The Meiji invention of Standard Japanese

So I linked at Meta no Tame to the interview with FIJA Byron that Mark found (phew), and I have a little more to say here.

First, the videos that okinawaBBtv has put online are really surprisingly good -- given that they're free and all. But click on one and notice the heading of the window that opens: "Uchina-guchi, the dialect in Okinawa". Nope. And remember that Fija specifically criticizes the use of this term (or at least its Japanese equivalent, 方言). It says a lot that even folks promoting his ideas can't quite accept the main one: that the Ryukyuan languages are languages in their own right, not dialects of "standard Japanese" (標準語).

Secondly, and slight change of topic: Did you know that the Meiji period was more than two-thirds over and the 20th century had begun before the government's program of enforcing -- not just encouraging -- a nationwide "standard Japanese" nationwide really began?

Check this out: a 1906 modification to a 1903 law which stated that prefectural administrators had the right to choose "national language" (国語) textbooks only from those "the copyright to which is owned by the Ministry of Education, or which have passed inspection by the Minister of Education" (文部省ニ於テ著作権ヲ有スルモノ及文部大臣ノ検定ヲ経タルモノ). The previous system had left textbook inspection up to prefectural authorities, which had predictably resulted in the huge publisher-committee member bribery scandal known as the "Textbook Graft Incident" (教科書疑獄事件).

The immediate goal of the new national oversight system was to prevent this kind of thing. The fact that it also allowed the Ministry to define precisely what the nation's schools taught as the "national language" (coincidentally very similar to the upper-class Tokyo dialect that Ministry officials spoke!) was almost a side benefit.

The push to eliminate dialects (方言, and here I speak of actual dialects, on the mainland for example) came close behind. In Edogo - Tōkyōgo - Hyōjungo (江戸語・東京語・標準語), MIZUHARA Akito claims that the father of "標準語" as an idea in Japan was one OKAKURA Yoshisaburō, an influential man who said things like this:

When one national language (国語) be split into numerous regional languages (地方語), ideas cannot be shared properly [between regions] and the ability of that nation's people (国民) to unite is insufficient ... Japan's advancement depends on the success of the unification of its national language. For that purpose, we must first adopt some superior method for eliminating the various regional languages.

The national language could not coexist alongside or encompass regional dialects, Okakura argued. It was one or the other. Once this idea was firmly in place, the standard Japanese express was ready to go.

Popularity factor: 7


kyokasho Gigoku not Jigoku?


Quite right. How embarrassing! Fixed, thank you. (教科書地獄事件→教科書疑獄事件)


Ha, you should spend a post imagining a 教科書地獄事件. Actually, isn't that just an eternity with New Horizon?


Whenever I read capitalized Japanese surnames, I can never get over the feeling that they are being angrily shouted at full volume.


Check this.
"samurai speak is in"



R: I get the same feeling, to be honest. It's just habit at this point.

Daniel: Yeah, I think a lot of people who came to Japan through that door have experience with Textbook Hell...

Aceface: Heh, cute. Actual converter is here: http://monjiro.net/. (On a related note, I've never been able to figure out exactly how jidaigeki affectations like using "nari" as the copula became popular among teenage girls)


”I've never been able to figure out exactly how jidaigeki affectations like using "nari" as the copula became popular among teenage girls”


The character"コロ助”was created by Doraemon maker Fujiko"F"Fujio for manga ”キテレツ大百科”,and became anime series from 87 to 96.

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