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The fuzzy logic behind Japanese attachment to kanji

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As confirmed recently on a Japanese-language Q&A site, the attachment of native speakers of Japanese to kanji rests more in the heart than in the mind.

A full description of the Q&A material is contained in the article linked at the end of this piece. Here, the focus is on two arguments presented in favor of the continued use of kanji.

Argument 1: Eliminating Chinese characters in Korea has been demonstrated an error, on account of the confusion caused by homonyms. Japan should not make the same mistake. This is an opinion commonly expressed around the Japanese web. The basis, such as it is, lies in the following incident.

In 2009, cracks were discovered in railways ties of the KTX bullet trains operated by the Korea Rail Network Authority. Investigation revealed that the manufacturer had used an absorbent material instead of a waterproofing material. Collected rainwater froze and expanded in winter, resulting in cracking. The immediate cause was determined to lie in the subcontractor's confusion of one Korean term indicating "absorption" for another one pronounced the same and meaning "waterproof."

Here the fuzzy logic runs: Had the term been written in Chinese characters, the costly mistake would never have occurred. In consequence, eliminating Chinese characters in favor of Hangul was an error.

However, if elimination of Chinese characters was the root problem, we would expect an endless series of confused orders in Korea over the past half-century or so. This is not the case.

Rather, and significantly, the investigation found that the manufacturer had been awarded the contract owing to the strength of its connections, and labeled the company "unqualified." This is the real foundation of the mistake, but proponents of kanji insist the abandonment of Chinese characters is to blame.

Argument 2: Japan's future hinges on cooperation with economic powerhouse China, so that rather than abolishing kanji, Japan should be emphasizing kanji skills more than ever.

Here the fuzzy logic takes the form: Communication and mutual understanding between China and Japan will be facilitated by continuing use of Chinese characters/kanji.

It is a commonplace for Japanese people to describe visiting China and making themselves understood by writing kanji. Sure, this happens, but the level of communication barely surpasses what can be achieved by gestures, if even that. Write the characters for "stomach" and "pain" and a Chinese person will probably conclude you have a stomachache. Wonderful, but the same thing can be accomplished even more quickly by grimacing and clutching one's belly.

Deeper communication is a different matter. Chinese and Japanese are genetically distinct languages, and there are also differences in how the Chinese characters/kanji are used at present.

The set of simplified Chinese characters in use in China and the set of regular-use characters in Japan feature numerous distinctions. Examples:

A) In Japan 乾, 幹 and 干 are distinct characters. In simplified Chinese characters, all three are written as 干.

B) In simplified Chinese characters, the left-hand element of the contemporary Japanese characters 歓, 観 and 難 are all written with 又.

C) The simplified Chinese character forms sometimes delete elements found in their corresponding characters in contemporary Japanese usage: 広 → 广; 誇 → 夸; 気 → 气 and so on.

What is more, even if China and Japan agreed upon a common script, readers of Chinese would remain far from adequately grasping Japanese, and vice versa.

Consider the following sentence that might appear in a Japanese newspaper.

島根県内で女性が5年前から行方不明になっている事件で、女性の殺害や遺体遺棄などを認めている男3人が「女性に睡眠薬が入ったカクテルを飲まさせて乱暴し、刺して殺した」と供述していることが21日、警察への取材で分かった。

To one able to read Chinese characters, the following parts will leap to the eyes.

島根県内 女性 3年前 行方不明 事件 女性 殺害 遺体遺棄 認 男3人 「女性 睡眠薬入 飲 乱暴 刺 殺」 供述 21日、警察 取材 分。

The literal English equivalent of what the reader of Chinese will be able to puzzle out is: Within Shimane Prefecture woman 5 years ago go missing incident woman kill abandon corpse acknowledge 3 men 「woman sleeping medicine place/go in drink violence? stab kill」 declare 21st police collect material? divide?

For the reader of Chinese, at least a half-dozen key points are obscure.

-- Is the "woman" that appears three times the same individual?

-- How many people were killed, and how many corpses abandoned?

-- Did a woman place the sleeping medicine in a drink? Was it perhaps the woman's drink that was spiked? Or were multiple women somehow involved?

-- Who did the declaring?

-- The police collected material? Then they divided it? (In Japanese, the primary meaning of 取材 is "collect information from news sources." In Chinese it means "collect material." Meanwhile, 分 in Japanese does have the meaning "divide," but here it means "understand." In other words, the reporter learned the information, having received it from the police.)

-- Who did what on the 21st?

This is the outer limit of what a reader of Chinese lacking knowledge of kana and of Japanese grammar can surmise about written Japanese. Nor is a Japanese reader lacking a knowledge of Chinese grammar any better placed to comprehend a Chinese sentence containing this information.

Even supposing that China and Japan managed to agree upon a common script, they would be no closer to mutual linguistic understanding than joint users of the Roman alphabet such as Hungarians and Australians.

These two examples are indicative of how Japanese arguing in favor of retaining kanji tend to allow emotions to trump ratiocination. Of course, as "yurukyara," manga and anime suggest, language is only one aspect of Japanese culture evincing pliant reasoning and/or a partiality for fuzziness. Considering all the sharp edges with which our world is strewn, perhaps this very same pliancy and comfort with vagueness help account for the universal scope and vigor of Japanese soft power.

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127 Comments
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The author might have been more convincing had he also provided a cogent argument for doing away with kanji in Japanese in the first place--aside from the usual "it's too hard" nonsense--withoit which this article seems a bit pointless.

8 ( +13 / -5 )

Except for the Chinese system, cultures that use hieroglyphic alphabets as a primary means of written communication have invariably failed throughout history. How much longer can kanji remain a viable and practical way to convey information to other people? The static inability to render new concepts in kanji and its abstract and pictographic approach to ancient ones show just how feeble it is for the present age. Couple that with the illogical grammar paradigm and overly vowel heavy - homonymic spoken form and you have why Japanese is considered by many linguists as the most inferior language used by more than 100 million in modern times. Not that my native tongue is 100% perfect, but the limitations of Japanese have kept its speakers isolated and eccentric for about 1300 years. The Japanese people have made no attempt to internationalize their language other than by force, and contemporary study of it is only out of business necessity or pop-culture curiosity. Still, they are fascinating and visually beautiful characters to look at.

-8 ( +9 / -17 )

Even supposing that China and Japan managed to agree upon a common script, they would be no closer to mutual linguistic understanding than joint users of the Roman alphabet such as Hungarians and Australians.

Clearly untrue - the author shows above that a Chinese reader of Japanese can already grasp the gist, or at least subject matter of what is written, even if the subtleties are lost. By contrast, who would know what this Hungarian sentence means:

"A légpárnás hajóm teli van angolnákkal."

12 ( +12 / -0 )

My husband and I often visit Hong Kong. On one of our early trips there we got into a taxi and gave the driver our destination, in English. The driver was like 'NO,no,no!' Indicating that he didn't understand our destination and had no intention of taking us anywhere. So my husband whipped out his notebook and wrote down the destination in Kanji. This completely changed the drivers attitude. Although he was somewhat baffled as to why a Kanji writer couldn't speak Cantonese! My husband now always has pen and paper on hand when out and about in the city. It is really fascinating to see the transformation on the often gruff faces of Hong Kongnese when a word or two written in kanji is shown to them!

7 ( +9 / -2 )

To anyone who says Japanese is an inferior or illogical language, please learn something about language before you post. If Japanese were illogical or inefficient, its speakers wouldn't be able to understand each other or it wouldn't even be a language. And of course the only reasons to learn it are from business/work necessity or cultural interest - the same reasons any other language has ever been learned. Kanji are not simply "pretty pictures" - they have radicals, form, logic, and meaning. I personally enjoy learning the different meanings and uses of kanji. If you know anything abouy languages, you agree that there is no such thing as an inferior language - simply different paradigms.

6 ( +18 / -12 )

Koreans seem to be regretting that they stopped using Kanji out of pride. One reason for it seems that they don't read books so much any more because it's harder to read Korean alphabet only material.

-3 ( +8 / -11 )

To anyone who thinks that Japanese is not profoundly illogical, just try translating it with a typical software program. What do you get? Gibberish. Because even fundamentally logical machines such as computers are unable to accurately decipher it. The English version of 'one plus one equals two' is easily understood by even the simplest of code. But the Japanese version 'ichi to ichi wa, ni desu' is incomprehensible to machines. I do know a little something about language - I speak and read 4 of them, but I never said that Japanese is inferior. However, many of my fellow professors in the language department at my university (I'm in the Japanese religious studies dept.) say that it is inferior. And Japanese do have a difficult time communicating with each other. Since spoken Japanese has a limited number of phonemes due to a lack of final consonants, it has become the most homonymic language in modern and (somewhat) widespread usage. Additionally, Japanese is an inherently implicit and vague language whereas European languages (other than Slavic) are explicit and precise. Yes, kanji have meaning, sometimes too many meanings. Just try finding which on or kun rendering of the kanji for 'life' is the one the writer means when working with minimal context. And kanji do not have logic. That is a basic concept of hieroglyphics, abstract representation of something enigmatic or not obvious from its radical parts. And kanji are a static mechanism which is why the Japanese needed to invent katakana. I could go on and on about the limitations of the Japanese language, but I never said in my post that I didn't like it.

-1 ( +16 / -17 )

This article made my head hurt. Just came across as the guy who wrote it trying to show off that he understands Chinese. Round of applause for him.

These two examples are indicative of how Japanese arguing in favor of retaining kanji tend to allow emotions to trump ratiocination.

