Language Policy

, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp 153–179

Language Planning and Language Ideology in the Ryūkyū Islands

  • Patrick Heinrich

DOI: 10.1023/B:LPOL.0000036192.53709.fc

Cite this article as:
Heinrich, P. Language Policy (2004) 3: 153. doi:10.1023/B:LPOL.0000036192.53709.fc


The Ryūkyū Islands were assimilated into the Japanese nation state in 1879, and Standard Japanese started to spread. Pressure for Standard Japanese language became particularly fervent during the national mobilization campaign, which started in 1939. Following the battle of Okinawa in 1945, the Ryūkyū Islands were separated from Japan and placed under U.S. trusteeship. Although Americans sought to foster Ryūkyūan independence and considered developing Ryūkyūan as a national language, the spread of Standard Japanese continued unabatedly until reunification with Japan in 1972. American attempts to encourage the use of Ryūkyūan notwithstanding, natural intergenerational transmission ceased after 1950. The weakening language loyalty after 1945 must be accounted for by language ideologies concerning Japanese and Ryūkyūan; any successful reverse language shift must take this into account.

assimilation policylanguage ideologynation buildingreversing language shiftRyūkyūanUS occupation

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Patrick Heinrich
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute for East Asian Studies, Modern Japanese Language and CultureDuisburg-Essen UniversityDuisburgGermany