Cardiff University | Prifysgol Caerdydd ORCA
Online Research @ Cardiff 
WelshClear Cookie - decide language by browser settings

Sekaigo: Esperanto, international language, and the transnational dimension to Japan’s linguistic modernity

Rapley, Ian ORCID: 2020. Sekaigo: Esperanto, international language, and the transnational dimension to Japan’s linguistic modernity. Japan Forum 32 (4) , pp. 511-530. 10.1080/09555803.2019.1594342

[thumbnail of Sekaigo - Final with edits.pdf]
PDF - Accepted Post-Print Version
Download (326kB) | Preview


In 1906, the international language Esperanto exploded onto the scene in Japan, establishing a community of speakers and practitioners which has persisted to the present day and which was long the largest non-European national Esperanto movement in the world. On the face of it this was an unprecedented and unexpected event in Japanese history. However, this article demonstrates that it was the culmination of a rich history of thinking (and implementing) ideas about Sekaigo (‘world language’) during the Meiji period. This intellectual tradition is an important and overlooked dimension of Japanese language debates – existing scholarship has focused on the creation of a standardised national language but, by writing international language back into the historiography, Japan’s ‘linguistic modernity’ is revealed as a more complex and multi-faceted phenomenon. Different international languages, including Mori Arinori’s English language proposal, treaty port pidgins, and planned languages including (but not limited to) Esperanto, reveal how the need for more effective transnational communication was seen as an emergent problem fundamental to modernity and modernisation, and one potentially as amenable to rational reforms and new intellectual developments as was national language.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: History, Archaeology and Religion
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D204 Modern History
D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D890 Eastern Hemisphere
D History General and Old World > DS Asia
P Language and Literature > PI Oriental languages and literatures
P Language and Literature > PL Languages and literatures of Eastern Asia, Africa, Oceania
Uncontrolled Keywords: Japan Asia transnational history language reform interlinguistics Meiji Period Esperanto
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
ISSN: 0955-5803
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 18 January 2019
Date of Acceptance: 23 December 2018
Last Modified: 06 Nov 2023 21:08

Actions (repository staff only)

Edit Item Edit Item


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics