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Why Are Newbies Learning The Freakin Kanji?!

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RE: Why Are Newbies Learning The Freakin Kanji?!

Postby chikara » Tue 12.11.2007 11:18 pm

Christine Tham wrote:
Let me get this straight. I should not "nit pick" on someone in Latvia posting in English because they could be thinking in Russian.....

It is not that they could be thinking in Russian, it is that English is likely to not be their native language. Their actual native language is irrelevant although JaySee-san seems to believe that this is important.

If you read my post again you may be able to comprehend that I actually asked, quite politely I may add, that you keep this fact in mind not that you should not nit pick on their post. ;)
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RE: Why Are Newbies Learning The Freakin Kanji?!

Postby JaySee » Wed 12.12.2007 4:23 am

I did not mean to say that their actual native language is relevant (other than the distinction between English/non-English of course); I was just pointing out the small mistake there... I know I wouldn't be too happy if people thought they speak German in Holland or something :p
Last edited by JaySee on Wed 12.12.2007 4:25 am, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Why Are Newbies Learning The Freakin Kanji?!

Postby Valatunda » Wed 12.12.2007 4:26 am

Christine Tham wrote:
Seriously, whether we like it or not, Kanji is part of Modern Japanese. There was an attempt to switch to romaji after World War II, suggested by the American occupying forces, but it didn't work - there are too many words which sound the same and the only way to tell them apart is by using Kanji.


The bolded part doesn't make sense. The only way to tell them apart is by using context, not kanji. Not even every Japanese word is written using kanji.
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RE: Why Are Newbies Learning The Freakin Kanji?!

Postby hyperconjugated » Wed 12.12.2007 6:32 am

Christine Tham wrote:
Seriously, whether we like it or not, Kanji is part of Modern Japanese. There was an attempt to switch to romaji after World War II, suggested by the American occupying forces, but it didn't work - there are too many words which sound the same and the only way to tell them apart is by using Kanji.

This is interesting article, posted on this forum some time ago:
http://www.pinyin.info/readings/texts/unger2_introduction.html#modern_japanese
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RE: Why Are Newbies Learning The Freakin Kanji?!

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Wed 12.12.2007 10:11 am

Just to quote one small part:
There are basically three kinds of obstacles. First, too much material exists in traditional written form; it can only be replaced gradually, and some of it must be preserved for as long as possible because it possesses intrinsic artistic or historical value. Second, many tens of thousands of Japanese have a personal stake in the maintenance of the orthographic status quo; their replacement in the labor force, let alone other areas of daily life, would require at least a generation. Third, there is, at present, no consensus on a standard with which to replace the existing writing system; there are many workable alternatives besides romanization, and, even with romanization, there are different systems that could be adopted.

Finally, apart from these material, educational, and orthographic obstacles, there is no evidence of the political will needed to abandon kanji;


The idea that romaji tried and failed because of homophones is fiction.

It's rather interesting -- I'm not sure there's another field of study (aside from linguistics) where there's such a huge divide between people in the field and people not. The principle that language is speech, and that a writing system is simply a tool for representing language (and is not language in itself), is accepted by the overwhelming majority of linguists as a fundamental principle at the core of linguistics. Despite that, the idea is met with skepticism or outright derision by many non-linguists. Dr. Unger compares this with creation science in his article; maybe that is a good comparison.
Last edited by Yudan Taiteki on Wed 12.12.2007 12:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Why Are Newbies Learning The Freakin Kanji?!

Postby BetterSense » Wed 12.12.2007 1:43 pm

Physics can be like that.

What irks me is that japanese already has a very nice and suitable phonetic orthography, called ひらがな. It's not like they'd have to adopt romanization to be able to spell their language phonetically, they already HAVE a very suitable and well-evolved phonetic script that is nearly completely unambiguous both from text to speech and vice versa. Why they don't just use that, is completely beyond me. I mean why? It's nearly a model of efficiency. Why use more characters, when you already have enough for the language to be perfectly read?

I don't buy any of the common arguments for kanji usage. The bottom line is that I can read 90% of certain easy material if it has furigana, and can read maybe 30% of it (making in unintelligible) without it. So why not just use the (*$)#&$ kana?

As George Sansom put it, back in the 1920s: "One hesitates for an epithet to describe a writing system which is so complex that it needs the aid of another system to explain it."

I don't think romaji is really super, though. Really, I think romaji is kind of ugly as well as inefficient (two characters per syllable), plus there's nothing 'inherent' about the pronunciations of the romanized script other than that one is supposed to pronounce the characters like japanese because they are being used for japanese, while hiragana, worldwide, has only one pronunciation which makes it more purely phonetic if that makes any sense. For example the letter 'o' can stand for probably half a dozen vowels across all the languages it's used in, (try horse, on, one, oven, so, to, and woman) but お can be read basically like an IPA character. Hiragana is like, tailor made for japanese.
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RE: Why Are Newbies Learning The Freakin Kanji?!

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Wed 12.12.2007 2:00 pm

Look at the quote I pasted above for the primary reasons why Japan does not change their writing system.
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RE: Why Are Newbies Learning The Freakin Kanji?!

Postby Chris Hart » Wed 12.12.2007 2:04 pm

BetterSense wrote:
Physics can be like that.

What irks me is that japanese already has a very nice and suitable phonetic orthography, called ひらがな. It's not like they'd have to adopt romanization to be able to spell their language phonetically, they already HAVE a very suitable and well-evolved phonetic script that is nearly completely unambiguous both from text to speech and vice versa. Why they don't just use that, is completely beyond me. I mean why? It's nearly a model of efficiency. Why use more characters, when you already have enough for the language to be perfectly read?