No, they don't. They don't, at all.

Anyway,

I don't know why an article titled "The fuzzy logic behind Japanese attachment to kanji", ended up saying NOTHING about any "fuzzy logic". He just rattled-on about Korea; and the differences between kanji in China and Japan. Which is obvious- because they're 2 different languages.

It would be like writing an article with a title about how English and Dutch have an almost identical alphabet- then going on to say that if you order "appelsinjuice" in Norway, you think you're going to get apple juice, but you don't. You get orange juice. The end.

15 ( +18 / -3 )

What a bunch of poppycock! Another foreigner who does not want to bother learning how to read the language. Well, we Japanese have no problem reading tha language, and that is what counts.

And as for English, do you realize how completely irrational the spelling system is? ENGLISH SPELLING IS MORE DIFFICULT THAN KANJI!!! Why don't you talk about rationalizing your own spelling system before criticizing other peoples language writing system. Why do you spell it "through"? Why not "thru"? Etc. Etc Etc. So, BLAH BLAH BLAH

-1 ( +15 / -17 )

Thou dost possesseth a wealth of ignorance. The combinations and permutations of letters in the Roman alphabet allow it to be so much more versatile, if not entirely accurate in a phonetic sense. That said, there are only 26 of them (barring lower/upper case and font type). There are 51 gojuon hiragana characters alone, and that doesn't include dakuon/han-dakuon/youon/sokuon variants. And that also excludes the katakana alphabet. And do you have any idea how many kanji there are? I didn't, so I asked one of my fellows who is a professor of Japanese calligraphy and was told the jouyou currently number 1945. But ancillary and exotic kanji number well over 45000. I frequently approach him with questions about kanji specific to Japanese Buddhism and Shintoism that leave him dumbfounded. And honestly, I have yet to meet a native-born Nihonjin use 'poppycock' in everyday conversation. 'We Japanese'? I remain skeptical of your ethnicity as much as I do the long-term viability of the Japanese language.

10 ( +16 / -6 )

Once you get through the long, hard sweat of learning them though, kanji make things much simpler, though,especially for non-native speakers.

When I first tried to read simple articles in the weekly news mags, I quicky learnt to hate and fear long strings of kana; they don't offer any hook to attach your comprehension to.

14 ( +14 / -1 )

@gokai

When anyone says 'We Japanese..' the rest of what they are going to say is already suspect. I would not go around claiming to be a de facto spokesperson on the attitudes and positions of. every man, woman, and child from my country of origin.

10 ( +11 / -1 )

Understanding kanji certainly helped me in the past when in China and/or dealing with a Chinese company.

Agree with those who say learning kanji seems daunting at first. Once you get started, it's not that hard. Little kids can learn it.

And as for English, do you realize how completely irrational the spelling system is?

Possibly the worst in the world? Every other language I know has (comparatively) easy to understand pronunciation rules.

At least transitive and intransitive verbs are easy,as well as there being less headaches with tenses than some other languages.

4 ( +6 / -3 )

Your nom-de-plume/guerre is a perfect example of the ambiguity in our overly homonymic Japanese. Are you taking me to the 5th floor of a go parlor? Or are you trying to lecture me about the 5 precepts of Buddhist sin? Or perhaps you are asking me to acquire a parasitic hediste worm? Or is it that you are cordially inviting someone to engage you in polite debate that might clear up a misunderstanding on your part? Without the kanji, we are left to wonder. And with only the kanji, we are at a loss for context. Your username points out but a few of the drawbacks inherent to the Japanese language.

-2 ( +5 / -7 )

The Chinese connection is a bit of a red herring, as 'new' vocabulary is arguably most relevant in Sino-Japanese business. Japan modernizes and globalizes its language with loanwords in katakana and even romaji: ヘリコプター (Herikoputaa), versus China's use of new compound words from existing hieroglyphs 直升机 (Zhíshēngjī).

For most Japanese people, Chinese place names haven't evolved since the 1930s - the archaic Peking, Canton and Fukkien are still in use for Beijing, Guangzhou and Fujian. People's names can be similarly indecipherable - Mao Tse Tung is phonetically 「モウタクトウ」gobbledygook to non-Japanese.

Ultimately, relevance determines the survival of words and language. Mainland China rationalized its kanji, reducing characters' complexity and total number to boost literacy rates in the 1950s. What Japanese write as 毛沢東 (Mao Tse Tung again) became 毛泽东 in the People's Republic.

Could it be argued that a similar rationalization could free up classroom (juku) time for other studies in Japan? Is there appetite for such a grand project in Japan?

On the demand side, will a global Pharma industry want Japanese graduates to already know 鎮痛剤 as analgesics?

Whither Japanese as we know it?

(unlike the above author, I make no claim to know Chinese other than what I've picked up on trips. Hat tip to a certain search engine).

1 ( +1 / -0 )

To anyone who thinks that Japanese is not profoundly illogical...

I must have missed the office memo saying that language was supposed to be logical. Beats me how anyone writing in English can make that claim. If you want logical, you study maths and science, not language.

just try translating it with a typical software program. What do you get? Gibberish.

What do you get? A pretty lucrative career for me, thank you. Again, I must have missed the office memo reminding us that languages are ranked according to the ability of typical software programmes to translate them into beautiful English.

Japanese do have a difficult time communicating with each other.

Oh come on.

Just try finding which on or kun rendering of the kanji for 'life' is the one the writer means when working with minimal context.

The same is true of English. Every week I field multiple questions regarding English grammar or choice of vocabulary that I cannot answer because of the lack of context. (People send me half a sentence or less and ask, Is this correct?)

The reasons for hanging on to kanji are manifold; they are beautiful to look at, their very complexity adds depth and interest to the language and chucking them away would mean the loss of a millennium of literature.

If you can't be bothered to learn kanji, fine, don't learn them. But don't try to excuse/justify your own choice by blathering on about logic, practicality, vagueness, static mechanisms or the long-term viability of a language that has been in use and evolving for well over a thousand years.

14 ( +20 / -8 )

The example from Hangul isn't a good one. This is down to sloppiness which could have been avoided with due care. I work in engineering/manufacturing and have come across countless examples of sloppiness or vagueness in writing ( in Japanese and English ) which have caused confusion. Our highly literate translator is often muttering to herself when presented with careless semi-literate rubbish. Hangul is regarded as a beautifully logical and easily learned script which leaves either Roman or Kanji scripts looking awkward or inconsistent.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

@Jimizo

Isn't Latin considered an extremely precise language, hence it's common use in science/medicine?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@Shinhiyata, I'm sorry I do not fulfill your stereotype as a Japanese. I learned "poppycock" from my professors when I studied in the states. Anyway, if you don't like Japanese, nobody is forcing you to study it. Why not live in Spain where the spelling is virtually phonetic? You'll be happier there. Also, I learned that only 70% of Americans read at an 10th grade level, whereas 95% of Japanes read at a 10th grade level. So kanji just are not as hard as you think. You don't have to learn obscure Buddhist kanji unless you are interested in Buddhism. Just learn the ones you need. Or go to Spain.

2 ( +8 / -6 )

Coming from a queen whose own hieroglyphic language fell by the wayside several millennia ago, your argument seems sorely lacking in justification. Did you know Sakamoto Ryouma advocated the 'chucking' of Kokugo before he was assassinated? His 'excuses' were as follows - 1: Inherently sexist nature of Japanese language, ie. females must use condescending and diminutive/honorific language whereas males do not 2: Caste system perpetuated by the national language, ie. those of lower societal rank must use diminutive/honorific language when addressing a superior and vice versa 3: Only the privileged (or religious orders) could afford an education in his day whereby one could learn to read and write their spoken language - this is how hiragana came about since women were not allowed an education and devised their own easier form of written Japanese. 4: Western students learn to read and write their alphabet in the first 3 years of schooling whereas even today, Japanese students take 9 years just to master the basics necessary to read a newspaper. 5: Some in his social circle even was as far as to advocate converting the national language of Japan to English as it was a language of democracy and equality, of opportunity for the non-samurai/royal class. English and the Roman alphabet have been featured on Japanese currency and stamps since the Meiji restoration as a result. But I digress as I do tend to blather. Glad you found employment in translation software, though it seems a bit down the carreer ladder from pharaohess.

Now please explain why my Bling app can't translate my email?

2 ( +10 / -8 )

I agree that Japanese is vague, and I see Japanese lots of times who don't fully understand each other, is it very common no but certainly isn't rare either.

One thing languages like Japanese & Chinese with their Kanji is that in this modern fast paced digitized world its getting harder for people to remember them because we don't grab a pen & WRITE like we used to so they are easy to forget, lots of people when they SEE the kanji remember it but given a piece of paper have trouble writing them. Now I am not saying this is for all or lots of kanji but clearly these days its harder to remember kanji than in the past.

The modern world is what makes all these issues for kanji learners

Not right or wrong, just IS!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Let's be honest: kanjis are losers in the language field. Chinese characters are more than 5,000 years old and they haven't become the lingua franca one could expect, given that Chinese culture has been appreciated by almost every other country. Only China, Japan and 3 or 4 can understand these things, that take time to be learnt and are useless outside Northeastern Asia. On the other hand take other languages such as English, Spaniss - no comments necessary to show how they are internationally understood languages, and, thank God, are written in a logical way than billions of people from different countries can relate to, the latin alphabet. As I lived in Japan for a long time I see now that learning kanji was not that smart. Of course, you can use it when searching a job related to these two countries and show off to friends how their kanji tattoo is wrongly written. But if I had used the time to learn, say, advanced math, it would be more useful now. I think Chinese characters should be treated as a form of art, an ancient and dead one. And both coutries should follow Turkey's succesfull example.

