Current Institutional Affiliation
Doctoral Candidate, University of California / Los Angeles

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2015
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, University of California / Los Angeles
Speaking With an Accent in Northern Japan: Discrimination and Dialect Ideologies

In March 2011 the world learned of earthquake, tsunami, and subsequent nuclear disasters unfolding in Japan, from which Japan would presumably be able to recover. In fact these disasters struck a marginalized part of Japan, the Tohoku region, that was already suffering from a shrinking population and economy. Now with lagging recovery efforts, and with the Trans-Pacific Partnership threatening further destruction to the area's critical agriculture, the Tohoku region is left in a precarious position in the face of national and global standardizing forces. The region's vulnerability is most apparent in language: a protracted effort by the state to stamp out non-standard language was strongly felt here, and people continue to shift from local dialects toward Standard Japanese. Still, even people in the youngest generations bear distinct local accents, marking their regional origins in a way that most find humiliating. How do young people cope with being shut out of the standard language? This study draws on approaches from sociolinguistics as well as "endangered language" studies to investigate how young people at the fraying edge of the Japanese national project think about and use local, "non-standard" dialects.