The Japanese writing systems, script reforms and the eradication of the Kanji writing system: native speakers’ views

Detta är en Kandidat-uppsats från Lunds universitet/Japanska

Sammanfattning: This study aims to deduce what Japanese native speakers think of the Japanese writing systems, and in particular what native speakers’ opinions are concerning Kanji, the logographic writing system which consists of Chinese characters. The Japanese written language has something that most languages do not; namely​ a total of three writing systems. First, there is the Kana writing system, which consists of the two syllabaries: Hiragana and Katakana. The two syllabaries essentially figure the same way, but are used for different purposes. Secondly, there is the Rōmaji writing system, which is Japanese written using latin letters. And finally, there is the Kanji writing system. Learning this is often at first an exhausting task, because not only must one learn the two phonematic writing systems (Hiragana and Katakana), but to be able to properly read and write in Japanese, one should also learn how to read and write a great amount of logographic signs; namely the Kanji. For example, to be able to read and understand books or newspaper without using any aiding tools such as dictionaries, one would need to have learned the 2136 Jōyō Kanji (regular-use Chinese characters). With the twentieth century’s progress in technology, comparing with twenty years ago, in this day and age one could probably theoretically get by alright without knowing how to write Kanji by hand, seeing as we are writing less and less by hand and more by technological devices. Because by simply knowing the spelling of a word, you can write it phonetically on a mobile phone or computer and the logographic character will appear automatically. That being said, the importance of being able to read Kanji remains the same. However, due to the presence of such technology, it is interesting to see how it may come to affect the logographic writing system of Japanese; and if it already is affecting it. Therefore, this study contains the results of a series of interviews with Japanese native speakers that was arranged in order to find out what they think may become of the future of Kanji. The conclusion that can be drawn from this study is that the majority of native speakers would be against a reform that would eradicate the Kanji writing system, partly due to their affection toward Kanji, but also due to thinking there are many more benefits to using Kanji than disadvantages. Many were, however, in the belief that technology can, and will affect the future of the Kanji writing system.

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