Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.



Degree Program

English Rhetoric and Composition, PhD

Committee Chair

Horner, Bruce

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Olinger, Andrea

Committee Member

Olinger, Andrea

Committee Member

Mattes, Mark

Committee Member

Prior, Paul

Author's Keywords

transmodality; multimodality; Japanese writing; translingualism; pedagogy; sociolinguistics of writing


This dissertation analyzes the use of different scripts in Japanese writing practices to disrupt English-language and Western-centric approaches to multimodal composition. Early chapters establish a brief history of the Japanese writing system (JWS) and explore its functionality. I trace the JWS’s development from borrowed Chinese characters (kanji), which were adapted to the Japanese language through the translation process of kundoku, to the contemporary system which utilizes the supplemental phonetic scripts of hiragana and katakana, in part, to represent Japanese syntax. Building on this historical context, I demonstrate how the use of the Japanese multi-scripts (hiragana, katakana, and kanji) in conventional and creative writing practices trouble linguistic boundaries and beliefs in the uniformity and stability of modal communication. To illustrate, variations in the meaning, pronunciation, and orthography of particular kanji, as well as variations in one’s choice of script, usher in a range of stylistic and semantic possibilities that complicates the linearity that multimodal scholarship ascribes to written text. The final chapter of my dissertation draws on the results of a process diary study, in which Japanese undergraduates track their writing processes when composing academic and non-academic texts, to propose pedagogical practices for the English composition classroom. By placing historical and contemporary uses of Japanese writing in conversation with the scholarly fields of linguistic anthropology, writing systems research, and sociolinguistics, I demonstrate a transmodal orientation to writing and teaching that is strengthened by, and advocates for, greater attention to thinking across languages and modes.