Japanese English

Japanese English: Language and Culture Contact

Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 388
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    Japanese English
    Book Description:

    The volumes in this series set out to provide a contemporary record of the spread and development of the English language in South, Southeast, and East Asia from both a linguistic and literary perspective. Each volume will reflect themes that cut across national boundaries, including the study of language policies; globalization and linguistic imperialism; English in the media; English in law, government and education; 'hybrid' Englishes; and the bilingual creativity manifested by the vibrant creative writing found in a swathe of Asian societies. This book gives an in-depth analysis of the use of the English language in modern Japan. It explores the many ramifications the Japanese-English language and culture contact situation has for not only Japanese themselves, but also others in the international community. Data for this book has been gathered using anthropological ethnographic fieldwork, augmented by archival sources, written materials, and items from popular culture and the mass media. An interdisciplinary approach, including those of anthropological linguistics, sociolinguistics, cognitive science and symbolic anthropology, is taken in the exploration of the topics here. This book's arguments focus on four major theoretical linguistic and social issues, namely the place of the Japanese-English case in the larger context of 'World Englishes'; the place of the Japanese-English case in a general theory of language and culture contact; how Japanese English informs problems of categorization, meaning construction and cognition; and what it says about the social construction of identity and sense of self, nationalism and race. This book will be of interest to linguists, anthropologists, sociologists, cognitive scientists, and all readers who are interested in language contact, sociolinguistics, English as an international language, and World Englishes. It will also appeal to those who are interested in Japan and popular culture.

    eISBN: 978-988-220-189-7
    Subjects: Linguistics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Series editor’s preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Kingsley Bolton
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-xi)
  5. Map of Japan
    (pp. xii-xii)
  6. 1 Prologue
    (pp. 1-10)

    Anyone who has ever even had an airport layover in Tokyo — or even a cursory exposure to Japanese people — will instantly realize that English in Japan is like air: it is everywhere. It is not clear if this English is a ‘problem’ (Ishino, 1977), a ‘puzzle’ (Yokoi, 1973), a ‘barrier’ to communication (Hirai, 1978), something ‘fashionable’ (Kawasaki, 1981), or some kind of ‘pollution’ (Kirkup, 1971; Morris, 1970). But as the commentator Matsumoto Toru (1974: 5) says, even a rudimentary conversation in the Japanese language could not be conducted without resorting to at least some English linguistic devices:¹


  7. 2 The dynamics of English words in contemporary Japanese: Japanese English and a ‘beautiful human life’
    (pp. 11-44)

    His demeanour and his Sony company pin indicated that he was an executive who could make people sit up and listen when he spoke. I was listening to him, too, albeit sitting two seats away on the bullet train Green Coach heading for Kyoto. ‘We import too many of them from the Americans,’ he declared authoritatively, eliciting nods of agreement from his two travelling companions. ‘If you want to know what I think, that’s my opinion!’ ‘And why can’t we stop this invasion?’ added the one seated across from him, ‘We’re really at their mercy.’ I wondered just what they...

  8. 3 The history of Japanese English language contact
    (pp. 45-82)

    Although many believe that extensive contact with the English language in Japan first began with the American occupation after the Second World War, the history of Japanese English linguistic contact may be traced back to the early seventeenth century. In April 1600, the British sailor William Adams (1564–1620), later immortalized as the fictional John Blackthorne in James Clavell’s bestselling novel Shogun, came ashore at Bungo (present-day Oooita Prefecture) on Kyushu island, aboard a Dutch ship. Adams eventually became a diplomatic advisor and shipbuilder to the first shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu, and was given a large estate near present-day Yokotsuka on...

  9. 4 The Japanese writing system and English
    (pp. 83-100)

    In this chapter¹ I will discuss the Japanese writing system, and show how it has been influenced by English. I will discuss the structure of the special katakana syllabary used, among other things, as a way to write foreign words or names phonetically in Japanese. I will not give a complete account of its development at this point, however, as much of this story is connected to the role of the woman’s ‘voice’ in Japanese literary history. This will be discussed in more detail in Chapter 6.

    Here I will argue that due to the influence of foreign loanwords —...

  10. 5 The poetics of English in Japanese pop songs and contemporary verse
    (pp. 101-126)

    In the fall of 1995, I was invited to a party held by the Japanese students at my university in the Midwest of the USA, and, as might be expected at any Japanese party, I was asked to sing a song.¹ ‘Let’s do Diamonds,’ I said, naming a song which had been a big hit for the pop group Princess Princess. This song, like many other contemporary J-Pop songs, relies heavily on English words and phrases interspersed in the lyrics. Soon a chorus of voices joined in, with everyone seeming to know the words by heart, and singing along with...

