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  • Print publication year: 2005
  • Online publication date: November 2009

4 - Language and identity: the policy approach

Summary

In Chapter Three, we looked at the broad themes inherent in the ideology of language and identity. The present chapter will discuss how those themes played out in actual policy approaches to language management. Few things reveal more about a society's attitude to the role of language in national identity than the types of language policy it develops. To arrive at any real understanding of language in today's Japan, we need to know what the official views of language at government level have been, because language policy decisions reflect and attempt to come to terms with the linguistic implications of major social developments. Language policies originate in recommendations made by high-level government bodies set up expressly to deal with perceived language-related problems and to guide future development. As such, they illuminate – and sometimes confront head-on – the cherished beliefs of users of the language(s) in question. Debates over language policy frequently escalate (or perhaps descend) into full-blown furors, sometimes among members of the committees only, sometimes – as in the case, for example, of India in the 1950s – in the wider social arena. As we shall see in this chapter, twentieth-century language policy in Japan was no exception.

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