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How many kanji are there?

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How many kanji are there?

Postby Ahmed_Ali » Wed 08.27.2008 11:31 pm

are there more being made?
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Re: How many kanji are there?

Postby Sairana » Wed 08.27.2008 11:46 pm

Occasionally Japan does create new kanji.

Unofficially, I believe kanji in Japan number upwards of over 6000. Now, most of those are specialized kanji used pretty much only by people in certain professions (science, medicine, pharmacy, engineering, psychology, etc). Think along the lines of medical terms. Do you use 'shin bone', or 'fibula'? Do you hear 'tree frogs' when you go camping, or do you hear 'polypedates leucomystax'? ^_^

There are the 1945 official general use kanji. A well educated (IE, college graduate) Japanese person knows approximately 3000 kanji.
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Re: How many kanji are there?

Postby jimbreen » Thu 08.28.2008 1:27 am

Sairana wrote:Occasionally Japan does create new kanji.


The last was many, many years ago. These days, i.e. the last 100 or years or so, new
words are written either as 外来語 in katakana or forming a 漢字熟語.

Sairana wrote:Unofficially, I believe kanji in Japan number upwards of over 6000.


A looong way upwards. The definitive kanji dictionary (大漢和辞典) lists over 50,000. There are 6,356 kanji in the main computer character set (JIS X 0208), and two
later extensions (JIS X 0212/0213) added another 6,000+. Japan has adopted ISO-10646/Unicode as a national standard (JIS X 0221), so you could say that all
the 50,000 kanji/hanzi/hanja in Unicode are "official" in Japan.

Now, most of those are specialized kanji used pretty much only by people in certain professions (science, medicine, pharmacy, engineering, psychology, etc). Think along the lines of medical terms. Do you use 'shin bone', or 'fibula'? Do you hear 'tree frogs' when you go camping, or do you hear 'polypedates leucomystax'? ^_^

There are the 1945 official general use kanji. A well educated (IE, college graduate) Japanese person knows approximately 3000 kanji.


The 1,945 常用漢字 are under revision and the draft released a month or so indicated that 120+ new ones are likely to go in, and handful that have fallen into disuse will be removed. Then there's the 人名用漢字 which last year increased by about 700 kanji.

Actual ability to recognize/use kanji is another matter. Testing is sketchy (in fact it is quietly discouraged by the Japanese government as the results might dent their claims for Japan to be the most literate nation on the planet.) Educationalists I have discussed this with have suggested that the "average Japanese" probably has working knowledge of well less than 1000 kanji.
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Re: How many kanji are there?

Postby Sairana » Thu 08.28.2008 1:58 am

That's awesome stuff. I didn't know Japan recognized all the kanji/hanzi as "official". I was basing my 6K+ figure on the 一級漢検. I realize now I probably shouldn't make assumptions.

By working knowledge, do you mean say, active vs. passive? I didn't think it'd be even possible to read a newspaper or a novel only able to passively read less than 1000 kanji.
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Re: How many kanji are there?

Postby jimbreen » Thu 08.28.2008 3:23 am

Sairana wrote:That's awesome stuff. I didn't know Japan recognized all the kanji/hanzi as "official". I was basing my 6K+ figure on the 一級漢検. I realize now I probably shouldn't make assumptions.


Well, I chose my words carefully: ``you *could say that* all the 50,000 kanji/hanzi/hanja in Unicode are "official" in Japan''. Of course the JIS standards don't exactly make things official. I think the only kanji sets that could really be regarded as having official sanction are the 常用/人名用 ones, i.e. 1,945 + 983.

By working knowledge, do you mean say, active vs. passive? I didn't think it'd be even possible to read a newspaper or a novel only able to passively read less than 1000 kanji.


Passive. 1,000 kanji will get you through most newspaper articles. The frequency charts based on newspaper data are interesting. Well over 95% of the kanji used come from the first 1000 or so. But who reads newspapers and novels anyway? Most people don't get past manga with lashings of furigana, or get their news from the television or radio.
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Re: How many kanji are there?

Postby JaySee » Thu 08.28.2008 4:34 am

jimbreen wrote:The 1,945 常用漢字 are under revision and the draft released a month or so indicated that 120+ new ones are likely to go in, and handful that have fallen into disuse will be removed. Then there's the 人名用漢字 which last year increased by about 700 kanji.


Would you happen to know where I can find that draft online? I tried looking around on the website of the 文化審議会国語分科会/漢字小委員会, but I couldn't really find anything. Maybe I'm looking in the wrong place though.
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Re: How many kanji are there?

