No word quite describes this book as well as "thorough." Irwin has done his homework and his approach is, wherever possible, detail oriented and quantitative. Apparently his goal was to produce a comprehensive academic reference work in English, a book that would be a great source for any linguist investigating lexical borrowing, and an indispensable addition to the shelf of most anyone doing serious work on Japanese. I believe he has succeeded, and the book will be used and cited long into the future as the standard source on this subject.
Mark Irwin has produced a wide-ranging, authoritative study of the lexical borrowing into Japanese that has taken place over the last five centuries. Nothing comparable has been written in Japanese, English, or (as far as I know) any other language since the updated edition of Umegaki’s book (Nihon gairaigo no kenkyū) was published almost 50 years ago. Irwin’s work sets a new standard for scholarship in this area.
As a whole, this monograph attests to the author’s hard work, providing a great amount of detailed analyses regarding Japanese loanwords. Target audiences of readers, such as graduate students and researchers in the area of Japanese linguistics, will surely be inspired by the many useful insights of this volume. Readers will be greatly intrigued, especially by Chapters 2 (A history of Japanese loanwords) and Chapter 3 (Phonology), as they demonstrate the author’s extremely detailed and painstaking linguistic analyses.
Mark Irwin's book is a hugely significant English-language contribution to the study of gairaigo, or phonological loanwords in Modern Japanese. Its strengths include a vast bibliography of significant Japanese-language and Western-language works on the subject, a wealth of linguistic and statistical data, a detailed survey of the systematic adaptation of not only English-origin loans but loans from every modern language that has influenced Japanese, and coverage of not only phonological and morphological but also orthographic and societal angles. It is significantly also the first English-language work to include first citations of all examples. It avoids unnecessary recourse to recent theoretical frameworks, allowing the focus to remain on the data itself, and as such it will be fully accessible to all levels, from first-year students to hardened theoretical linguists. It has a clear definition of terms and concepts throughout, including discussion of grey-area or peripheral features. In short, it fills a major gap in Western-language works in the area.