Absolutely. When people speak they can't see what's being said but can understand easily.
So why couldn't this work in writing?
I believe it could. In it's purest forum, written language is nothing more than a phonetic (or at least phonemic) rendering of the spoken language, right?
But, the Japanese language has always been written with Chinese characters. I don't think they're ready to abandon them yet although I believe a day will come when Japanese is written only in kana
Doesn't Chinese have homophones with the same tone as well?
Yes. But when morphemes are combined together to make lexical units the choices are fewer, especially when you factor in the sandhi.
To give an idea of the homophones for Chinese versus Japanese consider this: if I type yi
, a syllable with the most homophones (I think), in my Chinese IME I get 75 possibilities, and that's for all tones. If I type kou
in my Japanese IME with the "bias for speech" turned on, I get 101 possibilities. Now here's the fun part. If I turn on the "bias for names" I get 457 possibilities. 457!
The homophones stuff is bull actually. Japanese can (kinda) be used avoiding these homophones, which are all derived from Chinese.
Even native Japanese has lots of homophones. Take miru
. This could be <見る> (to see; to look; to watch, etc), it could be <診る> (to examine medically; to look over/on), it could be <看る> (to look after; to take care of), or it could be <観る> (to view, as in flowers or a movie).
Another example is with horu
. It could be <彫る> (to carve; to engrave; to sculpt, etc), it could be <ほる> (to tattoo), or it could be <掘る> (to dig or excavate).
I personally believe that hangul could be adopted for use with Japanese though, and it could work out quite nicely. When I say adapted, I mean adapted though. You'd have to make a different orthography in order to let each Chinese Character take up one square. Here is an example of my idea:
*disclaimer* This system is far from perfect, and I'm just giving ideas of how it could work. I also haven't even thought about how "Japanese Japanese" would be written in this system, only "Chinese Japanese".
Kanji Hangul Kana Japanese Korean
正直 쇼짘 しょうじき shoujiki syojik
食卓 석탁 しょくたく shokutaku seoktak
限定 겐태 げんてい gentei gentae
発言 핬겐 はつげん hatsugen hatgen
発射 핬샤 はっしゃ hassha hatsya
発表 핬효 はっぴょう happyou hathyo
Hangul has more vowels than Japanese. You can use some of them as the long vowels, and some of the short vowels. In my example, ㅗ is the same as Japanese "ou" and ㅓ is the same as Japanese "o". Likewise, ㅔ is the same as Japanese "e" and ㅐ is the same as Japanese "ei".
Also, you need to put the second part of the character on the bottom, rather than making it written in two blocks like Japanese. Since hangul has more consonants, I can use ㄱ to mean a Japanese "ku" and ㅋ to mean a Japanese "ki". (At the end of a Chinese Character syllable.) In this example I'm using ㅆ to mean a Japanese "tsu".
I'm also trying to keep the spelling as morphophemic as possible. Even though 発射 is pronounced "hassha" and not "hatsusha", I'm still writing the ㅆ at the bottom because it is a part of the character. Readers will be expected to read it out loud as "hassha" even though there is a ㅆ at the bottom. This is the normal way Korean is written as well. However, the next word, you can see is "happyou". This pronunciation is changed quite a bit from "hatsuhyou" that would be read if you read it out normally. I'm still writing it as 핬효 though to keep the morphophemic spelling. Actually I'm still debating over this stuff. One big difference between Japanese and Korean is that in Japanese: h, b, and p are related, while in Korean ㅂ and ㅍ are not related to ㅎ. So using the ㅎ jamo in Japanese is a bit odd. I'll think of a better way to do this one day. I could use ㅍ to represent the h sound in Japanese, but this would drive people who know Korean mad. So the current plan is to make ㅎ related to ㅂ and ㅃ, and not use ㅍ at all.
I doubt that any Japanese people (aside from the Zainichi Koreans) would be too keen on writing their language with a script invented by a Korean king.