Postby spin13 » Thu 08.28.2008 4:44 am

JaySee wrote:Would you happen to know where I can find that draft online? I tried looking around on the website of the 文化審議会国語分科会/漢字小委員会, but I couldn't really find anything. Maybe I'm looking in the wrong place though.


Tae Kim has an editorial on his page, The NEW 常用漢字 and why we shouldn’t give a damn. It includes excerpts from and links to relevant material (Japanese only).

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Re: How many kanji are there?

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Thu 08.28.2008 8:39 am

jimbreen wrote:
Sairana wrote:
By working knowledge, do you mean say, active vs. passive? I didn't think it'd be even possible to read a newspaper or a novel only able to passively read less than 1000 kanji.


Passive. 1,000 kanji will get you through most newspaper articles. The frequency charts based on newspaper data are interesting. Well over 95% of the kanji used come from the first 1000 or so. But who reads newspapers and novels anyway? Most people don't get past manga with lashings of furigana, or get their news from the television or radio.


Active estimates are usually worse; around the 500 range.

Also remember that with a native-level command of grammar and vocab, you can figure out a lot of kanji from context even if you don't actually "know" them, in the same way that if random words are left out of English sentences it's often easy to figure out what they're supposed to be.

(As for the total number of kanji used in Japanese, it's a little hard to say because you first have to define "Japanese"; Morohashi is essentially a dictionary of classical Chinese -- even though every character is given a Japanese on-yomi, if said character was only ever used in writing classical Chinese it's a debatable issue whether it should be considered a "Japanese character". Fortunately, the number of kanji is kind of an irrelevant issue.)
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Re: How many kanji are there?

Postby vkladchik » Thu 08.28.2008 10:33 am

Yudan Taiteki wrote:Active estimates are usually worse; around the 500 range.

I just got the kanken test game for Nintendo DS, and it's a bizzle fo shizzle. I rarely come across kanji I can't read, but I'm struggling with 3Q.
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Re: How many kanji are there?

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Thu 08.28.2008 10:43 am

I managed to pass the 3kyuu after using the prep books a lot, but it's been over three years since I took the test. I tried that kanken DS game and I was doing terrible even on 5 and 6Q questions.
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Re: How many kanji are there?

Postby richvh » Thu 08.28.2008 10:47 am

A novel (aimed at high school students, I believe, as the setting is a high school and the main characters are first year students) I recently transcribed had 1736 unique kanji in it.
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Re: How many kanji are there?

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Thu 08.28.2008 10:59 am

richvh wrote:A novel (aimed at high school students, I believe, as the setting is a high school and the main characters are first year students) I recently transcribed had 1736 unique kanji in it.


But that doesn't mean that a high school student would actually know all 1736 kanji. If a kanji only appears once or twice in a 300-page book, the book can probably be read regardless -- even more so if the word the kanji is used in is a word the reader would know.

Considering general literacy rates around the world, the difficulty of the Japanese writing system, and the fact that 99% of Japanese people enter high school, it would be astonishing if the majority of high school graduates were fully literate in 2000+ kanji.
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Re: How many kanji are there?

Postby Garappachi » Thu 08.28.2008 11:29 am

I needed to have 15-hours-hand-writing for passing 2Q, though it was quite easy to read 常用漢字.
I am sure there is a big wall between reading and actual writing. Also I am just struggling with pre1Q.^^:
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Re: How many kanji are there?

Postby jimbreen » Fri 08.29.2008 8:06 pm

JaySee wrote:The 1,945 常用漢字 are under revision and the draft released a month or so indicated that 120+ new ones are likely to go in, and handful that have fallen into disuse will be removed. Then there's the 人名用漢字 which last year increased by about 700 kanji.


Would you happen to know where I can find that draft online? I tried looking around on the website of the 文化審議会国語分科会/漢字小委員会, but I couldn't really find anything. Maybe I'm looking in the wrong place though.[/quote]

I don't have the document itself, but I have added the details of the 188 new ones and the 5 deletions to my page at: http://www.csse.monash.edu.au/~jwb/jouyoukanji.html
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Re: How many kanji are there?

Postby yukamina » Fri 08.29.2008 8:23 pm

1000 kanji? 500 kanji? I know you guys have more experience and information than me, but that seems really low...
My uneducated estimate would be that Japanese people know 1500 kanji on average. With the ability to write at least 1000.
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