Re-examine Lou Go Phenomenon in Japan

Junko Winch


This study is to re-examine the language phenomenon which occurred in Japan. Japan had undergone a linguist phenomenon called Lou Go (‘Lou language’) between 2006 and 2007. Lou Go had been analysed its basic grammar rule and the use of vocabulary when it was in trend. However, the analysis was not linguistically studied and its implication was unknown. The objective of this study is to investigate Lou Go from linguistic perspectives and consider its implications. The research method of Lou Go’s characteristics was analysed using a Lou Go text and Katakana (English borrowing words) text both quantitatively and qualitatively. Two key findings were observed. The first was that the use of English borrowing words and relexification of the word class were different, although both Lou Go and Katakana texts seems to share similarities. The relexification of Katakana text used only pronouns or nouns while Lou Go text consisted of relexification of nouns, verbs and adjectives. The second finding was that Lou Go users were usually Japanese native speakers and they did conscious code-switching which means they intentionally chose to replace certain Japanese nouns, verbs and adjectives into English. From these results, it may be possible to conclude that Lou Go was not an extension of existing Katakana and that Lou Go was not an alternative name of foreigners’ Japanese. Implication of Lou Go phenomenon is that its success may be due to a combination of globalisation and Japanese educational policy at the right time and the right place.

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