The Ideology of Kokugo: Nationalizing Language in Modern Japan
288pp. October 2009
The Ideology of Kokugo: Nationalizing Language in Modern Japan
Author: Lee Yeounsuk; Translator: Hubbard, Maki Hirano;
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 of kokugo (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 over genbun 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 of kokugo and moves us one step closer to understanding how the ideology of kokugo cast 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 of kokugo uncovers a strain of cultural nationalism that has been long nurtured in Japan’s education system and academic traditions. The ideology of kokugo, argues Lee, must be recognized both as an academic apparatus and a political concept

The Ideology of Kokugo was 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.

“A major achievement and an important contribution to the field of Japanese studies as a whole.” —Journal of Japanese Studies (38:2, 2012)

“A wonderful addition to the increasing body of Japanese scholarship that has been translated into English. . . . [The study is] the product of an astute mind and is—in either language—crafted with the scholarly rigor that its topic deserves.” —Monumenta Nipponica (66:1, 2011)

“There can be no doubt as to the significance of Lee’s contribution and it is easy to understand why she received the prestigious Suntory Foundation Prize in Literary and Art Criticism for her work in 1997. [This] translation is long overdue and a welcome addition to Japanese Studies.” —Japanese Studies (30:3, December 2010)
Author: Lee Yeounsuk; Translator: Hubbard, Maki Hirano;
Lee Yeounsuk is professor at the Graduate School of Language and Society, Hitotsubashi University, Tokyo. The Ideology of Kokugo is a translation of Kokugo to iu shiso, which was awarded the 1997 Prize for Social Sciences and Humanities, Literary and Art Criticism category, by the Suntory Foundation. Maki Hirano Hubbard is associate professor of Japanese in the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures, Smith College.
Read the introduction (PDF).
Translator’s Introduction


Prologue: Language and the Imagined Community

Introduction: The Japanese Language before Kokugo: Views of Mori Arinori and Baba Tatsui
I-1. Mori Arinori’s View of the Japanese Language
I-2. Baba Tatsui’s Criticism of Mori Arinori
I-3. Baba Tatsui’s Linguistic Void

PART I: Kokugo Issues in Early Meiji

Chapter 1 Perspectives on Kokuji, the National Script
1-1. The Meaning of Writing and the Representation of Language
1-2. Proposals by Maejima Hisoka to Abolish Kanji
1-3. Proposals by Scholars of the West: Kana and Romaji for National Script
1-4. The Kokuji Reform Movement in the Second Decade of Meiji
1-5. Kokuji Problems in the Fourth Decade of Meiji

Chapter 2 Genbun Itchi and Kokugo
2-1. Linguistic Crisis and Genbun Itchi
2-2. From Script Reform to Genbun Itchi: Maejima Hisoka, Nishi Amane, and Kanda Takahira
2-3. Genbun Itchi by Mozume Takami and B. H. Chamberlain
2-4. Tokyo Language and Genbun Itchi
2-5. Meiji Standard Written Style and Genbun Itchi
2-6. Imperialism and Genbun Itchi

Chapter 3 The Creation of Kokugo
3-1. Conception of Kokugo
3-2. Changes in the Concept of Kokugo in Early Meiji
3-3. Otsuki Fumihiko and the Development of Kokugo
3-4. Creation of the Ideology of Kokugo

Part II: Ueda Kazutoshi and His Ideas about Language

Chapter 4 The Early Period of Ueda Kazutoshi
4-1. From Kokubun to Kokugo
4-2. The Neogrammarians and the All-German Language Society
4-2-1. The Neogrammarians’ Revolution from Above
4-2-2. The All-German Language Association and Its Language-Purification Movement

Chapter 5 Kokugo and Kokka
5-1. Politicizing Kokugo
5-2. Mother and Homeland
5-3. For Kokugo

Chapter 6 From Kokugo Studies to Kokugo Politics
6-1. Scheme for Kokugogaku
6-2. Hyojungo and Genbun Itchi
6-3. Kokugo Politics and Kokugogaku
6-4. Kokugo to Be Taught
6-5. From Kokugo to Imperial Language
6-6. The Later Years of Ueda Kazutoshi

Part III: Kokugogaku and Linguistics

Chapter 7 Hoshina Koichi—a Forgotten Scholar
7-1. From Ueda to Hoshina
7-2. Kokugo and the Colonies

Chapter 8 The History of Kokugogaku
8-1. Kokugogaku vs. Linguistics
8-2. Hoshina’s Abbreviated History of Kokugogaku
8-3. Systematizing Kokugogaku
8-4. Yamada Yoshio’s Concise History of Kokugogaku
8-5. Tokieda Motoki’s History of Kokugogaku

Chapter 9 Tradition and Reform in Kokugo
9-1. Linguistics and Kokugo Reform
9-2. Dispute over the Revision of Kana Usage
9-3. Yamada Yoshio and the Tradition of Kokugo
9-4. Tokieda Motoki and the Theory of Language as Process

Part IV: Hoshina Ko ichi and His Language Policies

Chapter 10 The Ideology of Hyojungo
10-1. Hyojungo and Kyotsugo
10-2. Dialects and the Standard Language
10-3. From Hyojungo to Political Issues in Kokugo

Chapter 11 Korea and Poland
11-1. Korea and Poland: Double Exposure
11-2. Kokugo Education and Assimilation Policy
11-3. Language Policy in German Poland
11-4. The School Strike and the March First Movement

Chapter 12 What Is Assimilation?
12-1. Colonization and Assimilation
12-2. Eradication of the Ethnic Language in Colonized Korea
12-3. What Is Assimilation?

Chapter 13 Manchukuo and the State Language
13-1. The Multiethnic Nation Manchukuo
13-2. A Multiethnic Nation and Political Language Problems
13-3. The State Language Debate in the Austro-Hungarian Empire
13-4. The Idea of Kokka-go

Chapter 14 Language for the Co-Prosperity Sphere and the Internationalization of the Japanese Language
14-1. Debates on Kana Script in Manchukuo
14-2. The Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere and Kokugo Policy
14-3. The Japanese Language Expanding Worldwide
14-4. The First Conference on Provisions of Kokugo
14-5. The Second Conference on Provisions of Kokugo
14-6. Kokugo Reform and the Promotion of Nihongo
14-7. Counterattack by the Ultranationalists
14-8. A Dream of Kyoeiken-go, the Language of the Co-Prosperity Sphere

Chapter 15 Conclusion