Sociolinguistics in Japanese Contexts

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

19. Urbanization and language differences in social

0. Introductory notes by the editors

The perennial sociolinguistic topic --- social class --- is the main concern here. The dialects of the Okinawan Islands (or more precisely the Southwestern Islands, consisting basically of the former kingdom of Ryûkyû) are said to reflect class differences both in vocabulary (competence) and language use (performance). Dr. Sibata and his co-workers investigated this phenomenon in two localities in the southern-most region of Japan, and found that evidence of these differences is now sparse. Dr. Sibata made use of the differences in the degree of urbanization between city of Hirara and the small village of Karimata, and found that modernization had influenced the disappearance of class differences in language.

When people are conscious of differences among people, differences in language are often mentioned, sometimes with only the slightest evidence to back up the claims. Thus language is often utilized in discriminating against people, something of which everyone should be aware. This paper shows the process of linguistic “markers” and “indicators” becoming “stereotypes” to differentiate between social classes.

Phenomena similar to those discussed here have been found on mainland Honshu Island, and so-called dialect consciousness or dialect image is often manifested in dialect discrimination. The concept of “dialect (inferiority) complex”, a term coined by Dr– Sibata, is also related to these phenomena.

In the transcription system for the Miyako dialect used here, ‘z’ represents a syllabic sound which resembles both the [z] and the vowel [V] pronounced with a degree of friction. ‘V’ also can be syllabic.

1. Gentry and commoners in Miyako

In modern Japan, although differences still exist between different social strata, differences in social classes seem to have already disappeared. The one exception is the Okinawa region of the Southwestern Islands. In Shuri (the former Ryûkyû capital) on the main island of Okinawa, the differences between shizoku (gentry) and heimin (commoners) are very large and one finds differences even in the phonological systems of the dialect. On Miyako Island (the main island of the Miyako chain) in the southwestern end of the islands, the differences are not so large, but even now, the older people at least of Miyako Island often refer to discrimination between commoners and the gentry. These references are apparently based on their experiences at the beginning of the 20th century, that is, from the end of Meiji era (1868–1912) to the beginning of Taishô era (1912–1926). Thus, it can be said that a consciousness of discrimination between the gentry and commoners on Miyako Island is alive even today.


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Sociolinguistics in Japanese Contexts
Table of contents

Table of contents



Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 492

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?