What Does it Mean to “Abolish” a Language? – Some Thoughts on Mori Arinori and Shiga Naoya

Speaker: Dr. Christina Yi, (Assistant Professor, Department of Asian Studies)

With the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War in 1894, Japan officially embarked on an enterprise of territorial expansion. Acquisition of Taiwan occurred in 1895, soon followed by the annexation of Korea in 1910. The unconditional surrender of Japan to the Allied Powers in 1945 signaled not only the end of the Pacific War but also the end of the Japanese empire, as one of the conditions of surrender was the redrawing of national borders. The Allied Occupation of Japan (1945-1952) that followed introduced changes not only in the political arena, but also in the ways “Japan” and “the Japanese” themselves were defined and discussed. This talk illuminates some of these postwar changes – as well as prewar continuities – by examining the history of Japanese linguistic nationalism and language ideology. In particular, it will look at the writings of Mori Arinori (1847-1889) and Shiga Naoya (1883-1971), two prominent intellectuals who each proposed radical – though quite different – changes to the language use in Japan.

Event poster