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Language Purism in Japan

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Language Purism in Japan

Postby vinniram » Fri 05.30.2008 5:18 am

calquing is the key
Last edited by vinniram on Fri 05.30.2008 9:05 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Language Purism in Japan

Postby Wakannai » Fri 05.30.2008 5:41 am

It was in times when Japan felt INFERIOR to the west that it absorbed gairaigo. this is in distinct contrast to when it absorbed Chinese words, in an atmosphere of mutual collaboration


There are so many issues with that entire rant I'm not even sure where to start, but I guess this is as good a place as any.

Go back and read your history. Atmosphere of mutual collaboration?

If you are a language purist, learn Latin and never discuss concepts more modern than the windmill. Really, there aren't many facts in there at all, it's all a bunch of dogma and propaganda. A good argument, would define how gairaigo is corrupting and how it is bad, instead of just assuming it is such. There is no argument to defend because you are too busy basing your conclusions on assumptions, and then using superlatives like MUST be changed. Why must it be changed? Why is it bad? What is your definition of Language Purist? What does elimination of loan words have to do with Language Purism? Do you know the difference between a dead language and a living language? What are the negative consequences of this French Body dedicated towards protecting the "purity" of French, Considering all "foreign" influence already inherent in the language? Etc, etc. When you make an argument, you need to build each point at a time and then after establishing a platform of facts, draw your conclusions. I see none of this.

Controlling language is this way is really a form of facism. Words are thoughts, when you dictate how people think by censoring inconvenient words, you deny people the freedom to think for themselves. Is not the freedom to think one of the most basic freedoms of a human being? How will you establish the right for a body to tell someone that they must think one word, but not another. That they must speak one word but not another? How will this body enforce its terms?

Lastly, let's not, as outsiders, dictate to the Japanese how they will preserve their culture, and what aspects of it are the most worthy of safeguarding. I'm sure they are quite capable of making those decisions for themselves.
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Re: Language Purism in Japan

Postby vinniram » Fri 05.30.2008 6:48 am

These are the reasons why I think that Gairaigo is a negative influence on Japan and the Japanese language:

1) The older Japanese, in case you didn't know, are finding it hard to understand the younger japanese and the jargon they use. This has been attested to causing a social divide between the younger and older generations. Older people, according to a thesis I read on the subject of gairaigo, said that the older generation are sending increasing amounts of mail to newspaper editors and magazines, complaining about katakana jargon they cannot understand. Gairaigo is causing a social divide between the older generation and younger generation, and this is fragmenting Japanese society.

2) Gairaigo is being used more and more in particular social groups, adding to social division in Japanese society. Not only is gairaigo causing age divides, but particular groups which use particular loanwords cause this also. This is because people OUTSIDE certain groups cannot understand the words, so communication can become very difficult, weakening the strength of Japanese as a medium of communication.

3) In the aformentioned thesis I read recently (concerned with gairaigo usage in Japan), public opinion polls have shown up to 35.5% of the population encounters Gairaigo they can't understand, and 37% believe that Gairaigo is becoming a problem. This is up from about 5% in the 1980s. 37% may not sound like much, but given that Japan's population is 130 million people, 37% equates to approximately 49 000 000 people. For this many people to view gairaigo as a problem, and for such a percentage increase to have occured in the last two decades, indicates that gairaigo is not something scorned by the literary elite and social commentators alone. A large proportion of Japanese citizens view it as a problem which must be dealt with.

4) Gairaigo is displacing perfectly useable Japanese words, eroding the language. For example, why use the katakana "miruku" when a perfectly legitimate kanji exists? This is only one example. Gairaigo is actually displacing Japanese, not just "adding" to the vocabulary, as some seem to believe. The sheer volume of new words added by gairaigo does not peacefully coexist with existing Japanese; many of these original Japanese words are being disused. This is a bad thing in my opinion, as it is damaging a beautiful language with a rich and vibrant history. Why use a gairaigo jargon word when a perfectly serviceable Japanese word exists? There is no reason that I can see.

The above four points are the main reasons why I think Gairaigo is a bad thing. This is what I think should be done about it:

1) Popular gairaigo terms should be replaced with calques. Don't know what a calque is? A calque is literally a word-for-word translation of a foreign word into another language. NOT a phonetic translation, but a word-for-word one. Like for example, the chinese don't translate the world "television" into Chinese phonetically - they use two characters, the character for "electronic" and the character for "screen". This is a calque. Another example is the expression "flea market". In French, the words 'market' and 'flea' are simply translated into French, and the term can be used. Why can't Japan do the same, and make such calques? It should theoretically be a lot easier than trying to laboriously manufacture english sounds with a syllabary system not suited to the language. I think calques hold the key.

2) The government should encourage the disuse of gairaigo by reducing the amount of gairaigo jargon they use in official documents, and in speeches etc.

