Following the release of its first edition in 1955, publisher Iwanami Shoten’s Kojien has become one of the most respected and widely used dictionaries in Japan. Since 1998, the tome has been on a 10-year update cycle, and so last week’s release of Kojien’s seventh edition was a big deal not just for linguists, but for Japanese society in general.
However, not more than a few days after it went on sale on Jan 12, criticisms have arisen regarding one of the new book’s definitions. Among the terms added to the seventh edition is “LGBT,” and not an equivalent using indigenous Japanese linguistic components. The four-letter acronym appears in the book as “LGBT,” just like it would in an English dictionary.
The inclusion of the term hasn’t caused any controversy, but what has is the way Kojien defines the term, which is: “People with a different sexual orientation from the majority.”
Critics say that this definition improperly limits the scope of what the term stands for. Breaking the acronym into its components, “lesbian,” “gay,” and “bisexual” indicate sexual orientation, but “transgender,” represented by the last letter of the acronym, does not, instead referring to an individual’s gender identity.
Given the exalted position that Kojien occupies in academic and professional circles, the dictionary’s definitions have the potential to affect how educators, students, and businesspeople use and interpret words. Kanazawa University associate humanities professor Takeyoshi Iwamoto expressed his concerns about the book’s incomplete definition for LGBT, saying that he hopes the publisher will craft a more suitable entry for the term after consultation with experts and specialists. LGBT activist Mameta Endo had similar sentiments, saying that he would be alarmed if the limited definition in the new Kojien were to gain traction. “I want the publishers to revise the definition at the first opportunity,” he has said.
Iwanami Shoten, meanwhile, has issued a statement saying that it is aware of the concerns about the present definition, and is currently in internal discussions about whether to revise the definition, and if so, how to implement the change.
Sources: Mainichi Shimbun, Asahi Shimbun via Hachima Kiko
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