The study of language life (gengo seikatsu) in Japan evolved from the 1930s onwards. Often called “Japan’s indigenous tradition of sociolinguistics”, gengo seikatsu was however never one unified approach to the study of language in society. It evolved from sociological and folklore studies of the 1920s when scholars became critical of the political loading of terms such as “nation” or “citizen” and therefore shifted attention to individual everyday life. Japanese linguists also picked up this idea, and we can find a number of studies and theorization before 1945. After WWII, we can first find two opposing traditions to the study of language life. Centered on a theory developed by Tokieda Motoki who saw language being first and foremost a process of expression and reception acts, Japanese scholars were in particular interested in studying how the contextual setting (ba) influenced language use and structure. At the same time, the Japanese Institute of Japanese Language combined research into literacy, dialects, Standard Japanese, honorific language, etc. with statistics. This particular approach is often seen as the study of language life tout court. In the 1980s language life gave way to sociolinguistics, but we can until today find traces of the bygone traditions of gengo seikatsu in Japanese sociolinguistics.

Language Life (Gengo seikatsu)

Patrick Heinrich
2019

Abstract

The study of language life (gengo seikatsu) in Japan evolved from the 1930s onwards. Often called “Japan’s indigenous tradition of sociolinguistics”, gengo seikatsu was however never one unified approach to the study of language in society. It evolved from sociological and folklore studies of the 1920s when scholars became critical of the political loading of terms such as “nation” or “citizen” and therefore shifted attention to individual everyday life. Japanese linguists also picked up this idea, and we can find a number of studies and theorization before 1945. After WWII, we can first find two opposing traditions to the study of language life. Centered on a theory developed by Tokieda Motoki who saw language being first and foremost a process of expression and reception acts, Japanese scholars were in particular interested in studying how the contextual setting (ba) influenced language use and structure. At the same time, the Japanese Institute of Japanese Language combined research into literacy, dialects, Standard Japanese, honorific language, etc. with statistics. This particular approach is often seen as the study of language life tout court. In the 1980s language life gave way to sociolinguistics, but we can until today find traces of the bygone traditions of gengo seikatsu in Japanese sociolinguistics.
Routledge Handook of Japanese Sociolinguistics
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/10278/3712530
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