日本語の隅 - Nihongo no Sumi - Japanese Corner

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Re: 日本語の隅 - Nihongo no Sumi - Japanese Corner

Postby Talib » Tue 04 Aug 2009 6:11 am

One hard language is enough for me, I think. What I want to know is whether there's been much language reform in Japan. Hasn't the government seen fit to simplify and streamline the writing system? Why are two sets of kana still used when it seems to me that one would do? And is there any sort of linguistic purism (against the many Chinese and English loanwords) comparable to that of say, Czech? I'm very curious to see how the Japanese government addresses the language policy in their own country.
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Re: 日本語の隅 - Nihongo no Sumi - Japanese Corner

Postby Neqitan » Tue 04 Aug 2009 6:16 am

I didn't know no one regulated the Japanese language! :shock: Now that's why so many loanwords enter the written language... :)

Kaenif, check the last page's comments.
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Re: 日本語の隅 - Nihongo no Sumi - Japanese Corner

Postby Talib » Tue 04 Aug 2009 6:18 am

No one? Doesn't the government set standards for which characters are officially part of the orthography?
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Re: 日本語の隅 - Nihongo no Sumi - Japanese Corner

Postby Sobekhotep » Wed 05 Aug 2009 12:30 am

Talib wrote:Hasn't the government seen fit to simplify and streamline the writing system?

Nope. They're content with it the way it is. :)
After WWII they did simplify lots of characters, many of which are exclusively used in Japanese. These are called shinjitai (新字体: new character forms) while the older forms are called kyuujitai (旧字体: old character forms). The kyuujitai can still be used, though.

Talib wrote:Why are two sets of kana still used when it seems to me that one would do?

Well, hiragana is used for native Japanese words and for inflections of verbs, adjectives, etc. Katakana is used almost exclusively for loanwords (except Chinese, of course). There is also a growing tendency to use katakana to write names of animals & plants.
I'm sure they could abandon one and use only the other but I don't think that will happen anytime soon.

Talib wrote:And is there any sort of linguistic purism (against the many Chinese and English loanwords) comparable to that of say, Czech?

I imagine it would be difficult to have purism in a language with some 60% of its vocabulary loaned from Chinese. And that doesn't include the myraid of words loaned from English & other languages.
But, I'm sure you have your purists out there who try to use as much native Japanese as possible. But even then, many of those words are written in Chinese cahracters, and even kana derives from Chinese characters.
Actually, there is a conlang called Baronh used in a series of Japanese sci-fi novels, which were ultimately adapted into anime. This language, Baronh, is derived from Old Japanese. Borrowed words and expressions were removed and replaced by revived ancient ones.

Talib wrote:Doesn't the government set standards for which characters are officially part of the orthography?

Hypothetically, any traditional sinograph can be used in Japanese orthography. Realistically, though, if it's not 1 of the 2500 most used kanji in newspapers most people won't recognize it.
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Re: 日本語の隅 - Nihongo no Sumi - Japanese Corner

Postby Talib » Wed 05 Aug 2009 1:07 am

Sobekhotep wrote:Nope. They're content with it the way it is.
That's like Stockholm syndrome for writing systems.
I'm sure they could abandon one and use only the other but I don't think that will happen anytime soon.
What I don't understand is how they came to use three different writing systems, and why they persist in it. I know how they are used, but not why. Korean uses an alphabet, so why not Japanese?
Hypothetically, any traditional sinograph can be used in Japanese orthography. Realistically, though, if it's not 1 of the 2500 most used kanji in newspapers most people won't recognize it.
Well, that's good news.
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Re: 日本語の隅 - Nihongo no Sumi - Japanese Corner

Postby kaenif » Wed 05 Aug 2009 11:50 am

Neqitan wrote:@Kaenif: Thank you for the info! Wow, and that's Hong Kong. I thought you were taught some kind of Standard Written Cantonese. :cry: So all those articles in the Cantonese Wikipedia and Uncyclopedia are written just using de facto characters (not following any standard)!?

Is Putonghua your language of instruction, or you just take it as a second language?

Wow. I remember reading somewhere in the Internet (Wikipedia?) that reading Baihua with Cantonese pronunciations was really odd and not recommendable, and now you're telling me you're even used to that! :shock: :shock: :shock:

Ok, too much shock for a day.

Either there is no standard, or people ignore the standard if there is one :P . Some people may look into old texts to find the (assumingly) correct characters, some others want to standardise the obvious ones. For the harder, and long lost characters, people don't really use it unless they want to get professional or something. Some characters may overlap with the simplified ones. Such as 崖广 (dangerous, lit. cliff hut), read as ngai4 yin1, in which 广 overlapped with simplified 廣. People usually write and read the word 牙煙 nga4 yin1 nowadays.
I think the Cantonese Wikipedia is trying to use the popular characters. I've seen classic ("correct") characters like 尐 instead of 啲 some time ago, but they seem to have disappeared :roll: .

Most schools in Hong Kong take Cantonese or English as a language of instruction. Secondary schools are divided into CMI (medium of instruction) and EMI schools. (The government is changing the system for a little now, but I don't know the details.) CMI schools take all subjects in Cantonese (and Written Baihua) except English. EMI schools take all subjects in English except Chinese, Putonghua and Chinese History. Putonghua is considered to be a separate (minor) subject in most schools, but there are a few schools which teach Chinese in Putonghua.

We don't always read Baihua in Cantonese. We only do it when we read textbooks aloud, or quoting. If you speak according to a Baihua text in other occasions, you translate it into Cantonese. This is a skill we must learn by ourselves.

