Grammar, Identity, and Ideology in Early 20th-Century Japan


Have you ever felt that the grammar of Asian languages does not fit with the framework that we use to describe them? In the late 19th century, Asian grammarians began adapting the European-based grammatical frameworks describing their languages, but this application was not straightforward. In Japan, the question of grammar eventually became entangled with larger debates about cultural identity, heritage, and nationalism.

In this episode, Jonathan Puntervold unfolds the story of conservative Japanese language scholar, Yamada Yoshio (1875-1957) and his legacy on Japanese linguistics, in conversation with Tyra Orton.

Jonathan is a PhD fellow at the Department of Global Studies at Aarhus University and is currently a visiting researcher at NIAS. With a background in general linguistics and Japanese studies, his research has generally focused on the nature of Japanese grammar and the many different descriptions of it across time and space. The episode focuses on his recently submitted PhD thesis, If the shoe fits: Yamada Yoshio and the birth of neotraditionalist linguistics in Japan, which examines the ideological debates surrounding language and linguistics in early 20th century Japan from the perspective of global intellectual history.

Tyra Orton is a student at the Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies at the University of Copenhagen and a student assistant at NIAS.

The Nordic Asia Podcast is a collaboration sharing expertise on Asia across the Nordic region, brought to you by the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies (NIAS) based at the University of Copenhagen, along with our academic partners: the Centre for East Asian Studies at the University of Turku, the University of Helsinki, and Asianettverket at the University of Oslo.

We aim to produce timely, topical and well-edited discussions of new research and developments about Asia.

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