-10 ( +2 / -12 )

Also, I learned that only 70% of Americans read at an 10th grade level, whereas 95% of Japanes read at a 10th grade level.

I have no evidence either way, so I'm not going to make an assertion that Japanese people have a higher reading ability or not. But I do want to point out that using 'grade levels' like this is an abuse of statistics. Unless you can argue that both education systems are identical.

Koreans seem to be regretting that they stopped using Kanji out of pride.

I suspect the real regret it that changing your alphabet effectively renders the bulk of your culture's entire literary output unreadable within a generation. Of course transliterations are available, but it must push your connection with the past just that little further away.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Did you know Sakamoto Ryouma advocated the 'chucking' of Kokugo before he was assassinated?

Do you think the one might have been related to the other? :-)

1: Inherently sexist nature of Japanese language, ie. females must use condescending and diminutive/honorific language whereas males do not

On the other hand, the well-timed use of 'non-female' language can have amazing results.

2: Caste system perpetuated by the national language, ie. those of lower societal rank must use diminutive/honorific language when addressing a superior and vice versa

Again, a powerful tool when the rules are broken. (That's what rules are there for)

3: Only the privileged (or religious orders) could afford an education in his day whereby one could learn to read and write their spoken language - this is how hiragana came about since women were not allowed an education and devised their own easier form of written Japanese.

Ouch. Sakamoto Ryoma, 1836 to 1867: the first example of hiragana found on a sword thought to have been made in 471; onnade, women's writing, was widespread by the mid-Heian Period (8th to 12th centuries); one of the world's earliest novels, Genji Monogatari, was written in kana by Murasaki Shikibu, a lady who was so proficient in classical Chinese that her father expressed his regret that she had not been born a boy.

4: Western students learn to read and write their alphabet in the first 3 years of schooling whereas even today, Japanese students take 9 years just to master the basics necessary to read a newspaper.

The average English-language newspaper is apparently written at the 11th-grade level, making it only just legible to the average adult, who it seems reads at the 9th-grade level.

Some 20% of adults in the US lack functional literacy skills; in the UK, 21.8%; in Canada, 14%; in Ireland, 22.6%; New Zealand, 18.4%. They may be able to read a penny paperback (written at the 7th grade level), but struggle with a newspaper.

Glad you found employment in translation software

Translation, not software. Translation software is, thankfully, a useless waste of space.

it seems a bit down the carreer ladder from pharaohs

Not at all. No Roman Senates breathing down my neck, and no baskets of poisonous snakes. :-)

Now please explain why my Bling app can't translate my email?

If you want it translated J-E, my rates are quite reasonable. :-)

7 ( +11 / -4 )

Is there any real push to simplify Japanese writing? Hangul and Simplified Chinese seem to have worked out pretty good.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

@turbotsat

The kanji in current use are the result of simplification.

Compare a newspaper today with a pre-war one.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I mean, there is no use arguing about this. Getting rid of kanji, hiragana, and katakana and replacing it with Roman alphabet (actually, Latin alphabet) is just not going to happen. Especially if it is pressure from foreigners (外圧). Future generations of Japanese would be completely cut off from their literary heritage. @Shinhiyata, after the Meiji Restoration, the first Minister of Education, Mori Arinori, also advocated getting rid of kanji and using romaji, and he was assissinated. That's another good reason not to change!

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Western students learn to read and write their alphabet in the first 3 years of schooling whereas even today, Japanese students take 9 years just to master the basics necessary to read a newspaper.

What are you actually comparing here? Learning the alphabet doesn't equate to being able to read a newspaper. Plenty of English words work in effectively the same way as kanji, we have to rote learn spellings and pronunciations that have no relation to each other. But worse. At least kanji gives you some hint as to what's going on.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Well, let's drop the gloves and get down to semantics if that's the level you're at. Never said hiragana were devised in the Edo period, only that is was developed from kanji by women who were deprived of education throughout most of Japan's history. Shikibu Murasaki, who wrote Genji Monogatari, was an upper echelon noblewoman with secret access to an education within the imperial household that ordinary females could neither envision nor make use of. As for breaking rules of gender and rank with amazing results, I once worked with an amazing lady in the art department who had a penchant for using boku and ore at faculty nomikais. She was, of course, amazingly denied tenure. Most of my current translation needs are from Sanskrit or Tibetan, let me know how much you charge. By the way, glad those asps and praetorians have left you alone as of late.

And for my other detractors - what makes you think I'm from America? (I'm from Nebula M78) or that I don't like living in Japan and need to move to Spain? or that I don't relish the challenge of kanji and all the other idiosyncrasies that the Japanese language and culture present? It's just a debate about a magazine article substantially lacking in substance. I am merely providing more substance for the deliberation.

4 ( +8 / -4 )

To anyone who thinks that Japanese is not profoundly illogical, just try translating it with a typical software program. What do you get? Gibberish. Because even fundamentally logical machines such as computers are unable to accurately decipher it.

Your hypothesis (Japanese is illogical) is not backed up by your 'proof' (machine translators cannot properly translate it).

Japanese and English are fundamentally different languages, that evolved completely independently of each other, and often do not have a one-to-one equivalent for words. Understanding which translation of a word should be used requires context at a level that is sometimes difficult for humans, and beyond current machine capacity. On top of this, Japanese regularly drops the subject of a sentence, as it can be inferred by context, while English requires it. The context required to understand the dropped subject can be difficult for humans to get at times, and again is beyond the current capacity of machine translators.

So while it's true that machine translators produce gibberish, it has nothing to do with the logic (or lack thereof) of Japanese, but rather the fact that the fundamental differences between the languages are so significant that it requires more capacity than current translators can handle. Give it another 10 or 20 years, and you may find that the machine translators can handle the translation with no problem. But you're confusing a lack of current technological ability with an imagined problem with the Japanese language.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

onomatopoeia:

" To anyone who thinks that Japanese is not profoundly illogical, just try translating it with a typical software program. What do you get? Gibberish. "

The reason for that is simply that Japanese writing does not use spaces between words, so it is almost impossible for the software to correctly identify elements of a sentence. Basically, you are stuck with gigantic 1-segment translation units. If you need a demonstration, try to read write an English sentence without spaces between words, and see what Google Translate makes out of that. Theresultwillbeanyeyeopenerforyou.

6 ( +5 / -0 )

It's called "Culture".

5 ( +6 / -1 )

@Cleo

If you want logical, you study maths and science, not language.

Actually, if you are good at linguistics, you should have some aptitude for programming, depending on how far you want to take it. You sound like you would be good at it, or is this another feather in your cap?

Translation software is, thankfully, a useless waste of space.

Not entirely, but close to it. I usually chuck a paragraph into a few different sites to get the gist, then go from there. (This helps, me at least, with those "nasty" technical translations that cause accelerated aging).

I'm sure many foreigners would agree kanji helps them understand meanings of previously encountered words. Yes, it's a hodgepodge but it does work, as does hanzi.

Seriously, you can memorize most commonly used kanji in a very short time (not years, weeks) if you apply yourself.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Love it or hate it (and I love it), kanji is inseparable from the written Japanese language. I remember getting all tongue-tied trying to read kindergarten books to my kids written only in kana.

The logic is rather simple: Nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs are written in kanji, while their stems are written in kana, as are particles which denote language function. There is even more fun when you write kanji as hiragana or katakana to denote different emotive values.

Translation software geared towards the Japanese language works quite well if the input is correct. (As a translator, I know this; I use software to quicken my job, but I often rewrite convoluted sentences in Japanese before entering them to the program.) The article struck me as a bit strange. Who cares what foreigners think? It would be like complaining to Greece for their continued use of the Greek alphabet or to Britain for their insistence on wacky spelling.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Morebizarrecountry - let me offer you a PROOF of my theory using the symbolic logic of ancient western mathematical language. This, by the way, is the language of contemporary computer code, and is entirely logical. This was the same proof I offered in my post above which you seem to have overlooked. First, lets render the written version of the spoken English into its mathematical symbolism - one plus one equals two: a. one --- 1 b. one plus --- 1& c. one plus one --- 1&1 d. one plus one equals --- 1&1= e. one plus one equals two --- 1&1=2 . Now this is not only easily understood by most human beings but is also easily understood by machines which only operate on symbolic logic. Now let's look at the symbolic representation of the Japanese rendered in Romaji (because as BillyB points out, logical software code based on binary data can NOT understand the lack of spaces between Japanese characters). Thus we have 'ichi tasu ichi wa ni desu'. If I am mistaken as to how to convey 1&1=2 in everyday spoken Japanese, please feel free to throw eggs at the Japanese language professor sitting next to me. In symbolic representation we get a. ichi --- 1 b. ichi tasu ---1& c. ichi tasu ichi --- 1&1 NOW PAY CLOSE ATTENTION because here is where logic goes right out the genkan d. ichi tash ichi wa --- (1&1) e. ichi tasu ichi wa ni --- (1&1)2 f. [and now let's add the cupola] ichi tasu ichi wa ni desu ---- (1&1)2= . So as you can see, using symbolic logic as only mathematics can adequately demonstrate, I offer you this proof that my theorem of Japanese being an illogical language is not a hypothesis after all. Please feel free to offer your contrary evidence. Had to use the ampersand character, JTs inferior script catalog won't recognize the addition character.

