[lg policy] bibitem: Language Policy in Japan: The Challenge of Change

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Wed Jan 4 16:28:08 UTC 2012

5 - National language policy and an internationalising community  pp. 123-160

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Language Policy in Japan: The Challenge of Change
By Nanette Gottlieb

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print Publication Year: 2011
Online Publication Date: December 2011

Online ISBN: 9781139017510
Hardback ISBN: 9781107007161

Chapter DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139017510.006

Subjects: Language and linguistics, Sociolinguistics, East Asian
government, politics, policy

    Chapter Extract
    Table of Contents

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In the best of all possible worlds, the formulation and implementation
of language policy would respond quickly to change in on-the-ground
circumstances once sufficient time had elapsed to establish the
permanence of that change. In modern bureaucracies, however, this is
only infrequently the case. If we consider language policy in its
formalised, overt incarnation, i.e., as ‘the formulation and
proclamation of an explicit plan or policy, usually but not
necessarily written in a formal document, about language use’
(Spolsky, 2004: 11), then examination of past policy formulation in
Japan – relating, for example, to standardisation, script reform and
the revival of the Ainu language – makes it clear that the process is
usually slow and often tortuous. The presence of deep-rooted language
ideologies means that change is something to be carefully scrutinised
for agendas both overt and hidden that have the potential to upset the
status quo. On a practical level, the implementation phases of new
policies must be carefully planned and costed. Change at the national
level of language policy often involves many years of discussion and
consultation on issues that affect the nation as a whole.

We have seen in earlier chapters of this book that growing
multilingualism in local communities, the negative effect of the
overwhelming national promotion of the study of English on the
teaching of other languages and the changes to ways of writing
Japanese enabled by electronic text production all raise questions
about the way language is currently managed in Japan, i.e., about
language policies. The preceding chapter discussed the only one of
these to have been addressed at national level so far. In this
chapter, I will examine to what extent the will to move in the
direction of change can be discerned at national level in response to
the other issues. As will become clear, a discursive shift is under
way in relation to the old ideology that the Japanese language is the
exclusive property of the Japanese people.


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