LINGUIST List 24.994

Tue Feb 26 2013

Review: Applied Linguistics; Sociolinguistics: Heinrich (2012)

Editor for this issue: Joseph Salmons <>

Date: 03-Feb-2013
From: Ken Knight <>
Subject: The Making of Monolingual Japan
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AUTHOR: Patrick HeinrichTITLE: The Making of Monolingual JapanSUBTITLE: Language Ideology and Japanese ModernitySERIES TITLE: Multilingual MattersPUBLISHER: Multilingual MattersYEAR: 2012

REVIEWER: Ken Knight, University of Georgia

SUMMARYHeinrich’s monograph examines the philosophical underpinnings of Japaneselanguage policy that grew out of the desire to establish a sense ofhomogeneity among a set of vastly different dialects and eventually includeeven mutually incomprehensible languages. He works to deconstruct the myth oflinguistic homogeneity in Japan. Heinrich begins by explaining how modernistideologies arise and goes on to explore various Japanese movements, mainly ofthe 20th century, and their ultimately devastating effects on autochthonousminority languages and Japanese dialects.

The first chapter describes the isomorphism of language and nation in Europeand other historical models and motivations for modernization in Japan.Heinrich offers an overview of class disparity in language usage in pre-modernJapan. The last half of the chapter gives a very approachable introduction tothe evolving study of language ideology by discussing the historicaldevelopment of ideology as well as various approaches to studying ideology. Hefocuses on recent sociolinguistic attempts to define language ideology andframeworks by scholars like Woolard and Kroskrity as well as contributions byJapanese linguists related mainly to “Japanese language imperialism” and “thelanguage of Japanese women.” (13) Heinrich describes adapting more generalnon-linguistic approaches to the study of ideology proposed by a literarytheorist (Eagleton) and a historian (Thompson), resulting in “a descriptiveapproach to ideology which pays attention to power relations and can thereforeremain critical … (but which) does not explicitly demand taking sides with anyof the parties involved in any ideological struggle.” (17-18) Finally,Heinrich discusses variation within the speech community, which defies theidea of homogenous speech propagated by “language ideology brokers.” (18)

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

Chapter 3 discusses the ‘genbun itchi’ movement, which strove to unify spokenand written language in Japan by adopting stylistic reform of the writtenlanguage used largely by elites. Conflict erupted within the pages of thejournal Bun as popular writers of the late 19th century began using writingstyles more representative of spoken language than those adopted by theircontemporaries, who retained Edo-period writing conventions. By the 20thcentury ‘genbun itchi’ had become the normative style and the language of allclasses. In Chapter 4 Heinrich reveals how the ‘genbun itchi’ movementprovided substantial published evidence of the ability of Japanese to reformtheir language and make it accessible to all. Evolving notions about what anational language should be were promoted and perfected by linguist UedaKazutoshi and the resulting Standard Japanese was codified by the NationalLanguage Research Council that he helped to create.

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

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

Heinrich nimbly synthesizes 18 major works of the 1940 debate over languageeducation policy in Okinawa in Chapter 7, a debate which concluded withinternal promotion of the superordinate Standard Japanese dialect. Thesubsequent fragmentation, marginalization, sublimation and subordination ofthe Ryukyuan languages as well as the ongoing extinction of otherautochthonous 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 languageideology that seeks to promote linguistic homogeneity by Ainu and Ryukyuanspeakers as well as the sociolinguistic effects of the recent history of bothforced and voluntary Chinese and Korean migration to Japan and the return ofthe South American ‘nikkeijin’.

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

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

Heinrich’s first-hand observations on the current state of language policy inJapan, its effects on language revitalization movements and suggestions inregards to future discussion of and research related to language policy areinvaluable resources for researchers who lack the time or resources to pursuethis type of in-depth study on their own. He has obviously considered multipleviewpoints and come to logical and well-constructed conclusions in developinghis own approach to this complex issue.

Heinrich’s work smoothly carries the reader along a winding chronologicalstoryline. Topics likely unfamiliar to non-linguists and those lesswell-versed in ideological study are skillfully presented with littleambiguity. Aside from a few typographical errors, this book is perfectlysuited to both undergraduate and graduate courses in areas from modernJapanese history, language contact, sociolinguistics, to multilingualism andmay even be used in more distant fields of study like anthropology orsociology.

ABOUT THE REVIEWERKen Knight teaches Japanese and Linguistics at the University of Georgia. Hisresearch interests include L2 Japanese phonological acquisition as well asminority language revitalization in Japan.

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