-4 ( +4 / -8 )

Never said hiragana were devised in the Edo period, only that is was developed from kanji by women who were deprived of education throughout most of Japan's history.

Only the privileged (or religious orders) could afford an education in his day whereby one could learn to read and write their spoken language - this is how hiragana came about since women were not allowed an education

Though to be fair, it wasn't you that said that but shinhiyata-san, who by some amazing coincidence has an avatar incredibly similar to your own.

Shikibu Murasaki, who wrote Genji Monogatari, was an upper echelon noblewoman with secret access to an education within the imperial household

Well she was upper-echelon (a member of the Fujiwara clan, though by the time of her birth her branch of the family was only middle-to-lower-ranking nobility) and she gained her education while still in her father's household, side-by side with her brother. Nothing at all secret about it.

an amazing lady in the art department who had a penchant for using boku and ore at faculty nomikais. She was, of course, amazingly denied tenure.

Do you understand the meaning of the word timely? Simply chucking in the occasional (or ubiquitous) and meaningless boku isn't what I'm talking about. Mind, there are local dialects in Japan where ore is the traditional word used by a female to refer to herself. I've met many an old, old lady up in the mountains who referred to herself as ore quite naturally.

Most of my current translation needs are from Sanskrit or Tibetan

But you can use a typical translation software programme for those, can't you? Isn't it only illogical Japanese that the fundamentally logical machines are unable to decipher?

Basher -

if you are good at linguistics, you should have some aptitude for programming

Way back in the 80s when forward-looking companies and single men with too much money were just starting to buy computers, the company I was working at got a computer installed and needed some short programmes written for HR and the Accounting Dept. I was told to do it because all the manuals were in English....What I did was pretty basic (and actually in BASIC) but considering I'd never touched a computer before, I think I did OK. And I agree with you, programming has more in common with linguistics than with boring maths. Communicating with a machine...at the time I thought it was pretty cool.

0 ( +6 / -6 )

Wow a lot of 'West is best' type supremacy. Why pick on kanji? Why not Arab script? Sanskrit? Hebrew? None of them are easily read by western people either.

America is not the centre of the universe, and we don't all need to learn American English (with all of it's corrupted spelling). What a boring world we would live in if we all spoke or wrote in the same language.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

Shinhiyata, when we grow up learning kanji after already having learned to speak as a kids, and then in junior high and high school after learning to speak more while learning more kanji, we learn to see a semantic gestalt while reading. We do not have to break down the sentence into parts to understand it. The meaning is there in the phrases or the sentence as a whole, and the whole is greater than the parts. The logic is embedded in the whole, not in your little units. Presumably, this is the same psychological process you went through to learn English, with its weird spelling. Wait a few more years and you'll experience the same thing.

Japan is the world's third largest economy, so language has not held us back. Using kanji allowed us to quickly create new vocabulary to incorporate western thought.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Yeah, tis a bit fuzzy in that I'm signed in on both my ketai and laptop. So depending on whichever I type from (I won't tell you which) the IP is identified by JT as different. That apparently gives me a username from a different forum I'm also concurrently signed in on but keeps the gravatar the same.

Your boldface type in my post is presumptive and does not grammatically link your highlighted selections to prove your point. I could bold face several other items and make similar grammatical suppositions.

As for Sanskirt and Tibetan translation, I'm not trying to render them in English, I'm trying to put them into Japanese. So in a way you're right, the software has no problem with these ancient languages, but once again falls flat when it tries to render them in Japanese. And in my inaka na kinjo, the obasans refer to themselves as washi, not ore, not even atashi. Very self-defacing pronoun I've been told.

And just for future reference, one does not yet communicate with a machine. One uses a machine to communicate with other sentient beings. And I get the feeling R2D2 and the Terminator will probably have a rough time with Japanese.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

Thunderbird

The Arabic alphabet has 28 letters, Hebrew has 22 and Sanskrit is a dead language.

You need to learn at least 2000 kanji, most with at least two pronunciations, to be literate in Japanese.

A lot more formidable of a task.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

You need to learn at least 2000 kanji, most with at least two pronunciations, to be literate in Japanese.

What utter tripe.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

Your boldface type in my post is presumptive

Nah, just pointing you that you did said what you said you didn't said. About women thinking up hiragana because ladies in Sakamoto's time didn't get no education. Or one of you said, at least.

in my inaka na kinjo

There are lots of different inakas all with their own hogen. Part of what makes language so interesting, whether it's Japanese, English or whatever.

just for future reference, one does not yet communicate with a machine

Well, it felt like communicating. I told it to do something, and it did it. I know it wasn't sentient and didn't consider at all what I was telling it to do. But it still did it, and I liked that. (When I got it right: when I got it wrong all kinds of weird things happened, or if I was lucky, nothing at all happened.)

By the way, your 'proof' that Japanese is an illogical language using 2 plus 2 is no such thing. All it is proof of is the fact that Japanese isn't English and doesn't follow English grammatical rules. But we knew that already. It works both ways; I once had a Japanese man try to persuade me that English grammar was illogical because it wasn't the same as Japanese grammar. According to him, when you're used to having the verb come at the end, after you've sorted out the rest of the sentence, it winds everything up nicely; having the verb come (usually but not necessarily) immediately after the subject, before you have any idea who or what the object is and with maybe all kinds of other stuff dangling off it is, he said, very illogical and upsetting.

-2 ( +6 / -8 )

Tinawtanabe: "Koreans seem to be regretting that they stopped using Kanji out of pride. One reason for it seems that they don't read books so much any more because it's harder to read Korean alphabet only material."

There is actually rather a strong movement going on to eliminate the study of Hanja (Kanji) from schools altogether, and I don't know anyone who laments the loss of Chinese characters in daily life, and know FAR more people who mistake kanji with the same sounds/reading than people mistaking homonyms in Hangul. the argument that Kanji is necessary because Korea's doing away with was a failure is incorrect.

Now, that said, I love kanji! Love studying it, knowing the meaning, and writing it, and know far more NGUYEN kanji than most of my Japanese friends and co-workers. Still, I get a lot of what shinhiyata is saying. If Kanji is so practical, why the need for kana? My only point towards the suggestion that Japanese will fade out as a language is that it's not because of Kanji, which will exist as long as Japanese does, to an extent, but the over-importing of loan words.

ThunderBird: people are not addressing the other languages you mention much because this is about Kanji in Japanese, for the most part. And what's with everyone assuming someone is American and talking about American English only?

As for software translation, it's not just the lack of spaces in Japanese, but also obviously idiomatic expressions and the use of passive voice more often than active voice that is more favored in other languages.

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

@Reformed

How many would you say, then?

There are 2,136 joyo (regular use) kanji taught in school, plus another 1,300 or so. I've learnt about 3,200 (took me fifteen years, I admit), but I still come across kanji I've never seen before....

1 ( +3 / -2 )

'Wow a lot of 'West is best' type supremacy.'

I don't think so. When a Korean colleague explained to me how to read Hangul I saw why it is regarded with such reverence. One linguist described Hangul as 'the most perfect phonetic system devised'. I recommend anyone who is comparing the vagaries of English spelling and pronunciation ( I once asked an American friend to spell his bizarre pronunciation of 'herb' ) with the sheer illogic of having to learn around 2000 characters plus two other scripts to be semi-literate to see that both are either clumsy or a pain in the neck to learn compared to the beauty and logic of this script which is very much from the 'East'.

-6 ( +1 / -7 )

smithinjapan, I have read articles by Koreans discussing about Koreans don't read books as much, and about whether it was good thing to do without kanji. Sounded like started to regret it or at least have doubts.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

The Arabic alphabet has 28 letters, Hebrew has 22 and Sanskrit is a dead language.

You need to learn at least 2000 kanji, most with at least two pronunciations, to be literate in Japanese.

Yes, but one kanji doesn't equate to one alphabet letter. Otherwise what you're saying is knowing 28 letters makes you literate in Arabic.

How many would you say, then?

It all depends on your definition of 'literate'. If you mean daily life then you could probably scrape by with the top 1000. These appear with a frequency of about 90-95%. Of course for full literacy then, yes, you'll have put in the work for the remainder.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Jimizo:

One linguist described Hangul as 'the most perfect phonetic system devised'.

Apparently not as 'perfect' as the Latin alphabet when applied to Spanish. Korean also has quite a few strange pronunciations which you would not know about simply just by learning Hangul, eg the Korean word for 16 and the country, Shilla.

Turbostat:

Hangul and Simplified Chinese seem to have worked out pretty good.

With regards to simplified Chinese, I think these characters look ugly, have lost their aesthetics and, in some cases, the origins of their meaning. The Taiwanese, Hong Kongers and overseas Chinese communities before the mainland opened up) did ok with traditional Chinese characters and their literacy rates have been quite high for some time. The main reason for simplification was to boost literacy rates, but I'd say access to good education is the most important factor as evidenced in Taiwan, HK, and Japan (and even mainland China). If you know simplified, it's not going to take a PhD to learn traditional.

LostinNagoya:

Chinese characters are more than 5,000 years old and they haven't become the lingua franca one could expect, given that Chinese culture has been appreciated by almost every other country.

Why would you expect Chinese to be a lingua franca in the world? The Chinese never went to every single continent on earth, carving out colonies, subjugating the natives and forcing them to speak the master's language.

But if I had used the time to learn, say, advanced math, it would be more useful now.

