IJLLL 2019 Vol.5(1): 25-36 ISSN: 2382-6282
DOI: 10.18178/IJLLL.2019.5.1.200

“Japanese English”: A Descriptive Grammar of Concord in the English Written by Educated Japanese

Kolawole Waziri Olagboyega
Abstract—As an attempt to conflate the existing pedagogical concept of "Standard English" and the emerging theoretical notion of "standard non-native varieties of English", this study looks at the stability of the claimed "characteristic" forms of "Japanese English" and shows the statistical likelihood of their occurrence in particular syntactic and semantic environments. This approach is both pedagogically and theoretically interesting inasmuch as it identifies the divergent forms. The classroom teacher, for example, may know what to “correct” and the textbook writers what to highlight. The theoretical linguist who argues for the existence of non-native standard varieties of English has also got ready evidence on which to draw; evidence that can also validate the concept of “fossilization”, which seeks to account for the adult non-native speaker‟s grammatical variability. My starting point was to compile a corpus of the “educated written English” in Japan. The corpus consists of material that appears in the four Japanese national English-language newspapers, Asahi Evening News, Japan Times, Mainichi Daily News, and The Daily Yomiuri which comprises the editorials, articles, advertisements, letters to the editor, etc.; government publications, such as those of the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT); articles published in English by Japanese University professors and the writing of university students in Japan. Statistical information is given in the text itself. Because we are interested in the language produced by a people or group of speakers rather than the individual variability within the group, the data-base is cross-sectional rather than longitudinal. We are concerned here with agreement in number between the head of the NP, which is typically a noun, and other elements such as determiners, quantifiers, verbs and numerals. Our data indicates a high percentage of conflicts between the principles underlying concord in the English written by educated Japanese. In numerous examples, there seems to be a conflict between grammatical concord and attraction through proximity. The principle of attraction through proximity here, however, does not seem to be reinforced by notional concord, and that is why these examples may seem divergent. On that basis, we can reasonably conclude that divergence in concord in educated written English in Japan largely reflects the conflict between grammatical concord and concord of proximity, which is not uncommon in this area of standard practice. However, the data seems to also suggest that either there exists something called „English usage in Japan‟ or that there exists something called „Japanese English‟.

Index Terms—Concord, descriptive grammar, Japanese English, new Englishes.

K. W. Olagboyea is with Tsuru University, Department of English, Faculty of Letters and Graduate School, Yamanashi, Japan 402-8555 (e-mail: kola@ tsuru.ac.jp).


Cite:Kolawole Waziri Olagboyega, "“Japanese English”: A Descriptive Grammar of Concord in the English Written by Educated Japanese," International Journal of Languages, Literature and Linguistics vol. 5, no. 1, pp. 25-36, 2019.

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