I don't buy any of the common arguments for kanji usage. The bottom line is that I can read 90% of certain easy material if it has furigana, and can read maybe 30% of it (making in unintelligible) without it. So why not just use the (*$)#&$ kana?

As George Sansom put it, back in the 1920s: "One hesitates for an epithet to describe a writing system which is so complex that it needs the aid of another system to explain it."

I don't think romaji is really super, though. Really, I think romaji is kind of ugly as well as inefficient (two characters per syllable), plus there's nothing 'inherent' about the pronunciations of the romanized script other than that one is supposed to pronounce the characters like japanese because they are being used for japanese, while hiragana, worldwide, has only one pronunciation which makes it more purely phonetic if that makes any sense. For example the letter 'o' can stand for probably half a dozen vowels across all the languages it's used in, (try horse, on, one, oven, so, to, and woman) but お can be read basically like an IPA character. Hiragana is like, tailor made for japanese.


I'm going to need to look through the fortune program for what I really want to quote. For now, though, here's one from everything2.com.

Shurly, if anything is indikative of a noders' intelligence, it is spelling. (Sorry, Klash, and Mary Claire van Leunen). If yor spelling is not klear, logikal, and konsistant, this is probably a sign that your thinking isn't all that klear and logikal either.

We are all intelligent pep'l, and ther is no (klear and logikal) reason we should choos an outdated tradishon over functionality. But, we du. Nearly every node in the database uses an old-fashuned and internaly inkonsistent stile uv spelling. You fools, yoos yor imaginashun! Speling shuld be a simpl and straetforward sistem uv puting yor spoken language intu print. If there is no such sistem avalabl, yu should make yor own.

There ar problems, tru, but better tu work twords a sistem that works than tu stick with wun that is needlessly komplex and konfusing. (For exampl, yu spell 'uv' with an 'o' and an 'f'. Du yu hear an 'f' in uv? I shur dont).

Learn How To Spel! Dont take sum outdated dikshunarie's word for it. Yu have a brane, yus it. Memorizashun uv esoteric knowledge is not a sutabl replacement for good ol' fashuned thinking.
-.. .   -.- -.-. ---.. ..- ..-. ...-

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RE: Why Are Newbies Learning The Freakin Kanji?!

Postby miho-sempai » Wed 12.12.2007 2:19 pm

xD That's awesome!
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RE: Why Are Newbies Learning The Freakin Kanji?!

Postby BetterSense » Wed 12.12.2007 2:23 pm

My ponderings such as 'I wonder why the japanese don't use kana exclusively' and such are largely rhetorical. The real answer to why the japanese spell with kanji is just that that is the writing system which developed in japan.

There've been several attempts at phonetic spelling reform for english, sometimes put forth by famous authors, and Webster himself is responsible for a lot of the spelling 'improvements' we have today. But the same problem of old materials and standardization and lack of will probably stopped them from becoming adopted. I know germany has instituted a handful of spelling reforms, even fairly recently.

One thing I think interesting, is that dialectical differences in pronunciation are irrecoverable from English spelling, unless the author resorts to nonstandard attempts at representation. Differences in structure ('yall', 'why don't he write', 'eh', 'come with', 'I hear he now dead',) come right through, though the simple vowel shifts of regional dialect differences aren't recoverable from text.

Whereas, kansai-ben seems to only differ from 'standard' japanese in structure...none of the vowels are different, it can still be spelled with kana, and where there are differences structurally it is spelled the way it's said.
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RE: Why Are Newbies Learning The Freakin Kanji?!

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Wed 12.12.2007 3:51 pm

I don't think that's true -- dialects of English use the same vowels as "standard" English, just not in the same places. Japanese is the same way. (It also would not be true to say that *all* dialects of Japanese stay within the bounds of the kana -- the kana isn't even enough to completely phonetically represent standard Japanese.)
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RE: Why Are Newbies Learning The Freakin Kanji?!

Postby Chris Hart » Wed 12.12.2007 4:18 pm

Chris - I think what BetterSenseさん is trying to say is that for the most part, we can't identify what spoken dialect a written passage is written in unless there is a different structure to the phrase. For example, you can't identify an accent through just writing in English.

However you can easily tell which one of the following sentences is in American English based on the structure:
He is in hospital.
He is in the hospital.
-.. .   -.- -.-. ---.. ..- ..-. ...-

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RE: Why Are Newbies Learning The Freakin Kanji?!

Postby Christine Tham » Wed 12.12.2007 6:50 pm

chikara wrote:
If you read my post again you may be able to comprehend that I actually asked, quite politely I may add, that you keep this fact in mind not that you should not nit pick on their post. ;)


I did.

Have you ever considered that you are effectively implying that the poster did not have an adequate mastery of English?

I prefer to believe that the poster can in fact communicate in English adequately (certainly there is no evidence otherwise), and therefore deserve a post that did not assume the poster was incompetent in the choice and usage of English words. :p
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RE: Why Are Newbies Learning The Freakin Kanji?!

Postby Christine Tham » Wed 12.12.2007 6:52 pm

Yudan Taiteki wrote:
The idea that romaji tried and failed because of homophones is fiction.


Perhaps you may care to speak to my Japanese teacher (a native Japanese), who was forced to learn Japanese in romaji in the years after World War II.
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RE: Why Are Newbies Learning The Freakin Kanji?!

Postby everdream » Wed 12.12.2007 7:01 pm

Christine Tham wrote:
Yudan Taiteki wrote:
The idea that romaji tried and failed because of homophones is fiction.


Perhaps you may care to speak to my Japanese teacher (a native Japanese), who was forced to learn Japanese in romaji in the years after World War II.

But you can surely see where Yudan is coming from.? Homophones exist in speaking, there are no kanji to tell you what word they meant, you take it out of context. Perhaps sometimes, in writing, context is harder, but it isn't impossable to tell.
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