Japan abolishes Kanji during the Meiji Restoration.

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by LetThemEatCake, Dec 4, 2019 at 6:42 PM.

  1. LetThemEatCake Active Member

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    Suppose that in an attempt to make their language easier to adopt, Japan abolished the Kanji writing system and uses only hiragana for Japanese words and katakana for foreign loan words from that point forward. What would be the effects of this? Would more people be fluent in Japanese?
     
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  2. TRH Tyrannosaurus Rex Handler

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    Would they care about making their language more accessible to outsiders? It’s my understanding that Japan never stopped being unreceptive to immigration, so who would really benefit from this besides foreign dignitaries?
     
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  3. Chris Triangle Edits a lot

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    Typists.
     
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  4. TRH Tyrannosaurus Rex Handler

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    Mightn’t they oppose a change in the way they have to type, like how inertia keeps us stuck with the QWERTY keyboard layout? And I thought this was the 19th century under discussion here.
     
  5. TimTurner Cartoon Phanatic

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    problem is, kanji is a symbol of their bedrock foundation culture, and its very presence encourages the Japanese to rigorously learn. The Meiji restoration was never about getting rid of all tradition - it was about mixing it with Western cultural and technological imports to produce a resilient Asian society that could stand up to outsiders.
    The Meiji restoration ditching kanji would be counter-productive. Imagine leading your nation through a revolution, defeating the former military dictatorship, seeking to produce a more thoroughly standardized education for all citizens, and then stripping away a tool by which people could achieve that very aim.
     
  6. Chris Triangle Edits a lot

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    The typewriters had thousands of keys. That is very cumbersome no matter how used to it you are and the machines are far heavier and more complicated. There were typewriters on the Latin alphabet since the early to mid 19th century yet it took until 1915 for someone to invent one that could write in Japanese, including Kanji. Katakana supposedly has 46 characters. A typewriter that only used that script would surely have been developed far earlier.
     
  7. Chris Triangle Edits a lot

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    That... Is actually a good argument for keeping them.
     
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  8. TRH Tyrannosaurus Rex Handler

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    I’m now reminded of Season 4 Yu-Gi-Oh GX.

    “If you’re unable to do Kanji, you won’t understand the card effect!”
     
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  9. Nivek Mental Anime,Videogames,Football And Baseball Fan

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    you can't abolish kanji, you destroy almost all compatibility with old documents dating the 8th century as earliest.

    You can abolish KANA also, that is not that useful, adopting french-german phonetics would do wonder for japanese
     
  10. MansaSakura Member

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    Nope, in the same word in hiragana or katakana with different tone may have different meaning.

    Although not so obviously, Japanese is indeed a tonal language.
     
  11. Kellan Sullivan Well-Known Member

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    ISTR reading that in the early computer age, the Japanese language presented a problem to computers (IDK if it was in line with coding or what).
     
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  12. Dathi THorfinnsson Daði Þorfinnsson

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    Japanese has WAY too many homonyms for a purely phonetic writing system to be very useful.
     
  13. Sian Sianic Enterprises

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    Why would they do that? ... up towards of 45% of the male population was able to reasonably competently read and write (both Hiragana and a fair number of common kanji) at the start of Meiji (females are much more hard to get any numbers on), which is very much comparable if not even better than most European languages
     
  14. Nivek Mental Anime,Videogames,Football And Baseball Fan

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    expand your vocabulary, all languages do that all the time
     
  15. Dathi THorfinnsson Daði Þorfinnsson

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    Actually, REDUCING the vocabulary might work better.

    'san' can be 'mountain' or it can be 'Mr/Ms'. Dumping the first word and always using 'yama' (also meaning mountain) would help if you really wanted to go phonetic.
     
  16. bbctol Well-Known Member

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    It's not implausible that they'd do this earlier, though it wouldn't be to open their language to outsiders; it would be for the same reason Korea stopped using Chinese characters, to increase literacy rates and make the language easier for the Japanese themselves to learn. By the Meiji Restoration, though, literacy was already quite high, which makes changing writing systems difficult.
     
  17. mosodake แป็นด์

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    That didn't stop Korea and Vietnam from largely abandoning Chinese characters in favor of phonetic writing systems. Anyway, the earliest examples of Japanese literature that wasn't written in Classical Chinese used neither hiragana nor katakana, which renders them almost completely unintelligible to modern Japanese speakers.
    Homophones are typically much, much less of a big deal than people make them out to be. Think about it, if homophones are so numerous as to make a phonetically written language ambiguous, how would anybody make themselves understood when speaking? Context removes almost all of the ambiguity.

    Furthermore, Japanese doesn't have a significantly different number of homophones than Korean, Vietnamese, Thai, Lao, Burmese, Tibetan, Hmong etc., all languages that have many homophones yet do just fine with phonetic writing systems. Even Chinese languages can be written entirely phonetically, as the Dungan people do. Now, Thai, Burmese, and Tibetan do have highly conservative writing systems that differentiate words that are pronounced identically in the modern languages. Thai, in particular, uses multiple letters or letter combinations to represent the same sound in order to distinguish words. However, Lao has gotten rid of these redundant letters (Lao uses 27 consonant symbols compared to 44 in Thai, with both languages having nearly identical consonant inventories), yet written Lao is no less understandable than written Thai.
     
  18. Lampiao Well-Known Member

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    problem is, the Arabic abjad is a symbol of their bedrock foundation culture (aka the Turko-Persian tradition), and its very presence encourages the Turkish to rigorously learn. Ataturk's reforms was never about getting rid of all tradition - it was about mixing it with Western cultural and technological imports to produce a resilient Asian society that could stand up to outsiders.
    Ataturk ditching the Arabic abjad would be counter-productive. Imagine leading your nation through a revolution, defeating the former sultanate, seeking to produce a more thoroughly standardized education for all citizens, and then stripping away a tool by which people could achieve that very aim.
     
  19. TimTurner Cartoon Phanatic

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    Logic does not follow. For one, Arabic script is not any more complicated than Latin script, so your entire case collapses in your first sentence. To add to that, Atuturk was about creating a new national identity - Turkish - while the Meiji Restoration was about strengthening the pre-existing Japanese nation.
    What an utterly laughable argument.
    Thanks for wasting my time.
     
  20. Lampiao Well-Known Member

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    Do you actually know Ottoman Turkish script?

    No, it aimed the increase of literacy amongst Turks.

    Wow, who dares disagree with you, eh?
    Thanks for the civilised manner that you treat other people in this forum.
     
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