  11. 6 A new voice: The use of English as a new rhetoric in modern Japanese women’s language
    (pp. 127-142)

    In this chapter¹ I will extend the discussion that began in the last chapter. I will examine the innovative uses of English by Japanese women, especially in the creative arts. A millennium ago, Japanese women were deprived of the social and cultural advantages of using imported Chinese linguistic resources (such as writing, or the political or economic vocabulary). Ironically today, however — at least in certain areas of artistic expression such as music, poetry, or fashion — Japanese women seem to dominate the extensive current importation of English. In this chapter, I will argue that the judicious use of English...

  12. 7 Using the graphic and pictorial image to explore Japan’s ‘Empire of Signs’
    (pp. 143-188)

    On the back cover of the June 2001 issue of Gengo (‘Language’) was the following fascinating advertisement for a website for books: これは読です (kore wa ‘ 読 desu, ‘This is a “ 読 ”.’, and I will explain this character in a moment). At the end of this sentence was the drawing of a foreboding-looking person with a suspicious glass in his hand. The reason why this advertisement was so intriguing is the interesting way the sentence is constructed around the Sino-Japanese character ‘ 読 ’. The rest of the sentence is in hiragana. It is probably the first basic...

  13. 8 Is it naisu rice or good gohan?: In Japan, it’s not what you eat, but how you say it
    (pp. 189-210)

    It was strange to see, but there it was, clearly outlined in red on the plastic dish on my friend’s breakfast table.¹ In the letters of the katakana syllabary — the writing system that the Japanese use to write foreign words — was the appetizing name Fatto Supureddo, ‘Fat Spread’.² This butter substitute was ironically named, as it was actually a very healthy, low calorie, margarine made only of the very best ‘vegetable oil’ (shokubutsu yushi) with almost no salt or other debilitating substances. It was a special brand distributed by a nationwide housewives co-op (Tsukishima Shokuhin Koogyoo, Tokyo), so...

  14. 9 Language and culture contact in the Japanese colour nomenclature system: From neon oranges to shocking pinks
    (pp. 211-236)

    Colour nomenclature has been an ongoing concern in anthropology for well over a hundred years, ever since ethnographers discovered that exotic peoples all over the world have differing colour systems; that is, ways of naming and labelling colours of the world.¹ It was odd for these early anthropologists and linguists to find a supposedly natural stimulus as the colour spectrum could be divided up, that is, labelled, in seemingly endless different ways. This variation in colour vocabulary provided evidence for linguistic relativism. It was actually the only good solid evidence that seemed to indicate empirically that there was nothing inherent...

  15. 10 Sense, sensation, and symbols: English in the realm of the senses
    (pp. 237-264)

    In this chapter I will first discuss some relationships between perception, culture, and language in Japan. This in itself is hardly original. Semioticians, whether Asian specialists or not, have long been interested in this country. As we have seen in Chapter 7, this so-called ‘empire of signs’, as one of the most famous French scholars (Barthes, 1982) called the islands, is supposedly fraught with marauding signifiers of every kind, and the humblest of gestures is vested with arcane meaning and Eastern mystery. Much has been said about Japan’s infatuation with the West, but the West has been equally fascinated with...

  16. 11 Images of race and identity in Japanese and American language and culture contact
    (pp. 265-278)

    The founding totemic figure in American anthropology, Franz Boas (1858–1942), taught us about the dangers of conflating notions of race, language, and culture.¹ Being a wise if cantankerous old sage, he instilled in most linguists and anthropologists a healthy respect for this problem and gave many reasons to keep race, language, and culture separated, both in theory and in practice (Boas, 1940). Although anthropologists may be aware of these warnings, we also know too well that most people in the world care little for such cautions. Ethnic and racial identity is often, if not always, expressed in language, and...

  17. 12 Japan, English, and World Englishes
    (pp. 279-300)

    We have seen in Chapter 11 that the Japanese are very cognizant of their position in the world, and the part that language plays in it. In this concluding chapter, I will connect the use of English in Japan to the wider scope of international ‘Englishes’. I will argue, as others have done (see Kachru, 1992; Smith and Forman, 1997; Tickoo, 1991; 1995; Bautista, 1997, for example), that English is an Asian language, and indeed a Japanese language as well. I will examine the critics of the ‘hegemony of English’ in Japan and other places, but argue that Japanese is...

  18. Appendix: The Japanese syllabary writing system
    (pp. 301-308)
  19. Notes
    (pp. 309-322)
  20. References
    (pp. 323-356)
  21. Index
    (pp. 357-376)