Signposts for the Way: Grammar, Phonology, and Ideology in Eighteenth-Century Japan


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




This dissertation rethinks eighteenth-century kokugaku (an intellectual movement frequently translated into English as “nativism”) through the lens of language and linguistics. Focusing on the hitherto overlooked grammatical and phonological studies of three kokugaku scholars—Motoori Norinaga, Fujitani Nariakira, and Suzuki Akira—it demonstrates that kokugaku spearheaded a highly sophisticated and empirically grounded inquiry into the technicalities of language, using this in turn to undergird ideological arguments pertaining to the nature of language both on the Japanese archipelago and in the cosmos. Furthermore, it challenges existing scholarly portrayals of kokugaku as ushering in new forms of community that were later appropriated in the building of the modern Japanese nation-state.