Course Description

How and why does language change? Are the ways in which a language has changed or is changing unique or are they common across languages? How do nuanced expressions emerge in social contexts? What do shifts in meaning tell us about how we think and behave? What are the impacts of societal/world changes, such as globalization and internationalization, on language? How can we approach these issues critically? Focusing on examples of Japanese and the languages of Japan, this course addresses various cultural, psychological and social issues underlying linguistic diversity and their relevance to historical linguistics.  

We will start from the observable (forms of linguistic messages) and work our way toward the invisible (cognitive patterns, communicative intent and personal/societal beliefs). Along the way, we will engage in discussions on language-internal variations by genre, region, age, gender, etc. (sociolinguistics); categorization behavior and interpersonal strategies (cognitive linguistics and pragmatics); as well as contemporary issues and emerging ideas and movements concerning language, e.g., linguistic landscapes, “easy” or modified Japanese, “World Japaneses” and bi-/multi-/pluri-/metro-lingualism. You will have opportunities to work with a variety of cultural materials, such as song lyrics, manga, J-drama and other audio-visual/textual sources to contextualize discipline-specific concepts. You will be writing three Japanese or Japanese linguistics-inspired (short) papers, and analyzing and writing linguistics papers tailored to your interests. Each paper will be scaffolded by smaller assignments that incorporate problem sets, (online) library research and data collection.

This course will be taught in English. “Japanese” in this course serves both as a central theme that can be concretized though linguistic theories and as a means through which those disciplinary concepts are learned. Thus, all students, regardless of their linguistic background, can relate to the course content. Class activities and assignments frequently draw upon other languages, which may or may not be familiar to you, for comparison, and students are encouraged to do so as well. Non-English examples (including those in Japanese) will be transliterated and translated. This course counts as an elective towards a linguistics minor or Japanese major/minor culture course.

Date, Time & Classroom

Monday and Wednesday 8:40-9:55 a.m., MBH430


Sayaka Abe, Assistant Professor of Japanese Studies

Office Hours (Fall 2021) Monday & Wednesday 1:30-3:00 p.m. and by appointment