Publishing Partner: Cambridge University Press CUP Extra Publisher Login

New from Cambridge University Press!


Revitalizing Endangered Languages

Edited by Justyna Olko & Julia Sallabank

Revitalizing Endangered Languages "This guidebook provides ideas and strategies, as well as some background, to help with the effective revitalization of endangered languages. It covers a broad scope of themes including effective planning, benefits, wellbeing, economic aspects, attitudes and ideologies."

E-mail this page

We Have a New Site!

With the help of your donations we have been making good progress on designing and launching our new website! Check it out at!
***We are still in our beta stages for the new site--if you have any feedback, be sure to let us know at***

Dissertation Information

Title: The Reception of Western Linguistics in Japan Add Dissertation
Author: Patrick Heinrich Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: Universit├Ąt Duisburg-Essen, Modern Japanese Language, History and Culture
Completed in: 2002
Linguistic Subfield(s): History of Linguistics;
Subject Language(s): Japanese
Director(s): Florian Coulmas
Josef Kreiner

Abstract: The dissertation treats about 120 years of linguistic study in Japan. It is divided into two larger parts, namely linguistics in the pre- and the post-war period. Both parts are introduced by a chapter treating the broader historical developments that have influenced and shaped Japanese linguistics. The post-war period is further subdivided into sections devoted to historical and structural linguistics on one hand, and post-structural linguistics on the other. The characterizations of Japanese linguistics as given in the dissertation are sustained with the help of empirical data on various matters such as the establishment of academic institutions, societies and journals, the total output and the content of linguistic journals and monographs, international academic exchange, the number of works written in Western languages on Japanese, and the number and content of linguistic monographs translated from Western languages into Japanese.

It is argued that the development of Japanese linguistics can be subdivided into three larger periods. According to this development a growing convergence between the study of linguistics in Japan and the West can be recognized:

1. from the 1890s convergence with regards to the institutional setting, academic training and publishing practices: Linguistics became fully established as an independent academic discipline relying on institutional settings and research practices adopted from the West.

2. from the 1930s convergence with regards of views towards the object of research: The Japanese language became to be seen as an autonomous and structured totality. The shift from a preoccupation with isolated linguistic phenomena was at first limited to theoretical considerations and only gained more influence on the concrete study of Japanese in the 1950s.

3. from the 1970s convergence with regards to the methodology: Japanese was increasingly studied along the lines of universal approaches seeking insight into language through the study of Japanese. This resulted in an increasingly internationalized research practice based on internationally shared methodological frameworks.

The development towards growing convergence occurred not exclusively in a linear way but was influenced by external history. Japan had furthermore developed an indigenous school of philology (kokugaku) long before the institutionalization of the modern sciences in Japan. This gave Japanese linguists the opportunity to adhere to their own tradition of language study. This adherence had its greatest effects in the study of historical linguistics, morphology and syntax. During the period between 1930 and 1945 a general direction towards indigenous Japanese methods is perceivable on all levels of description and in all linguistic sub-disciplines of that time. Generally speaking, Western linguistics could only be firmly rooted in Japan if it did not provoke conflicts with indigenous traditions of language study. Incommensurability of linguistic approaches seems to be rooted not only in theoretical aspects but, to some extend, also in the cultural origins of the approaches themselves.