Advanced math is not going to get you anywhere when you're starving in a Japanese restaurant and trying to read the menu in Japanese.

tinawatanabe:

Koreans seem to be regretting that they stopped using Kanji out of pride. One reason for it seems that they don't read books so much any more because it's harder to read Korean alphabet only material.

Don't let your hatred of anything Korean cloud what ever thinking there is in you. Reading fewer and fewer books (along with writing fewer letters - or even writing at all) is a general trend in most developed countries, especially with the younger generation.

Shinhiyata:

Western students learn to read and write their alphabet in the first 3 years of schooling whereas even today, Japanese students take 9 years just to master the basics necessary to read a newspaper.

As some posters have pointed out....sure, a child could read (or attempt to read) a newspaper, but how much will he or she understand. Hell, I can read Spanish too (a near-phonetic language) but it doesn't mean I can understand it. What is your point?

Lucabrasi:

The Arabic alphabet has 28 letters, Hebrew has 22 and Sanskrit is a dead language. You need to learn at least 2000 kanji,

You are confusing letters with words. I'd love to see you write an essay using only 28 odd words! I doubt very much an Israeli kid stops learning Hebrew after mastering 22 letters.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Kanji is essential to written Japanese. Too many homonyms, and kanji is much, much faster to read than pure kana or (shudder) romaji.

3 ( +5 / -3 )

Kanji is essential to written Japanese. Too many homonyms, and kanji is much, much faster to read than pure kana or (shudder) romaji.

The best counterpoint to this is probably John DeFrancis' work on Homographobia - he's a Chinese academic but the points remain largely the same. He basically refers to the irrational (and unproven) fear that a language has too many homonyms to move from graphics to an alphabet. And why does this argument only apply to reading - if there really are too many homonyms, wouldn't that make speech almost impossible to follow? (I'm aware that words can be written the same, and pronounced differently - but there are plenty that are the same). There is another study (that I unfortunately can't find write now) that shows the reading speed of Japanese university students in kanji vs. pure kana is very similar. Romaji is a different story.

Every language is basically a sprawling , badly designed, irrational mess. I like kanji - it makes life more interesting.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

@zorken

I'd say "literate" implies able to read a broadsheet newspaper all the way through without a dictionary. I doubt that's possible with only a thousand kanji.

@Pukey

No, I'm not confusing letters and words, I don't think. Few kanji are words by themselves. They're just the building blocks for words. That's why Japanese children's books are written in hiragana; not only does the vocabulary have to be kept simple, the characters themselves have to be easy.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

To the "1+1=2" guy, you can make Japanese make sense just by saying the Wa (written Ha) is equivalent to the equal. You don't really need the "desu" or "da" though it is commonly used to accentuate the end. You can do the same in English by going "One plus one equals two, PERIOD."

5 ( +5 / -0 )

homonymic spoken form and you have why Japanese is considered by many linguists as the most inferior language used by more than 100 million in modern times.

Ingesting--I studied linguistics at university, and I don't remember anywhere in the literature any linguist citing Japanese as an inferior language. In fact, I don't think there's any language linguists deem inferior.

Therefore, if you don't mind, please post a link, a source, etc where linguists say that Japanese is an inferior language.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Found this article too late. Read it and decided there was a lot I disagreed with. But by the time I came back to this thread there were more things I disagreed with in some of these linguistic chest-beating posts. So just to summarize, I don't see Japanese to be an "inferior language", as with all languages it has it's strong and weak points. For example I disagree with those who say that "Japanese sometimes don't understand each other". This comment was made to support the argument that Japanese being "illogical" was not good at communicating. The very few times that I have seen Japanese "not understand each other" appeared to me to have been caused by the overly advanced character of the language, perhaps tied to the caste system, raising the other while lowering oneself, to the extent that a response can end up being so "polite" that it's meaning can get clouded. This is sort of the French characteristic of deliberately being vague so as not to offend multiplied several fold. This rarely if ever happens in English, and certainly with Americans who aren't too diplomatic or vague to start with, LOL Anyway I think that cleo has the highest batting score on this one.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

I disagree with those who say that "Japanese sometimes don't understand each other". This comment was made to support the argument that Japanese being "illogical" was not good at communicating.

I totally agree with you. The entire purpose of language is communication - society wouldn't have gotten very far if people frequently didn't understand each other. For me, it seems that Japanese often relies on 'vague' complex structures in specific situations. But more often then not they effectively act as idioms. If you break down the structures they are vague and confusing, but as a phrase the meaning is often perfectly clear.

Japanese as an 'inferior language' just seems like nonsense to me. You might find it's SOV structure 'illogical' - but it's the most common word order in the world's languages.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

To anyone who says Japanese is an inferior or illogical language, please learn something about language before you post.

Literacy is the key to learning a language. The fact that Kanji cannot be easily learned is precisely why they are 'inferior and illogical'.

Kanji are like roman numerals. They might be efficient in displaying large numbers, but try adding, multiplying and dividing them and you run into huge problems. Alphabets on the other hand are like arabic numerals... easy to learn, remember and build on. They give literacy to the masses, as happened in Korea.

How much time do Japanese school children spend learning Kanji? What else could they be learning during that time?

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

According to the native Japanese translator in our department, part of the reason for confusion in written Japanese is education and not the Japanese language itself. I regard myself as semi-literate in my own language but even I'm shocked at the vagueness, illogical structure and in some cases sheer inaccuracy of the explanations and specifications I'm given on a particular device or part. When we ask for her help in understanding this Japanese she usually winces, telling us that many Japanese read pretty well but write atrociously because they were not taught this skill and it certainly wasn't valued at school.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Don't let your hatred of anything Korean cloud what ever thinking there is in you.

pukey2, Read carefully. I didn't say it's my opinion. I clearly indicated "articles by Koreans"

1 ( +3 / -2 )

@tinawatanabe Your intense dislike of Korea and China is pretty clear in your posts. I think you'll find that Hangul script is rightly admired by most Koreans and while the use of Kanji was stopped 'out of pride' in your words, I think you'll find they have a beautifully logical and elegant script for their language. It wasn't one imported from another country with questionable suitability.

-5 ( +2 / -7 )

Anyone who is versed in Japanese at the most basic level understands that kanji needs to be maintained. I am very disappointed that the Japan Times publicized the over-rationalized arguments that appear in this article.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Jimizo, I did not say anything about Korean Hangul script. What I said was from Koreans articles. "out of pride" is also from articles. Your post is also revealing your pride. I think it's a good thing that you're happy without Kanji.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Pukey

With regards to simplified Chinese, I think these characters look ugly, have lost their aesthetics and, in some cases, the origins of their meaning.

I like the simplified better :).

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

@tinawatanabe I'm from the UK. I can see the shortcomings of the English language and the shortcomings of the Japanese language and the scripts they use. One of the beauties of Hangul is that it is a script devised to fit the Korean language. If my country had been invaded by another county which attempted to enforce a less efficient and more primitive script, itself taken from another culture, I'd show it the door too. Not so much pride as progress.

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

@Jimizo

If my country had been invaded by another county which attempted to enforce a less efficient and more primitive script, itself taken from another culture, I'd show it the door too.

Surely you're aware that the current English alphabet derives from the Romans, who did a pretty good job of invasion and subjugation of most of Britain.... : )

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@tinawatanabe, you should know that "Koreans" do not regret ditching hanja. There certainly are some Koreans who regret the loss of Chinese script from daily use, but they are a small minority and you make it sound as if most Koreans feel this way, which is simply false. Judging from the anti-Korean attitude evident in your posts I suspect you may well know this, but are simply trying to paint Koreans as shortsighted.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

@luca True, but before the Romans arrived the people living there didn't have a superior script. George Bernard Shaw and others put forward a better idea much later on but it didn't catch on. We are left with what we have.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

So thank you so much for this discussion

Kanji were always enigma for me :

First foreign language for me was English - it was a hard job

But after that - German French and Spanish were much more easier

( to the level where you can understand news on TV or in newspaper )

Kanji

For Japanese may be it's a part of historical heritage

But for foreigners - it's a nightmare

I love Kanji , it's so beautiful ....

I love to write them one by one - it's so mysterious and calming occupation

But to use Kanji (read real text) .... ho ho ho

It's very difficult

By the way :

1 Hiragana and Katakana - syllabary (not literal - as in the Latin alphabet and Hangul)

2 Machine translators - are good thing when you know how to use them

3 Russian alphabet has 33 letters (31 letters and 2 signs soft sign and hard sign)

4 English text translated in Russian always will be 15-20 % bigger

5 Spanish language REALLY excellent- grammar vocabulary and spelling

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I found kanji difficult at first, but now when I read things all in kana (even something simple, like children's books) it's a nightmare. Kanji definitely seem more efficient and easier to parse in long texts, and they usually make compounds easier to decipher. They are also beautiful and meaningful in their own right. Much of the beauty and intricacy of language would not exist if we sought to excise all but its most efficient and logical aspects. Japanese poetry without any kanji? Japanese classical texts all translated into pure kana or romaji because no one can read kanji anymore? I think it would be a great loss. Japanese is one of the most beautiful and fascinating languages I have ever studied. And I don't see why Japanese people should have to justify their language to anyone, on logical grounds or elsewise.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I felt very disappointed by this article, "fuzzy" Japanese attachment to Kanji? with only two examples? you've got to kidding me.

When you talk about a language you have to use more examples, the idea was very good, but the writer seems that he was lazy in doing some homework.

BTW, Japanese is not that illogical, I'm a Spanish native speaker and English is my second language, still, with the help of google translator i can understand about (or get the gist of) 70-80% of the text in an article when it is translated to English, I don't ask for translations into Spanish, since Spanish has richer vocabulary than English it has many choices on the translation.

