Egilea: edited by John C. Maher

Language communities in Japan

Contemporary Japan displays considerable sociolinguistic diversity, particularly in urban areas, but its extent and historical background are often overlooked. The contributors to this volume provide new perspectives, with detailed accounts of the wide range of languages spoken in different contexts and by different communities in the Japanese archipelago. Each chapter focuses on a specific language community, and systematically explores the history of the variety in Japanese culture and the current sociolinguistic situation. The first part explores the indigenous languages of Japan, including the multiple dialects of Japanese itself and the lesser-known Ryukyuan and Ainu languages. Chapters in Part II look at community languages, ranging from the historic minority languages, such as Korean and Chinese, to the languages spoken by more recent migrant communities, such as Nepali, Filipino, and Persian. The final part examines languages of culture, politics, and modernization, from the use of English in international business and education contexts, to the ongoing use of Latin and Sanskrit for religious purposes. The volume sheds new light on Japan’s position as an important multilingual and multicultural society, and will be of interest to scholars and students not only of Japanese and sociolinguistics but also of Asian studies and migration studies more widely.