Suppose I'm writing a novel that takes place N years ago, say N = 80. Given the dramatic increase of loanwords in the past century, especially from English, what would be the best way (if there is any) to know whether a word existed at all and how commonly was it used at the time?

For material things, eg related to technology, this would obviously trivial. I am referring here to more abstract concepts, such as adjectives and nouns like ポピュラー、リーズナブル、カラフル、デリケート、ドキュメント、コミットメント、イベント, and so on.

One way I can think of is to check dictionaries published around the time the story takes place. However, this could be technically difficult and not necessarily precise. Is there any other way? To rephrase the question, what is a good way to understand when a new word has been officially introduced and became mainstream? Before Google of course.

BCCWJ is a corpus of written Japanese and you can search it here. Type the word in the search box and you can see the published year of the texts in which the word was used. However, it focuses on contemporary Japanese and doesn't include texts before 1971.

CHJ is a corpus of written Japanese from Nara period to Taisho period (~1925). However, you have to fill out an application form to use it.

  • Thank you. I'm puzzled on how to choose the correct answer. Both yours and Naruto's provide interesting resources. – Tommy Aug 21 at 2:11

青空文庫 is a library of public-domain literary works, and it mainly consists of novels written between 1870 and 1950. I often use this full-text search to check how a certain word was used around the Meiji – middle Showa era.

  • Thank you. I'm puzzled on how to choose the correct answer. Both yours and legogo's provide interesting resources. – Tommy Aug 21 at 2:11

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