As for "losing the kanji", an analogy to me it seems like we wanted to drop out the Latin roots of our words in Spanish, thus words like "etymology" would lose it's meaning and we wouldn't be able to understand romance languages at all. less alone other languages like English (which also has some Latin roots in some words).

I like the use the kanji, but somewhat simplified, even I'm able to understand some of them, although it doesn't mean that I can pronounce them or even write them

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I don't think anyone has mentioned this obvious point yet but these days most Japanese people communicate in writing by using the alphabet, not kanji. They type what they want to say phonetically on their qwerty keyboards. The selection of the kanji character afterwards is a bit superfluous most of the time.

I like Kanji too. I also like Egyptian hieroglyphs. They are fun, beautiful and exotic, but let's be honest, if we were inventing a new language from scratch, we would never use them. The cons outweigh the pros.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I believe JT ran a similar article couple years ago with basically the same tired responses from the posters who were obviously lacking in their own Japanese skills thereby not realizing the importance of the usage.

http://www.japantoday.com/category/opinions/view/why-you-must-learn-kanji

For example, こうしょう

There are 48 ways to write it in kanji all with different meanings. Without it, imagine what the dictionary is going to look like under heading こうしょう。 Good luck with that.

The other argument that I find it amusing is that since verbal communication doesn't technically require the actual use of Kanji, there shouldn't be any problems communicating without kanji in written form.

I doubt that. The verbal response and the decision to use certain words orally are as a result of learning the Japanese words thru Kanji and/ or learned in written material where such words are used. Anybody who has really taken the time to understand the Japanese language and have mastered it well enough understand this quite well.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

There are 48 ways to write it in kanji all with different meanings. Without it, imagine what the dictionary is going to look like under heading こうしょう。 Good luck with that.

And yet, we somehow manage similar situations in English: http://dictionary.reference.com/help/faq/language/t47.html

(That said, I don't have a problem with kanji)

1 ( +1 / -0 )

And yet, we somehow manage similar situations in English:

I should of qualified my statement from "different" from "completely different".

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

@shinhiyata

" Now this is not only easily understood by most human beings but is also easily understood by machines which only operate on symbolic logic.

Perhaps I misunderstand your point, but I think you are mistaken. You seem to be saying that the expression "one plus one equals two" can easily be transcribed as "1 + 1 = 2" which is in a form that computers can easily understand. There are a couple of problems with this.

While "1 + 1 = 2" may look like something you would write in a computer language, in fact it is pretty meaningless. If you were trying to compute an answer to the sum, depending on the language you might write x = 1 + 1. (We don't usually tell the computer the answer.)

If we just look at the "1 + 1" portion, although this is in the style that many programming languages, the computer has to be taught how to interpret it. This is the function of code interpreters and compilers. From the computer's point of view, better symbolic logic would involve three instructions:

push 1

push 1

add
2 ( +2 / -0 )

I doubt that. The verbal response and the decision to use certain words orally are as a result of learning the Japanese words thru Kanji and/ or learned in written material where such words are used. Anybody who has really taken the time to understand the Japanese language and have mastered it well enough understand this quite well.

nigelboy, are you suggesting that Japanese people can only speak their own language as a result of having learned to write it? This sounds like a case of putting the cart before the horse.

Strangerland: there are lots of definitions for words like "run", but if we converted them to kanji, a significant number would share the same base meaning. 'The man ran'; 'the river runs through the town'; ' the conversation ran along similar lines' - all of these uses of run/ran are different definitions and would get their own OED definition, but are essentially the same core word. There are still a lot of totally different uses of these words, of course, but not hundreds.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

nigelboy, are you suggesting that Japanese people can only speak their own language as a result of having learned to write it? This sounds like a case of putting the cart before the horse.

Not exactly. But to get to the 'advanced' state, of course one needs to 'visualize' how it is used in written form.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Incredible propaganda, another attempt by western countries to destroy history of Japan , if Japan kick Kanji, huge number of old things would be hard to read , and with that, hardly understandable, shameful article , pure example of manipulation . Kanji is perfection , and I, as foreigner, love it , and this is clearly another atempt to create more bigger separation between Asian countries, and this article just show that for western powers, united Asia is out of question, and think about it, that in some miracle way China and Japan find mutual political language, that would create region of Asia as the most prosperous one , but thats not something that is in western interest .

4 ( +8 / -5 )

How can anyone claim English is logical? Just look at these: http://www.singularis.ltd.uk/bifroest/misc/homophones-list.html http://www.english-for-students.com/Heteronyms.html

In Japanese the letters (=kana) are at least pronounced always the same way (except は, へ and を, which ruin the otherwise logical syllabries ;()

One commenter is correct that Japanese way of using kanjis is often horrible. E.g. 生 and the million or something kanjis that are pronounced 'shi'...

Using kanjis is ok, but Japanese should reform the readings. Preferably only one reading per character and in cases when it's not possible, create new kanjis by altering the existing ones slightly. The worst thing in Japanese is that it is not often possible to know the correct pronounciation of a word or name even if you know the individual characters.

If you want to learn truly logical language, study Finnish. Letters are always pronounced the same way regardless of context, and grammar enables expressing very complex ideas with short words. Also, no difficult pronounciations, except 'r' for Asians. https://www.cs.tut.fi/~jkorpela/finnish-cases.html http://finland.fi/Public/default.aspx?contentid=275591

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@Reformed How many would you say, then?

Communication is a practical activity, not a stuffy academic one.

Have you been unable to live or work without knowing that number of kanji? Would you need to know every single word in English or another language to be "literate"?

And I get the feeling R2D2 and the Terminator will probably have a rough time with Japanese.

Neither of the above are real.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

In 2009, cracks were discovered in railways ties of the KTX bullet trains operated by the Korea Rail Network Authority. Investigation revealed that the manufacturer had used an absorbent material instead of a waterproofing material. Collected rainwater froze and expanded in winter, resulting in cracking. The immediate cause was determined to lie in the subcontractor’s confusion of one Korean term indicating “absorption” for another one pronounced the same and meaning “waterproof.”

The infamous 방수 debacle.

Or 방화 which is derived from "防火” (Fire Prevention) and/or ”放火” (Arson)

1 ( +3 / -2 )

There certainly are some Koreans who regret the loss of Chinese script from daily use, but they are a small minority and you make it sound as if most Koreans feel this way, which is simply false.

You can search Korean papers with "Kanji" and will find those articles I mentioned.

Judging from the anti-Korean attitude evident in your posts I suspect you may well know this, but are simply trying to paint Koreans as shortsighted.

My attitude toward Koreans has nothing to do with this discussion. No, I don't try to paint Koreans as shortsighted. You said it, I didn't.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

A missionary to Japan in the 16 hundreds said that the Japanese language was a tool of the Devil to keep out Christianity. So this has been around for 400 years. Now it is a tool of Japan to keep nosey foreigners out. Well, seriously, actually.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Incredible propaganda, another attempt by western countries to destroy history of Japan

I don't think it's by western countries because they are not familar with Kanji so much. I don't think it's by China because they're happy that Japanese like Kanji. I think it's by the country that stopped using Kanji.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

'I should of qualified my statement from "different" from "completely different".'

@Nigelboy It is possible to convey meaning accurately in any language, even in Korean. Confusion can arise in any language. Your sentence is an example of how confusion arises. As the translator in my department points often points out, it's not the language at fault, it's the writer.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

@Nigelboy It is possible to convey meaning accurately in any language, even in Korean. Confusion can arise in any language. Your sentence is an example of how confusion arises. As the translator in my department points often points out, it's not the language at fault, it's the writer.

The above Hangul example and many more? No. Korean language has many words that are Hanja(Kanji) origin which in turn has many homonyms. I had more silly examples but the mods deleted it.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

The other argument that I find it amusing is that since verbal communication doesn't technically require the actual use of Kanji, there shouldn't be any problems communicating without kanji in written form.

The problem is the lack of demonstrable proof that this homonym phenomenon actually exists. Sure it seems like it should, but in reading comprehension tests where Japanese people are given texts in pure kana - it doesn't appear to actually exist. I'm talking only of the studies I've read of course, so I'd be interested in hear if there are counterpoint studies.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The problem is the lack of demonstrable proof that this homonym phenomenon actually exists. Sure it seems like it should, but in reading comprehension tests where Japanese people are given texts in pure kana - it doesn't appear to actually exist. I'm talking only of the studies I've read of course, so I'd be interested in hear if there are counterpoint studies.

Perhaps you could start off by providing with this reading comprehension test and results?

0 ( +2 / -2 )

A missionary to Japan in the 16 hundreds said that the Japanese language was a tool of the Devil to keep out Christianity.

Francis Xavier supposedly said it. Other Jesuits, and various other foreigners, managed to master Japanese anyway.

As for the other "historian" above, yes, there was talk about replacing Japanese with English when everything foreign was "better". And that was it. A footnote in history about something that never progressed beyond a discussion.

Countries that have been colonized in the past have adopted the languages of their invaders by force (the Japanese were guilty of this too). No force, and if the effort exceeds the benefits, then why bother? Hasn't stopped individuals in the past from doing so because they had, as individuals, good reason to. Not true of the entire population.

