language.

Heinrich nimbly synthesizes 18 major works of the 1940 debate over language
education policy in Okinawa in Chapter 7, a debate which concluded with
internal promotion of the superordinate Standard Japanese dialect. The
subsequent fragmentation, marginalization, sublimation and subordination of
the Ryukyuan languages as well as the ongoing extinction of other
autochthonous languages in Japan (including Hachijo, Japanese Sign Language,
Ainu, and Ogasawara English) is discussed in some detail in this chapter.
Chapter 8 continues on to look at challenges to this modernist language
ideology that seeks to promote linguistic homogeneity by Ainu and Ryukyuan
speakers as well as the sociolinguistic effects of the recent history of both
forced and voluntary Chinese and Korean migration to Japan and the return of
the South American ‘nikkeijin’.

The final chapter summarizes the ‘kokugo’ modernist language ideology and
describes its impact on existing language problems, attitudes, and linguistic
research. Heinrich proposes a “two-fold strategy” for overcoming the
“limitations of modernist ideologies on linguistics”, constraints under which
linguistics perpetuates “the confusion between language ideology and language
use.” (176-181) Research, he argues, should be directed towards “cultural
liberty” (the freedom to make choices in support of diversity, not simply a
promotion of inherited diversity) and solidarity with, rather than simple
tolerance of, diversity in a multilingual society. He finally stresses that,
“There is no neutral position” and thus linguists must be engaged in the
struggle “to ensure that choices for language and diversity are as
unrestricted as possible.” (182)

Although there is a large body of work on the modernization movement of the
Meiji and subsequent periods in Japan and the development of ‘nihonjinron’, a
manufactured concept of a unified and unique Japanese identity and language,
Heinrich offers a new and deeper level of detail and informed analysis in
describing this evolving language policy debate. This book stands as a tribute
to Heinrich’s lengthy research on this topic drawing on a large number and
broad range of native sources.

Heinrich’s first-hand observations on the current state of language policy in
Japan, its effects on language revitalization movements and suggestions in
regards to future discussion of and research related to language policy are
invaluable resources for researchers who lack the time or resources to pursue
this type of in-depth study on their own. He has obviously considered multiple
viewpoints and come to logical and well-constructed conclusions in developing
his own approach to this complex issue.

Heinrich’s work smoothly carries the reader along a winding chronological
storyline. Topics likely unfamiliar to non-linguists and those less
well-versed in ideological study are skillfully presented with little
ambiguity. Aside from a few typographical errors, this book is perfectly
suited to both undergraduate and graduate courses in areas from modern
Japanese history, language contact, sociolinguistics, to multilingualism and
may even be used in more distant fields of study like anthropology or

Ken Knight teaches Japanese and Linguistics at the University of Georgia. His
research interests include L2 Japanese phonological acquisition as well as
minority language revitalization in Japan.
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