The use and interpretation of “regional” and “standard” variants in Japanese conversation

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It is often said that language standardization has been steadily advancing in modern Japan and that speakers in regional Japan are now bi-dialectal and code-switch between “Standard” and “regional” Japanese. The notion of code-switching, however, assumes the existence of varieties, or well-defined linguistic systems, that are distinct from each other. In this study, I examine the use of “Standard Japanese” and “regional dialects” and argue that it is much more complex and dynamic than what can be possibly accounted for in terms of the notion of code-switching involving two distinct varieties. I explore an alternative account employing the notion of variant choice and characterize the social meanings of “Standard” and “regional” variants as context-dependent and as multiple and ambiguous.


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