Japanese language spread in the colonies and occupied territories

Authored by: Toshiaki Yasuda

Routledge Handbook of Japanese Sociolinguistics

Print publication date:  June  2019
Online publication date:  June  2019

Print ISBN: 9780415790277
eBook ISBN: 9781315213378
Adobe ISBN:


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In this chapter, I discuss under what principles and policies modern Japan attempted to disseminate Japanese language in the areas it colonized and occupied. Previous research has been conducted in the fields of history, pedagogy and Japanese language education, and it has begun to be treated in sociolinguistics in recent years. However, research with a critical stance, including toward its own awareness of history, is still rare. When Japan began the modern era, Japanese language was reorganized as one tool of governance under the name “national language”. In the process, dialects were subjugated to “national language”. As additional colonies were acquired, the Japanese language was used as “national language” also in those polities, and this in turn resulted in suppression of local languages. Meanwhile, in “Manchukuo” superficial multilingual policy was undertaken. In occupied Southeast Asia, the policy of respecting the dominant language was adopted. Such regional differences are thought to be due to differences in international relations at the time Japan began to have contact with each region. Regarding linguistic policy, there is a certain amount of research compiled. But research on the specific phase of Japanese language dissemination cannot be said to be sufficient due to the limited nature of the documentation. In addition, not enough attention has been given to the consciousness of the people who were made to learn Japanese, and further research is needed. Also, research from the perspective of the role played by Japanese language in each region after the collapse of the Japanese empire also raises a question about historical awareness, and should be further examined.

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