The study of Japanese language speakers

Authored by: Riikka Länsisalmi

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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This chapter analyzes and discusses the concept of “speakers of Japanese” from multiple perspectives. The chapter starts off with an overview of Japanese native terminology, which is used to refer to the Japanese language (e.g., kokugo, nihongo) and to “speakers” and “speakerhood” in the Japanese research context. Research relevant to these concepts is then organized into the following types of speaker categories: (1) “regular” L1 speakers of Japanese and its varieties in Japan (J1 speakers); (2) “in-between” speakers (e.g., speakers representing sexual minorities); (3) various types of “new speakers” and bi-/multilingual speakers (e.g., nikkeijin immigrants); (4) second language speakers (J2/JSL speakers) in compulsory education in Japan; (5) speakers of Japanese as a foreign language (JFL speakers) outside Japan; and (6) “virtual speakers” (e.g., in fiction and translation). Where relevant, also statistical and background information on the various groups is provided. In view of the attested diversity of current “speakers of Japanese”, the chapter concludes that sociolinguistic research now has to zoom in on “linguistic repertoires” of “individual speakers”, taking into account various degrees of language ownership, poly- and translanguaging and crossing in increasingly urban contexts in Japan and around the globe.

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