Available for the first time in English,The Ideology of Kokugo: Nationalizing Language in Modern Japan(1996) is Lee Yeounsuk's award-winning look at the history and ideology behind the construction ofkokugo(national language). Prior to the Meiji Period (1868-1912), the idea of a single, unified Japanese language did not exist. Only as Japan was establishing itself as a modern nation-state and an empire with expanding colonies did there arise the need for a national language to construct and sustain its national identity.
Re-examining debates and controversies overgenbun itchi(unification of written and spoken languages) and other language reform movements, Lee discusses the contributions of Ueda Kazutoshi (1867-1937) and Hoshina Koichi (1872-1955) in the creation ofkokugoand moves us one step closer to understanding how the ideology ofkokugocast a spell over linguistic identity in modern Japan. She examines the notion of the unshakable homogeneity of the Japanese language-a belief born of the political climate of early-twentieth-century Japan and its colonization of other East Asian countries-urging us to pay attention to the linguistic consciousness that underlies "scientific" scholarship and language policies. Her critical discussion of the construction ofkokugouncovers a strain of cultural nationalism that has been long nurtured in Japan's education system and academic traditions. The ideology ofkokugo,argues Lee, must be recognized both as an academic apparatus and a political concept
The Ideology of Kokugowas the first work to explore Japan's linguistic consciousness at the dawn of its modernization. It will therefore be of interest to not only linguists, but also historians, anthropologists, political scientists, and scholars in the fields of education and cultural studies.
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