Sociolinguistics in Japanese Contexts

By Tetsuya Kunihiro; Fumio Inoue et al. | Go to book overview

2. The survey of a speech community and its methodology

0. Introductory notes by the editors

This paper is highly appropriate for the beginning part of this book, because it is concerned with the basic methodology of sociolinguistic research. Here Dr. Sibata’s basic attitudes toward linguistic investigation are clearly shown. The methodology is typically scientific. The spirit of “proof through experiment and observation” is clearly advocated and several statistical techniques are also introduced.

We should note that this paper was written early in 1951, much earlier than the sociolinguistic surveys of the 1970s in the USA. The paper is backed by data from actual linguistic surveys conducted in collaboration with the Institute of Statistical Mathematics.

It is worthy of note that Dr. Sibata was already applying the “Guttman Scale”, which has some conceptual similarities with implicational scaling, as is pointed out by Bell (1976: 55), to this survey of language standardization. Statistical methodologies are one of the features of early Japanese sociolinguistics of which we can boast.

The research discussed here on language standardization in Tsuruoka City, Yamagata Prefecture, was planned and carried out by Dr. Sibata. The results were so fruitful that other scholars conducted a follow-up survey about 20 years later, which lead to a new model of language standardization being constructed. A third survey was also conducted in 1991 (Kokuritsu Kokugo Kenkyûjo 1994, see also Chambers and Trudgill 1980). These three largescale sociolinguistic surveys conducted in the same community over a period of about 40 years are important attempts at long-term sociolinguistic research which may well be unequaled anywhere in the world. Ambitious investigations such as this into the processes of language standardization in societies which industrialized and urbanized rapidly have offered some useful sociolinguistic models. Dissemination of newer forms will be ascertained as “real time” changes.


1. Introduction

I have given some consideration to the social study of regional dialects on the basis of my experiences in planning and conducting linguistic surveys of Hachijô– jima, Shirakawa City, Tsuruoka City and Iida City. I have extended my consideration to the method of general linguistic surveys based on my experiences participating in the “Literacy Survey” (explanatory footnote). In this chapter, the significance and the methods of those surveys will be discussed. However, I can give no more than an outline in the final two sections because of limited space. Japanese readers may refer to Kokuritsu Kokugo Kenkyûjo (1950), Kokuritsu Kokugo Kenkyûjo (1951), and Sibata etal. (eds.) (1951–4b).

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