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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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Prologue: Theorizing Women’s Speech and Covert Language Policy

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The Language of Feminine Duty: Articulating Gender, Culture, and Covert Policy in Modern Japan assesses the cultural constructs of gendered language as a policy of constructs expressed in official and unofficial discourse from the 1880s to the 1920s in Japan. This book analyzes specific language policies that were incorporated through governmental gender policy to perpetuate asymmetrical gendered speech styles and concepts in the Japanese language. In so doing, 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” (josei-go or onna kotoba), a normative concept of language used by women. In addition, this book seeks to further our understanding of cross-cultural approaches to language and gender theories initiated in the United States and Europe by proposing new concepts of language policy.

Conceptualization of gendered language accompanied modernization, a process that created a sense of the unity among peoples within a nation and reconstructed the hierarchical order of individual positions in the family, community, and the state. In Japan, gender differences in language use existed prior to the modernization period at the end of the nineteenth century, but it was then that they were reemphasized and popularized as part of modernized control systems of the state aimed at turning women into integrated subjects of the nation. Thus, women’s speech became an issue in modernizing Japan.←1 | 2→

In examining this problem, I have asked three questions which structure the content of...

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