Kanji Politics: Language Policy and Japanese Script - Japanese Studies (Hardback)

by Nanette Gottlieb

Format: Hardback 256 pages

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The nature of the Japanese script has been a matter of contention since the early Meiji period. The modernised system of kana usage and the guidelines on the use, shape and readings of characters which are in place today are the result of eighty years of often vitriolic controversy over the relative merits of tradition and convenience in the area of script. This book examines the history and nature of the language policy process in Japan as it relates to script from the establishment of the inaugural National Language Research Council in 1902 to the completion of the post-war policy review cycle by the National Language Council in late 1991. Among the questions it addresses are - How has language policy worked in the Japanese context? Why were policies necessary in the first place? Who has been responsible for formulating and implementing them? Whose interests have been served? What motives have driven the process? This is the first comprehensive -study of Japanese Ianguage policy in the English language. It will be a major reference work in the fields of both Japanese studies and sociolinguistics. Chapter One outlines those aspects of written Japanese that have formed the focus of language policy and summarises the history of language policy since 1902. Chapter Two gives the background to the beginning of language policy, examines the role of the press and private pressure groups, charts the rise of ultranationalism and describes the setting up of the National Language Council in 1934. Chapter Three considers the war years, military moves for script reform in the face of necessity and policies formulated for the teaching of Japanese as the common language of Asia. Chapter Four deals with the postwar script reforms of the Occupation period, the democracy argument which underlay them and the setting up of the National Language Research Institute. Chapter Five traces the increasing tension between conservatives and reformers in the late 1950s, the building of a power base by the former, the tactics used to impede and finally stall the progress of further activities, and finally the process of review and partial reversal of the earlier changes.

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Kegan Paul


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