3) The mass media should follow suit and reduce the amount of gairaigo used, as they are a crticial factor in influencing Japanese society. If mass media usage of Gairaigo drops, so does usage in general society.

I think I have presented a solid gase against the presence of gairaigo in the Japanese lexicon. I think my conclusions are justified with strong premises, and I believe in what I say. I think Gairaigo is a negative influence on Japan for the above reasons, and I welcome other, well thought out and presented opinions on the subject.
Last edited by vinniram on Fri 05.30.2008 9:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Language Purism in Japan

Postby JaySee » Fri 05.30.2008 7:30 am

I agree with Wakkanai.

When it comes to language, people are lazy and just take whatever they can find to communicate as efficiently and as easily as possible, and that's how it should be. Extensive language contact is a side effect of globalisation, and if there's a certain word in another language that does the job just as well, then why not choose that instead of going through the effort of making up a new word for a new concept/thing.

There have been times when the Japanese have tried to get rid of all foreign words in their language and lose all restrictions on kanji usage (most notably when the militarists were in power). A nice anecdote here is that the Japanese army thus replaced all the loan words used for parts of weapons with difficult and unknown kanji compound words, causing the soldiers to barely be able to read the instruction manuals for them anymore, and more and more accidents started to occur. Eventually even the militarists saw that this really didn't work, so they reinstated kanji limits and some of the loan words (though, ironically, only for the military).

If you say that it is ok for a language to naturally adopt loan words, but it's not ok when they're imposed on it, then I ask you to look at your own language. The invasion of the Normans in 1066 caused a gigantic influx of French words into English. Should these too be removed or replaced? Most English speakers nowadays wouldn't even be able to tell a 'native' English word from a French 'loanword' that came into the language hundreds of years ago.

I really disagree with the notion that the Japanese adopted so many gairaigo because they were *forced* to, because this is simply not true. After the Meiji restauration, many new objects and ideas came into Japan, all of which needed a name. In some cases, a new kanji compound word was created, in other cases the English word was simply transliterated (this book might be interesting, if you're into the topic). After WW2, the Americans could have forced rooma-ji upon the Japanese, but they didn't. Although this is still somewhat contested, I think the Americans left script reform largely to the Japanese themselves (as they cared more about what was written in, for example, the textbooks, not how it was written there). I am sure though, that SCAP never actively and extensively introduced new gairaigo into Japanese or had a policy of spreading foreign words.

Looking at your 'restructured' post:

1. in ANY language you will find that older generations use language differently than younger people. This is because language (thank God) is not static and changes according to the needs of people. If you told your grandmother that something was the real shizzle fo' cheesie, would she understand you? Or even when not using slang; I doubt many people over 70 would know what ADSL or a USB flsh drive is.

2. Obviously when I hear a physics professor talking to another physics professor about something related to their research, I will not be able to understand many of the words. Jargon is jargon because people outside the group in which it is used are not expected to understand it, because there's no real need to.

3. Which leaves 63% having no problems at all. If it really was such a big problem for such a large part of society, then I'm sure the problem would have solved itself. I refuse to believe that it is possible for speakers of a language to actively and/or unknowingly ruin it until they can't understand each other anymore.

4. Usually they do add something. Also in the case of miruku and gyuunyuu the two don't completely overlap in meaning, they're not always interchangeable.
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Re: Language Purism in Japan

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Fri 05.30.2008 8:33 am

There's nothing new here, it's just the same old "damn kids don't speak correctly and are destroying the language" thing that people have been complaining about for millenia. You can't impose a deliberate change to a language on the scale you are talking about. It's not even about change vs. preservation, it's just impossible.

This line of argumentation is particularly silly:
For example, why use the katakana "miruku" when a perfectly legitimate kanji [compound] exists?


And where did that kanji compound 牛乳 come from? Chinese, of course. If you want to expel all loan words from Japanese, then ちち should be the word for milk. The vast influx of Chinese loan words in the past did the same thing as the influx of gairaigo today. Every single one of your arguments could be made against Chinese kango as well.
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Re: Language Purism in Japan

Postby two_heads_talking » Fri 05.30.2008 8:57 am

vinniram wrote:I didn't read most of what you said because I realize that it is ranting and raving, much like my original post. Ok, I have decided to order and structure my arguments, and I hope this thread will continue in an argument/counter-argument/comment/opinion fashion. .


you know it's Ironic that many people will return favor to you in the same way you did to Wakkanai. I realized in the first sentence that you were itching to bitch.. therefore, I can't take you half as seriously as I would had you come at it from another angle..
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Re: Language Purism in Japan

Postby richvh » Fri 05.30.2008 9:10 am

What's really ironic is making this whole argument in the language which "has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary," as a Usenet denizen has described English. And, as Chris has said, kango (ancient gairaigo, borrowed mostly from Chinese) still vastly outnumbers modern gairaigo (borrowings from English and other, mostly Western, languages.)
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Re: Language Purism in Japan

Postby JaySee » Fri 05.30.2008 9:42 am

I feel kind of stupid having reacted to a post that was later deleted, but in the first post the OP said something to the extent that it was ok that Chinese words entered Japanese because this went without any pressure, while English words were forced upon the Japanese through events like the opening of the country by Commodore Perry and the American occupation that followed WW2.