Regards the above, lots of other things have been assimilated in Japan in the past, often to fill a void and/or they were easy to adopt. Languages? Yes. Programming languages are a good example, to fill a void and because they were "more-or-less" easy to adopt. (And there was little other choice in most cases)

How many countries use Esperanto? Great idea in theory. Changing everyone over to using it is far from easy though.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

'ichi to ichi wa, ni desu'

Put in 'ichi tasu (足す) ichi ha ni' and I think you'll find it translates perfectly into 'one plus one is two'. A literal translation of 'One and one is two' then retranslated of course will give you gibberish, the Japanese is unnatural.

I don't think that translation program gibberish means that the language is 'inferior', but that the technology is not yet up to the task.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I don't think that translation program gibberish means that the language is 'inferior', but that the technology is not yet up to the task.

Bingo

2 ( +3 / -2 )

modern Japanese is unthinkable without kanji. isn't that amazing that you can actually figure out the meaning [or approximate meaning] of a word without necessarily know it nor how to read it if you know the kanji it's written with? and I am not even going to start to rant about the marvelous charm and philosophy behind them [I don't want to bore you to death with my kanji otaku ramblings]. I'd never do without kanji, thank you very much.

7 ( +6 / -0 )

the Japanese version 'ichi to ichi wa, ni desu' is incomprehensible to machines.

I would bet that 'ichi to ichi wa ni desu' has never been said by Japanese people. In English we say 'one and one is two'. They don't say that in Japanese, they say 'ichi tasu ichi wa ni desu' (one plus one is two). You are trying to use English colloquialisms in Japanese.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

" As for breaking rules of gender and rank with amazing results, I once worked with an amazing lady in the art department who had a penchant for using boku and ore at faculty nomikais. She was, of course, amazingly denied tenure."

And you know for a fact that she was denied tenure for using 'boku'?

" I frequently approach him with questions about kanji specific to Japanese Buddhism and Shintoism that leave him dumbfounded. "

Well, yes, a lot of that stuff, only scholars of Buddhism and priests can read it. You'd be better off going to your local temple with your questions. For things like the prayers accompanying the Goeika, the kanji were chosen for their sounds only to sound like Sanskrit (ateji, although not called that for Buddhism). The kanji as they are in some passages make little or no sense in Japanese.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

A long time ago the Royal British family now known as Windsor was known as Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (they're of German descent). Then anti-German sentiment reached an all time high, a bomber called the Gotha G.IV bombed London and the Tsars were destroyed so the Royal family changed it's name to avoid abolition. If anti-Chinese sentiment ever builds high enough the same thing could happen. I wouldn't want it to happen though plus everything from calligraphy to classical Japanese history could become inaccessible to all but the most dedicated historians and poets. IMHO though in the end I think any script reforms if ever made should to be made or not made based solely on how much it would improve or damage the daily lives of the Japanese people more than anything else. The article makes mention only to hypothetical very one-off instances without really considering how the average Japanese writer or reader might feel. Spoken Japanese I find is very simple compared to English; it is grammatically simpler and possesses fewer synonyms, euphemisms and slang. One of the primary kana; hiragana or katakana I believe would be best and there are proponents for it. I find this has two advantages. One is fewer strokes the other is the mental benefit of matching characters to syllables rather than nouns to characters. This however has the disadvantage of making writing longer. For instance the word cat or neko needs two kana characters (ネコ) but only one kanji (猫) which will add up especially if you're printing books or newspapers. But if you look at the characters the kana is much easier to write by hand. Also unlike Hangul kana is already widely used and all literate Japanese are literate in kana which makes transition actually very easy not to mention cheap.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

If Japanese language leaves Kanji/ Hanzi system, it'll render the whole language soul-less, 1 kanji character can clear all doubts /meaning of the whole sentence. Japonic so it's called, original text and many tonals are basically sinitic in nature, it branches out from Tibeto Sinitic millennium ago, however, many of archaic Han tonals like Min, Wu, even some Cantonese or Hakka languages are sharing similar tonals with Japonica. Don't make the same Hangul mistake. Hanzi / Kanji / Hanja does not monopolies by the Chinese alone!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

If Japanese language leaves Kanji/ Hanzi system, it'll render the whole language soul-less, 1 kanji character can clear all doubts /meaning of the whole sentence.

@evian1 Thanks for reminding about something I forgot. Kanji is very good for getting around homophones. For instance kami can mean paper, hair, spirit or deity, shin can mean new or deity etc. A single kanji character can easily clear this up. Of course some kanji can be pronounced in a number of ways which probably throws us back to where we started.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

If we just look at the "1 + 1" portion, although this is in the style that many programming languages, the computer has to be taught how to interpret it. This is the function of code interpreters and compilers. From the computer's point of view, better symbolic logic would involve three instructions: push 1 push 1 add

That same logic is used in some Texas Instruments Calculators, which is why I never learned to use them, the "language" of that calculator was a puzzle to me

0 ( +0 / -0 )

During the post WWII occupation, some members of the US admin promoted the idea of abandoning Kanji and adopting romaji. Regardless of the idea's merits, the important thing was that it never went further than a heavy handed suggestion. No laws were passed, no schools were forced to use such textbooks. The US then wisely ended the occupation after seven years and the Kanji abolition faction lost influence in Monbusho. Compare the Japanese occupation of Korea to the US occupation of Japan, and the current relations between said countries: Not trying to micro control language education and understanding that occupation must be short is the far superior and intelligent strategy.

The debate about aboloshing Kanji has been going on since Meiji, but it is definitely at a low tide now. The author is entitled to his opinion but he is only talking to a few foreigners; few in Japan are paying attention and far fewer sympathizing.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Koreans seem to be regretting that they stopped using Kanji out of pride. One reason for it seems that they don't read books so much any more because it's harder to read Korean alphabet only material.

It's unfortunate that the majority of Koreans are practically illiterate in Hanja. A middle-school Japanese kid would know more Chinese characters than the average Korean adult. Sad if you think about it.

A side effect of this illiteracy is their consequential inability to read or grasp historical documents such as those that pertain to the Takeshima/Dokdo issue. As a result, since they can't read those on their own they have to rely on the "official" translations (read propaganda) as provided by the government. Essentially, the illiteracy of the masses is an excellent way for the government to control its people and how they think.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I love kanji. Just learn the language. Languages are not that logical as they represent humans not computers, so I'm rather glad that software can't translate it. And I'm an IT person. It reminds me it's made for human beings and those that don't want to be human beings need not learn them.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@songwillem2011 some kanji can be pronounced in a number of ways which probably throws us back to where we started.

As matter of fact, Japonic language preserved the 5/6th century old of various archaic Han tonals particularly of those "Go-onyomi"(Wu呉音) thus Japonic tonals are more closely linked to Fukkien(Min), or Shanghai (Wu) languages, which in linguistic terms are from the same root. the confusion arises from it To-on唐音, Go-on呉音, Kan-on漢音, Kun-on訓読, etc. Japonic should be proud of their Kanji Kokubun (漢字国文), as it preserves a lot more than the modern day Chinese. Japan will not or ever abandon its Kanji system, just like telling them to replace its culture of Chopstick (御著, which by way, is archaic word sharing with Min & Wu) with fork and knife??

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The use of kanji in China, Taiwan, and Japan is a huge waste of time. The degree of difficulty to just become minimally literate is excessive. The Koreans made the right decision when they dumped kanji. The idea that kanji is necessary to prevent confusion as in the case of the Korean railroad tie manufacturer is a red herring. Most of the rest of the world use some type of kana or alphabet and are somehow able to express themselves without confusion. I've had this argument with my spouse on several occasions. I've frequently heard the rather lame excuse that kanji is necessary to prevent misunderstanding. The rest of the world avoid confusion through context. It seems to be an issue of pride. There is a large segment of Japanese society that love the idea that they are unique and outsiders are not really capable of understanding them and their culture.

The Japanese already have a perfectly good kana writing system. The switch would be easy. As a general rule, simpler is better.

-9 ( +1 / -10 )

It seems to be an issue of pride.

The switch would be easy.

Um did you miss the fact that everything in the entire country, for the last thousand or so years, is written using kanji? The switch would NOT be easy, it would require the re-writing of billions of documents, and would require people to start having to learn to read sentences in hiragana, which is a real headache.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

It seems to be an issue of pride.

The switch would be easy.

Um did you miss the fact that everything in the entire country, for the last thousand or so years, is written using kanji? The switch would NOT be easy, it would require the re-writing of billions of documents, and would require people to start having to learn to read sentences in hiragana, which is a real headache.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

@wolfpack You are very Eurocentric can I say the use of Roman alphabet is a huge waste of time? Do you expect the original Hanzi user like Taiwan HK China to convert romanized alphabet just to suit easy learning for the Laowai (foreigners?) it's ridiculous!! Hanzi/Hanja/Kanji script is so beautiful in form of calligraphy, it's no wonder Japan Korea China want to claim it as their UN cultural heritage. Do have some appreciation of eastern writing format before you bark your Europe supremacy!!

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Look... keep the Kanji... keep the Hiragana.... and keep the Katakana.... at just 26 nice little neat letters we'll stay with the Alphabet... that way we have enough time to learn ethics.

-6 ( +0 / -6 )

The 'Kan' (Han) in 'Kanji' is not China or Chinese, but an aborigine living in Far East midland 6,000 years ago, a highly civilized, socialized, agricultural tribe later trampled by Wu Hu--northen steppe barbarians. In 206 BC, the descendants of the aborigins defeated barbarian Ch'in (from which the name China is derived) , established Han Dynasty, revived the aborigine's literature and word--once destryed by Ch'in--which Japan adapted, called Kanbun, and Kanj (Hanbun, Hanji).

