Carnegie Mellon University
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Dokusai: The Evolution of a Japanese Word

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posted on 2021-10-11, 16:46 authored by Simon Lenoe
This thesis examines the change in the meaning of the Japanese word dokusai, from the end of the Meiji Era {circa 1887) to the signing of the Anti-Comintern Pact between Japan and Nazi Germany in 1936. Over time, dokusai underwent a semantic shift, that is, a changing of definition. during the rise of the twentieth century, and that by the beginning of the Second World War, it became effectivity synonymous with the Western term, "dictator". However, dokusai's attribution to a word meaning a sole person with extraordinary or absolute power, was in direct contradiction to its original meaning in Chinese texts. In turn, as the word "dictator'" underwent a semantic expansion, that is, a broadening of definition, with the rise of 20th century authoritarians like Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, as well as the communist "'dictatorship of the proletariat'" in Russia. Japanese scholars and thinkers were forced to reevaluate and reassert the definition of the word in reflection of changing times, By the time dokusai came to mean "dictatorship" , it had essentially developed the opposite meaning of its original definition.





Ricky W. Law


  • Modern Languages

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