I agree with Yudan Taiteki that it is impossible to deliberately remove well-established loan words from a language, or impose any sort of big change for that matter. However, I do think it would have been possible to keep gairaigo out for a large part if the Japanese government had really wanted to. In France and Iceland for example, language institutes have had some success doing so, by introducing a 'native' French or Icelandic word for many new concepts or things that enter the country. If this new 'native' word is then actively promoted and taken up by the media, I guess the people in general are likely to follow suit.
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Re: Language Purism in Japan

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Fri 05.30.2008 9:50 am

JaySee wrote:I feel kind of stupid having reacted to a post that was later deleted, but in the first post the OP said something to the extent that it was ok that Chinese words entered Japanese because this went without any pressure, while English words were forced upon the Japanese through events like the opening of the country by Commodore Perry and the American occupation that followed WW2.


That's nonsense.

I agree with Yudan Taiteki that it is impossible to deliberately remove well-established loan words from a language, or impose any sort of big change for that matter. However, I do think it would have been possible to keep gairaigo out for a large part if the Japanese government had really wanted to. In France and Iceland for example, language institutes have had some success doing so, by introducing a 'native' French or Icelandic word for many new concepts or things that enter the country. If this new 'native' word is then actively promoted and taken up by the media, I guess the people in general are likely to follow suit.


Yeah, but that's a lot of work for no real gain. Protecting the "purity" of a language is of dubious benefit to anyone -- I find it ironic that the OP equates loan words with societal division, when in fact language purists do the same thing when they condemn the usage of the uneducated, the poor, and the young.
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Re: Language Purism in Japan

Postby vinniram » Fri 05.30.2008 9:02 pm

itching to bitch? well that's why I DELETED my first post. Anyway, thinking things through, some gairaigo is fine. I just think it shouldn't displace native words, and hey, everyone's entitled to their opinion right? Most of you guys seem to want gairaigo to displace more Japanese, and to that I say that it's your opinion, and I respect that. I really think that calques are the answer, but again that's only my opinion.

Calquing to me is the key, though. GO CALQUING!!
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Re: Language Purism in Japan

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Fri 05.30.2008 9:07 pm

vinniram wrote:Most of you guys seem to want gairaigo to displace more Japanese


Who said that? I'm in favor of just letting the language develop how it develops, whether that's lots of gairaigo or no gairaigo.
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Re: Language Purism in Japan

Postby becki_kanou » Fri 05.30.2008 9:17 pm

vinniram wrote:Most of you guys seem to want gairaigo to displace more Japanese, and to that I say that it's your opinion, and I respect that.


No one said anything remotely like that. No one is advocating purposefully adding more gairaigo, they're simply defending the use of existing gairaigo. Anyway, it's useless telling people to use or not use gairaigo; they are fully capable of deciding that for themselves. If people find gairaigo useful, they'll use them; if not, they won't.

Also it's rather condescending to dictate to people how they should or should not speak their own native language.
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Re: Language Purism in Japan

Postby AJBryant » Fri 05.30.2008 9:37 pm

And I don't know about the others, but I find going back and changing your posts like that to be bordering on vandalism of the thread.

Stop doing that, please. Other people reading these threads need to be able to make sense of it, even if it is largely nonsense.


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Re: Language Purism in Japan

Postby Gundaetiapo » Fri 05.30.2008 9:38 pm

Gairaigo is actually displacing Japanese, not just "adding" to the vocabulary, as some seem to believe.


If you're insinuating that gairaigo is not Japanese, the Japanese Christmas Chicken thread can put that in the proper perspective.

If you're interested in some of the results of expunging foreign loan words retroactively, you may read of the Turkish language reforms.
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Re: Language Purism in Japan

Postby vinniram » Fri 05.30.2008 10:05 pm

Don't I have a right to change my posts, if I want to change what I say? I regret what I said earlier. I was just brash, and I don't want people to click open this thread, see that, and suddenly think I'm that thickheaded, because I'm not. I'm not going to keep something up there that upsets others, and actually doesn't reflect what I really think.

Sorry for that, but I just felt that that post should not stay. I don't want this thread to generate into constant PAs anymore. I hope people can be a bit kinder to me as well, and I'm sorry that I offended so many people.
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