The aborigine's civilization lasted for two dynasties--Han and Tang--before being trampled forever by the barbarians. These dynasties were the golden era of Han-Japan friendship. The heart of the Han tribe and the heart of Japan tribe are one and the same, excluding the defeated barbarians who escaped to Japan chased by other barbarian rivals. Many goodies you see and admire in Japan today are the fruits of that era.

So you see, to Japanese, Kanji is tool, and heart. As a tool, it is one of the most advanced, most up-to-date among all. No matter how many strokes there are in a word, the computer will write it out for you, saving you trouble. New things and new ideas are expressly presented by combining existing words, not by creating new words which nobody knows in the beginning. Best of all, especially in Japanese writing, Kanji are signs. You understand the content by 'looking', not by reading. Compare the following: the sign of an arrow with an extra leg, as against the language 'traffic may be merging into your lane from another roadway'.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Unless sometime in the next 500 years some sort of memory implant or other learning device is developed whereby one could recognize and understand Kanji in a very short amount of time.... I think Kanji is doomed. Are there any computer languages that use kanji?

-6 ( +0 / -6 )

@tinawatanabeAUG. 11, 2014 - 10:00AM JST

Koreans seem to be regretting that they stopped using Kanji out of pride. One reason for it seems that they don't read books so much any more because it's harder to read Korean alphabet only material.

In other words, it was a huge mistake.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

for those who argue Hanja and Hangul. What's done cannot be undone, but only to "re-educate" oneself. just for your info, Samsung wants all their management who're seeking senior level promotion or overseas assignment (especially China) or new recruit to have at least proficient in at least 2-3,000 Hanja/Hanzi for such position. Korean language, like kanji, especially its Hanja pronounciation, are also sinitic in nature from Central Plain(中原), shared quite large numbers of archaic tonals with those of Min (a kind of Fukkien) or Wu languages. It's not a matter of choice of pride, but historical fact. Hanzi / Kanji/ Hanja / Chu Nom are by and large sinitic tonal.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Thou dost possesseth a wealth of ignorance.

"Possesseth" is a 3rd person verb, though the subject here is "thou," which is 2nd person. Normally I wouldn't pick out grammatical errors, but it seems warranted here.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I wish they all just converted to romaji so it would be easier for me to understand. Heck actually it'd be prefer if they just spoke English :)

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

@tmtmsnb

the proto-Han or aborigines of Central Plain are like Min(Fukkien), Wu(Shanghai), Japonic, Chosun, together with Jin, Gan(Hakka), Xiang, Yue/Viet (Cantonese), Hui fled the continuous on slaughtering of 5 northern barbarians for centuries. Most of these aborigines/proto-Han are now settled in Korean Peninsula, Japan, Coastal Eastern and Southern China and Northern Vietnam. A large group of ethnicity today called themselves Hoklo people and using mainly Hoklo languages (河洛語) comprising mainly of Min, Wu and Gan languages, colloquially called 中原音韵 sharing many similar tonal /etymology with those of Japonic and Chosun.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"Possesseth" is a 3rd person verb, though the subject here is "thou," which is 2nd person. Normally I wouldn't pick out grammatical errors, but it seems warranted here.

But if you're being picky, then "possesseth" is coming after the auxiliary "dost", so it should be an infinitive. Second or third person is irrelevant.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@evian 1

During Yayoi and Tumulus periods, Japanese population all of a sudden swelled, earthenware changed, bronze and iron appeared, rice plantation technique established, temples and huge tombs built---the results of an great influx of immigrants from China and Korea, for it was Waring States and Spring-Autumn period in China, the defeated Hu-Han hybrids escaped to Japan, as many as a million according to some, bringing with them those goodies, plus their acumen in politics, in palace intrigue, in Suntzu Art of War, in how to live off the Hyakushyo, thus very soon they and their descendants became Shoguns, Daimyos, Daihoneis, kanryous, politicians, all those you hate, all are powerless now because of a new Abe era. Central Plain Proto-Han migrated to Japan? Over thousands of kilometers, over the land and the sea? Remember they were victims of war lords, they were slaughtered by the millions, were brought along by Hu army as human food supply, called "Two-Foot Sheep" by the Hus.

Hu-Han hybrid has some speech disorders: in vowel they could not pronounce エ, and オ, while Japanese and Han tribe can, as in 絵本 and 下面, and 尾 and 烏,respectively. In consonant they could not pronounce キ (気、氣)ケ (毛、溪)コ (子、苦)セ (背、西)ソ (素 素) ガギグゲゴ、バビブベボ、メモ、ヨ、レロ、ン, while Japanese and Han tribe have hundreds of words of them, in common.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@lucabrasi... I remember when I first typed a comment on this story that someone would pull out the English Grammar card. Thank you.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Right you are lucabrasi. But I don't think it's picky to point out grammatical errors when the commenter goes out of his way to use not widely understood words that he hopes will make himself sound intelligent, and uses those words to call others "ignorant."

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

You are very Eurocentric can I say the use of Roman alphabet is a huge waste of time? Do you expect the original Hanzi user like Taiwan HK China to convert romanized alphabet just to suit easy learning for the Laowai (foreigners?) it's ridiculous!!

No, I do not think the Chinese should switch to kana. We are talking about Japan aren't we? I think this would be much easier for Japanese people in the long run. Yes, it would require changing a lot of signs, books, etc. but it isn't as if it's never been done before (ie Korea).

...and would require people to start having to learn to read sentences in hiragana, which is a real headache.

Reading kana is a headache? Is reading Korean or the English a headache?

Do have some appreciation of eastern writing format before you bark your Europe supremacy!!

The Japanese simplified the kanji that they adopted from the Chinese. That was smart. Yes kanji is pretty and everything but it is needlessly complicated and difficult to learn. Keep it simple - that's always the best way to go unless you need to make things harder for some masochistic reason.

But I guess for all of those expats that spent endless hours attempting to become marginally literate in Japanese will have wasted a large chunk of their life. So that's a good reason to perpetuate this overly complicated writing system.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

@commanteer

Sure. I was following your use of "pick".

No bad meaning intended : )

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Reading kana is a headache? Is reading Korean or the English a headache?

I'm not talking about reading English or Korean, I'm talking about reading Japanese. And reading everything all written in hiragana is a headache. It's much easier to read when the kanji is used.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@tmtmsnb Your Hu = 胡/ 匈奴 barbarians? Yes, Great influx of refugees from Mainland to Japan during Spring Autumn period via Korea peninsula, remember also 徐福? brought along 500 children to Japan? They are the Proto Han who brought along their archaic Han languages like Min & Wu, which Japonic shared and recorded during Sui's southern Dynasty tonals, Chosun Japonic Wu Min and Viet do not contain the /f/ eg 佛/fo/ /fu/ 福 consonant and replacing it with /h/(Min/Wu) /bu/(Japonic)/bo/ (chosun), /ph/(Viet) which modern Han greatly differ with these Proto Han tonals.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@evian 1

徐福 was sent to Japan by Ch'in. As the Wu Hu were slaughtering the Hans, there was no way the Han tribe could manage to travel to Korea or Japan--toward the north or north-east where the Hu were waiting. Yes Han tribe did escape, but southward toward the Yantze River where there were no Northern Hus, crossed the river till Hokkien, from there, much later, migrate to Taiwan, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia. These are the only regions today where people still speak the original Han language. As to 'f' sound, Han tribe had never had the characteristic Hu's labiodental consonants. --See Chien Da Hsin --''There Were No Labiodental Sound In Ancient Han Language'', The reason Japan and South Eastern Asian Hans have a lot of common language and pronunciation is through the friendly interaction during Han and Tang dynasties.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@tmtmsnb Agreed majority of the Proto Han now lived in the south eastern coastal region of Yangtze River, and their origin of Yellow and Luo Rivers (河洛)see the complete wipe out Min or Wu languages, replacing them is today Mandarin.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

see the complete wipe out Min or Wu languages, replacing them is today Mandarin.

? People still speak Wu languages. Shanghai-wa, Hangzhou-wa ...

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

All readers back on topic please. From here on, posts that do not focus on kanji will be removed.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

In the future almost nobody will write by hand, this is what we already see among the younger generations of Japanese. In the near future we will keep using kanji for writing most of words, but with mandatory furigana for more and more kanji, so it will finally come to the point when all kanji will have furigana, and this will become a norm. This is my understanding of the latest tendencies in Japanese language and society. Kanji = for better understanding and avoidance of confusion + Furigana = for phonetical reading. So no problems at all, the humanity is changing, the languages are also changing. The government cannot decide in which direction the language will go, it only depends on people of Japan, how they are using Japanese language now.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Mr Howell makes the excellent point that Japanese clinging to their kanamajiri writing system is more of a mental problem than a practical one. Surveys by this linguistics Ph.D. have shown that suitably modified romanisation may perfectly well be used to transcribe the front pages of major newspapers (see my recent letter in Japanese to the Asahi). We should also recall the existence of famous novels available on audio CD. The ability of university professors to give a comprehensible lecture orally is another point that should be made. (I lectured in Japanese for over 25 years.) In sum, the Japanese seem to be clinging to their incredibly obscure writing system as a convenient defence against incursion by foreign linguistic cultures. A recent case in point is the insistence that nursing candidates from Indonesia and the Philippines must pass a difficult exam in Japanese (i.e. Kanji and katakana English) medical terminology. This has proved to be a highly effective barrier. It seems that the national preference for a “closed Japan" is winning out over the definite need for a large number of extra nurses to fill the current gap.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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