The loanword (Gairaigo) influx into the Japanese language: contemporary perceptions andresponses

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Copyright: Tomoda, Takako
Loanwords have been entering Japanese for centuries but the rate has accelerated postwar and the predominant source is English. Gairaigo have received a mixed response from scholars, government, the media and the public. Opponents claim they cause confusion and have called for limits to protect the language and culture. From the 1980s, language planning bodies turned their attention to gairaigo and, in the early 2000s, took steps to limit their use. This research examines and evaluates the perceptions and responses of Japanese people and language planners to gairaigo over this period. Scholarly and popular works, the media, and policy discussions by language planners were analysed under the rubric of corpus planning proposed by Ferguson (1979) and Cooper (1989). The level of purism was evaluated within the framework of Thomas (1991). To obtain quantitative data on public perceptions of gairaigo, a survey was conducted and the results compared with published opinion poll data. Scholars who supported gairaigo concentrated on its enrichment of the corpus, imagery, nuance, and its internationalising effects. Opponents focused on the confusing nature of new gairaigo particularly for older people, damage to the language and culture, creation of social divisions, and excessive Westernisation. Both globalisation and universal English education were considered causes of the influx. Policy discussions focused on comprehension levels of new gairaigo, generational differences, and overuse of gairaigo by government, especially in aged care. Lists of replacement words were produced but public response has been mixed. A majority of people surveyed expressed negative views of gairaigo, but only a small minority held strong views. Most were tolerant of gairaigo use and were willing to use new gairaigo. Tolerance decreased with age but there was no clear relationship with English language ability. Opinion poll data did not demonstrate any longitudinal increase in negative views of gairaigo over the 1980s and 90s. It was concluded that public support for government intervention was generally weak and was not assisted by the archaising approach taken to replacing gairaigo with kango. Recommendations for alternative responses were made.
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Tomoda, Takako
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PhD Doctorate
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