Updating Kanji

Useful item from Burritt Sabin on a recent Japanese Language Subcommittee report on kanji, calling for an overhaul of the joyo kanji (the official 1,945 characters used in administrative life and education).

…personal computers, cell phones, and other IT devices may be encoded with as many as 6,355 characters, the total of the first and second levels of the Japanese Industrial Standards (JIS). Simple arithmetic shows the Japanese are using a lot of non-joyo kanji.

What’s more, the use of Japanese and Chinese readings and character styles not in the joyo kanji list is increasing. For example, the old forms of the kanji for “kuni” (country) and “sawa” (valley) have come to be widely used in personal names. As well, many kanji used in place and personal names are not in the joyo kanji list. The reason, according to a Cultural Affairs Agency spokesperson, is that “proper names were expected to be handwritten.” The joyo kanji list was intended as a guideline for printed characters. Even “saka” in Osaka and “oka” in Okayama are not joyo kanji.

See here for more on Japan’s language policy (in English).

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Andrew Joscelyne
European, a language technology industry watcher since Electric Word was first published, sometime journalist, consultant, market analyst and animateur of projects. Interested in technologies for augmenting human intellectual endeavour, multilingual méssage, the history of language machines, the future of translation, and the life of the digital mindset.

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