Am I hijacking the thread? :lol:
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Nope, it's not shāng. It is a 囧 with a hat which 囧ed its chin off!
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Re: 日本語の隅 - Nihongo no Sumi - Japanese Corner

Postby Jayan » Wed 05 Aug 2009 2:14 pm

Talib wrote:What I don't understand is how they came to use three different writing systems, and why they persist in it. I know how they are used, but not why. Korean uses an alphabet, so why not Japanese?


Read this excerpt from http://guidetojapanese.org/kanji.html . It helped me.

Tae Kim wrote:Some people feel that the system of using separate, discrete symbols instead of a sensible alphabet is out-dated and overly complicated. In fact, it might not have been a good idea to adopt Chinese into Japanese since both languages are fundamentally different in structure. But the purpose of this guide is not to debate over the decisions made thousands of years ago but to explain why you must learn kanji in order to learn Japanese. And by this, I mean more than just saying, "That's how it's done so get over it!".

Some people feel that Japanese should have just switched from Chinese to romaji to do away with all the complicated characters that was bewildering the foreign white devils. In fact, Korean has adopted their own alphabet to greatly simplify their written language to great success. So why didn't it work for Japanese? And I ask this in the past tense because I believe that the government did attempt to replace kanji with romaji shortly after the second world war with little success. I think anyone who has typed at any length in Japanese can easily see why this did not work. At any one time, when you convert typed hiragana into kanji, you are presented with almost always at least two choices (two homophones) and sometimes even up to ten. (Try typing kikan). The 46 or so character alphabet of set sounds in Japanese makes it hard to avoid homophones. Compare this to the Korean alphabet which has 14 consonants and 10 vowels. Any of the consonants can be matched to any of the vowels giving 140 sounds. In addition, a third and sometimes even fourth consonant can be attached to create a single letter. This gives over 1960 sounds that can be created theoretically. (The sounds that are actually used is actually much less than that, though I don't know the exact number.)

Since you want to read at a much faster rate than you talk, you need some visual cues to instantly tell you what each word is. You can use the shape of words in English to blaze through text because most words have different shapes. Try this little exercise: Hi, enve thgouh all teh wrods aer seplled icorrenctly, can you sltil udsternand me?" Korean does this too because it has enough characters to make words with distinct and different shapes. However, because the visual cues are not distinct as kanji, spaces needed to be added to remove ambiguities. (This presents another problem of when and where to set spaces.)

With kanji, we don't have to worry about spaces and much of the problem of homophones is mostly resolved. Without kanji, even if spaces were to be added, the ambiguities and lack of visual cues would make Japanese text much more difficult to read.
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Re: 日本語の隅 - Nihongo no Sumi - Japanese Corner

Postby Talib » Wed 05 Aug 2009 5:49 pm

Are there that many homophones in Japanese? There are Chinese, but that language is also tonal, whereas Japanese is not. As well, that article talked about switching to romaji which isn't what I was talking about. I was wondering if Japanese could be written solely in kana.
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Re: 日本語の隅 - Nihongo no Sumi - Japanese Corner

Postby Jayan » Thu 06 Aug 2009 1:27 pm

Talib wrote:Are there that many homophones in Japanese? There are Chinese, but that language is also tonal, whereas Japanese is not. As well, that article talked about switching to romaji which isn't what I was talking about. I was wondering if Japanese could be written solely in kana.


Yes, there are that many homophones in Japanese. Tagaini Jisho, the dictionary program I've been using lists some of the homophones for each word, and almost every word has at least one, most have more. For example, the word きかん which he cited in the article has these options:
期間 (きかん): period, term, interval.
機関 (きかん): (1) mechanism, facility, engine. (2) agency, organisation, institution, organ.
帰還, 饋還 (きかん): (1) repatriation, return. (2) (electrical) feedback.
基幹 (きかん): mainstay, nucleus, key.
器官 (きかん): organ (of body), instrument.
季刊 (きかん): quarterly (e.g. magazine).
気管 (きかん): trachea.
既刊 (きかん): already published.
旗艦 (きかん): flagship.
貴翰, 貴簡 (きかん): your letter.
亀鑑, 龜鑑 (きかん): pattern, example, model, paragon, mirror.
帰艦 (きかん): returning to one's (war)ship.
軌間 (きかん): (railroad) gauge.
奇観 (きかん): wonderful sight.
飢寒 (きかん): hunger and cold.
汽缶, 汽罐 (きかん): boiler.
貴官 (きかん): you (used to address government officials, military personnel, etc.).
Admittedly, that is an extreme example (I don't believe most words have 17 homophones), but it gives a picture of what it's like.

As far as what he adressed in the article vs. your point, I think it really boiles down to the same thing. Whether it's written with kana or roumaji, Japanese just doesn't have the variety in sounds that would enable easy reading, because each word would not have a distinct shape. Kanji takes away that difficulty by giving each word a shape. F.x. if you saw the word きかん written in kana, who the hell would you know what it meant. Reading would be even more of a feat than it is now.

I don't know if this made any sense, but I hope it did.
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Re: 日本語の隅 - Nihongo no Sumi - Japanese Corner

Postby Talib » Thu 06 Aug 2009 8:58 pm

It did, but I have some questions.

a) Wouldn't context help greatly in differentiating homophones?
b) What about the Japanese pitch accent? If that were marked (can't be difficult to think up a diacritic, if one doesn't exist already) then it would be helpful as well.
c) What proportion of words have homophones, exactly?

And, strictly out of curiosity: d) What is the origin of all these homophones in Japanese? Is it the restrictive phonology, Chinese influence or both/something else?
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