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Reviewed by:
  • The Cambridge Handbook of Japanese Linguistics ed. by Yoko Hasegawa
  • Junko Mori (bio)
The Cambridge Handbook of Japanese Linguistics. Edited by Yoko Hasegawa. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2018. xvi, 760 pages. $145.00, cloth; $116.00, E-book.

What is linguistics? What do linguists study and how? While these are common questions, answers may vary among those who identify themselves as linguists. The Cambridge Handbook of Japanese Linguistics (CHJL, hereafter), edited by Yoko Hasegawa, joins two others with similar titles, The Handbook of Japanese Linguistics edited by Natsuko Tsujimura and The Oxford Handbook of Japanese Linguistics edited by Shigeru Miyagawa and Mamoru Saito,1 but the topics covered in the three drastically differ, demonstrating the respective editors' strength in, and affinity for, particular areas of linguistics. Miyagawa and Saito, for instance, state their deliberate decision to focus on "formal" approaches to Japanese linguistics to ensure the coherence of their coverage, while briefly acknowledging the significance of some other areas in their introduction. By narrowing the coverage to syntax, semantics, morphology, phonetics, phonology, acquisition, sentence processing, and information structure, however, their version likely attracts only those who already have some foundation in formal linguistics. Tsujimura, on the other hand, includes chapters on discourse analysis and pragmatics, as well as sociolinguistics. Nevertheless, the majority of the chapters in her handbook also examine structural aspects of the language. By comparison, Hasegawa selects a much wider range of topics than the previous two, introducing historical, cognitive-functional, sociopragmatic, and discourse/conversation analytic approaches to the study of language and language use. The selection indicates the breadth of Hasegawa's knowledge and her commitment to showcase diverse features [End Page 536] of Japanese and thereby challenge or advance existing linguistic theories developed primarily based on English and other European languages. As such, CHJL is a welcome addition that complements the existing handbooks and presents the field of linguistics in a more holistic and inclusive manner.

CHJL consists of 29 chapters authoritatively written by well-established experts. The organization and accessibility of the chapters varies to some extent, but they generally survey the historical development of studies in the respective areas and introduce competing or complementing theories and approaches, as well as illustrative examples or empirical data. Remaining gaps in the literature and possible future directions are also identified toward the end of each chapter. These chapters are organized into five thematic parts, briefly summarized below.

Part 1, consisting of six chapters, examines the Japanese language from historical and typological perspectives. This type of overview was absent in the previous two handbooks. Together, the six chapters introduce a variety of typological profiles of the Japanese language and its dialects, the diachronic change of phonological, grammatical, lexical, and semantic features of the language, and the development of the writing system. External influences from Chinese and European languages are also addressed in these chapters. The coverage ranges from the characteristics of the Old Japanese of the eighth century to the impact of computer mediated communication (CMC) on the written form of Japanese observed in contemporary society. Other critical developments discussed in this part include purposeful reforms of the language that took place at several pivotal moments in Japan's history—the genbun itchi undō (movement to unify spoken and written language) and the establishment of kokugo (national language) during the Meiji period (1868–1912), as well as the post–World War II establishment of gendai kanazukai (current orthography) and debate over the abolition of Chinese characters. These chapters thus serve to establish the understanding of some distinct features of the Japanese language, as well as variations within the language and changes over time, and nicely form the frame of reference for the subsequent chapters.

Part 2 on sound system and lexicon includes five chapters. Some of these entries address standard topics such as how the notions of moras and syllables can be applied to understand the phonological properties of Japanese and how various regional dialects have their own pitch accent systems distinct from that of Tokyo Japanese, which is often equated with Standard Japanese. There are, however, some new topics. The chapter on intonation, for instance, sheds light on yet another dimension of the sound system...


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