Sekaigo - the international languages of Meiji Japan
Play • 40 min
[Recorded 26 February 2020] Our understanding of language in Meiji Japan is chiefly focused upon the changes to the Japanese language itself: the creation of a central standardised Japanese and the relegation of regional variants to the status of dialects, as well as the simplification of grammar and the unification of spoken and written language. However, alongside this inward looking history, there is another, outward looking one: a history of debate about what the right language was for Japan to use to talk to the rest of world. This history features a range of unfamiliar languages: Volapuk, Esperanto, Zilengo, and Yokohama Kotoba, and reveals an important but forgotten dimension to Japan’s modernity.
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