Images of Pre-WW II: National Language Policies as Reflected in the Field of "National Language Studies" Itself
Keywords:Japanese language, kokugo (national language), language policy
In this study I focus on the possible intellectual background regarding the scant attention paid by researchers and textbook writers to the establishment of the Japanese national language and pre-WWII language policies in Japan. This fact is surprising because the successful implementation of a modern standard language was one of the key factors in the process of the building of Japan as a modern nation-state. The central hypothesis of this research is that this conspicuous absence stems from the projection of the modern nation-state on the past, resulting in a perception of Japanese polity as a basically homogeneous and unchanged continuum in time and space. An analysis of several texts by prominent Japanese scholars of the national language has revealed important differences in perception. One group, mainly those preoccupied with the didactics of the national language, tends to view the past in the light of a “homogenised” present. On the other hand, those scholars researching Japanese in the wider context of general linguistics seem to treat national language related issues in a much more critical and theoretically informed way.
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