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Personal profile


My research looks at the sociolinguistic motivations behind styles of variation/play restricted to the written mode, with a particular focus on script use in Japanese. More broadly, I am curious about how different ways of reperesenting written language are involved within the creation of meaning (Silverstein's "total linguistic fact"), or grow into indexes of stance and/or identity. While generally sociolinguistics has focused on variation inherent to speech (e.g., accent), it is important to remember that some variation is also inherent to writing in ways that have no direct relation to differences that come from speech. For instance, while alternative spellings are often attempts at recreating accent or salient speech styles, font, script, CAPS, etc., are all restricted to writing, and their presence in a text is lost if the text is spoken allowed. By focusing on Japanese writing, where script variation is perhaps more commonplace than anywhere else, I hope to shed light on how differences between our written language practices also become salient social markers of stance and identity.

I am also intrigued by studies regarding any kind of written language play (again, especially when the play cannot be reproduced in speech), or the development and reform of writing systems, with a (non-exclusive) focus on Asian contexts.

Research interests

  • Japanese Sociolinguistics
  • Language Ideologies & Indexicality
  • Language Planning & Policy
  • Writing Systems Research
  • The History of Written Japanese
  • Language Play & Humor Translation
  • Nonstandard Language Use


JPS/JPNX 101 (Introductory Japanese 1)
JPS 102 (Introductory Japanese 2)
JPS 316 (Intercultural Perspectives in Japanese & English)

Education/Academic qualification

Applied Linguistics, PhD, Monash University

Jul 2013Jul 2016

Japanese & Creative Writing, Bachelors, Macalester College

Aug 2004May 2008

Applied Linguistics, Master's, Monash University

Feb 2012Jun 2013

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Research Outputs

Unspeakable puns: kanji-dependent wordplay as a localization strategy in Japanese

Robertson, W., 2020, In : Perspectives: Studies in Translatology. 28, 4, p. 606-624 19 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • Scripted voices: script's role in creating Japanese manga dialogue

    Robertson, W., 2019, In : Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics. 10, 1, p. 87-105 19 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • 1 Citation (Scopus)
  • 5 Citations (Scopus)

    Script choice and indexicality in Japanese manga

    Robertson, W. C., 2016, (Unpublished) 266 p.

    Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis