Sociolinguistics in Japanese Contexts

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

12. 20 Years of the Itoigawa dialect

0. Introductory notes by the editors
One of the areas of Dr. Sibata’s research, linguistic geography, is the subject of this paper prepared in cooperation with Emiko Ishikawa. Here he deals with changes in the distribution of linguistic forms in the Itoigawa area (see Section 4 of this book) based on data from two surveys taken 20 years apart exemplifying “real-time” surveys of linguistic change. Methods of quantifying linguistic changes are applied, and the degree of change is analyzed according to semantic field.The steady progress of language standardization has been verified in this remote area of Japan, but the spread of new dialect forms has also been observed. The study here deals only with the data of older speakers. Other recent surveys in other areas of Japan have discovered that new dialect forms are flourishing, though standardization is still the principal tendency in present day Japanese language change.
1. Introduction
In 1957, 1959 and 1961, W. A. Grootaers, Munemasa Tokugawa, Yoshio Mase and the author investigated the geographical distribution of dialect forms in the Itoigawa district of Niigata prefecture. In 1975, Emiko Ishikawa carried out a second survey of the same district using the same methods. By comparing the two surveys, changes in the dialect of the Itoigawa district over a period of 20 years can be traced. Henceforth, the first survey will be called the “50’s survey”, and the second the “70’s survey”.
2. Aims of this comparison
1. There has been a marked decline in the use of dialect in recent years. Have any of the dialectal forms in the Itoigawa region disappeared?
2. If dialectal forms are disappearing, what characterizes the vocabulary and geographical areas which are affected first?

3. Data gathering

The geographical area surveyed, the method of surveying of every hamlet in the area,40 and the on-location interviewing of informants were features common to both surveys, but there were some differences (see Table 12–1). The main difference is that whereas in the 50’s survey we restricted informants as much as

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