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The Language of Feminine Duty

Articulating Gender, Culture, and Covert Policy in Modern Japan

Rika Saito

This book examines "women’s speech" as a policy of constructs expressed in official and unofficial discourse from the 1880s to the 1920s in Japan. It analyzes specific language policies that were incorporated through governmental gender policy to perpetuate "women’s speech," asymmetrical gendered speech styles and concepts in the Japanese language. It also seeks to develop cross-cultural approaches to language and gender theories initiated in the United States and Europe by proposing new concepts of language policy. This work contributes to ongoing interdisciplinary scholarship on gender, language, and policy by reconsidering the relationship between the Japanese "national language" and "women’s speech."

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Since finishing my graduate work, I’ve never stopped thinking about my research on women’s speech and language policy in modern Japan. At its core is a problem I call “feminine duties” that various institutional and societal pressures imposed on women for decades. I would have liked to complete this book sooner; nevertheless it provides me with great satisfaction to see it published now. I offer sincere thanks to Peter Lang Publishing for taking on this project and Meagan Simpson, Jackie Pavlovic, Naviya Palani, and Philip Dunshea for their guidance in the editorial and production process. I also give special thanks to Caitlin Adkins who worked with me to polish the manuscript. I thank the editorial board of the academic journals, The US-Japan Women’s Journal and Nihongo to Jendā [The Japanese Language and Gender], for their permissions to reprint revised sections of my previously published articles “Constructing and Gendering Women’s Speech: Integrated Policy of Language through School Textbooks in Meiji Japan” and “Was Women’s Speech Included in the Official Language Policy of Meiji Japan?–The Case of Kōgo Bunten, Guidebooks for Grammar in Spoken Japanese.” The issue of women’s speech is still active in the present day, and women’s speech may be currently undergoing a transformational change. I hope that this study will contribute to the ongoing discussion about gender politics and women’s language issues.

There are three major groups of people and institutions whom I wish to thank for their various kinds of support. First,...

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