Kutabare Hyouzyungo: The Dialect Boom in Japan, 1985-2005

Author: Edwin Everhart (University of California, Los Angeles)
Speaker: Edwin Everhart
Topic: Language, dialect, sociolect, genre
The (SCOPUS / ISI) SOAS GLOCAL CALA 2019 General Session


Policies of national language standardization had, for a century up to 1985, formally marginalized speakers of local language (dialects) in Japan. Starting in the 1960s, marginalized speakers carried out numerous projects of local language documentation, reëvaluation, and revitalization. I describe the period of particularly intensive metalinguistic work, twenty years from 1985 to 2005, as a 方言ブーム (dialect boom) (Yarimizu 2014, Iwasaki & Miura 2015). During this period local language activists worked on diverse projects, expressing diverse language ideologies, in many parts of the Japanese archipelago. くたばれ標準語 (kutabare hyouzyungo, Fuck Standard Japanese) was a slogan for at least one of these projects (in 大分 Ooita); but should the work of local language activists in this period really be interpreted as resistance to language standardization?

This paper analyzes two related case studies of local language reëvaluation projects during this period: 全国方言大会 (the National Dialect Conference) in 三川 (Mikawa), 山形(Yamagata); and 劇団ケセン (Theatre Kesen) in 大船渡 (Oofunato), 岩手 (Iwate). Each project was carried out by a small core group and involved theater, storytelling, text publications, and other activities. Based on archival material and interviews (Mikawa and Oofunato) as well as ethnography (Oofunato), I describe the motivations of these groups, both structural and personal. I compare the content, form, and reception of their work. In view of the broader social context of the era, including contemporary media representations of local language such as the picaresque satire 吉里吉里人 (Kirikirizin) (Inoue 1985), I ask what about this era afforded such projects. I explore the language ideologies (both implicit and explicit) in these projects, asking how they engage with political economic realities of regional inequality and language standardization. In particular I will analyze these groups’ practices of enregistering (Agha 2005) local language, and their discourses of identity in terms of local authenticity and authority (Woolard 2016).


Agha, A. 2005    Voice, footing, enregisterment. Journal of linguistic anthropology 15(1):38-59.

井上ひさし (Inoue H.) 1985    吉里吉里人 (Kirikirizin). Tokyo: 新潮社. 岩崎真梨子 & 三浦華子. (Iwasaki M. & Miura H. ) 2015    方言を取り入れた歌謡曲に関する一考察 (A study on popular song which utilized dialect). 八戸工業大学紀要 (The Bulletin of Hachinohe Institute of Technology) 34:33-51.

鑓水兼貴 (Yarimizu K.) 2014    「首都圏の言語」 をめぐる概念と用語に関して (Concerning terms and concepts pertaining to ‘capital area language’). 国立国語研究所論集 8:197-222.

Woolard, K. 2016    Singular and plural: ideologies of linguistic authority in 21st century Catalonia. New York: Oxford University Press.

Keywords: Dialect boom, Japan, Kutabare Hyouzyungo, Language standardization