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By J. Marshall Unger

This e-book demanding situations the frequent trust that overzealous american citizens pressured pointless script reforms on an unprepared, unenthusiastic, yet helpless Japan through the profession. Unger provides overlooked ancient facts exhibiting that the reforms applied from 1946 to 1959 have been either helpful and average. even supposing the USA schooling undertaking of 1946 prompt that the japanese provide severe attention to the advent of alphabetic writing, key American officers within the Civil details and schooling portion of GHQ/SCAP behind schedule and successfully killed motion in this advice. jap advocates of romanization however controlled to acquire CI&E popularity of an scan in ordinary colleges to check the speculation that schoolchildren can make speedier development if spared the need of learning chinese language characters as a part of non-language classes equivalent to mathematics. even though no longer conclusive, the experiment's effects supported the speculation and urged the necessity for extra and higher checking out. but paintings was once delivered to a halt a yr prior to time table; the Ministry of schooling used to be ordered to arrange a record that misrepresented the objective of the scan and claimed it proved not anything. the total episode dropped from authentic and scholarly view--until the e-book of this e-book.

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Additional info for Literacy and Script Reform in Occupation Japan: Reading between the Lines

Example text

The difference goes back to the difference in meaning of the two CHINESE words associated with each kanji respectively; in Japanese, however, there is only ONE word, naku, which admits human or nonhuman animate subjects indifferently. The situation is somewhat analogous to the rule in English that prescribes writing "it was Father who rose first from the table" but "his father is a lawyer": in speech, there is no difference in 2o Literacy and Script Reform in Occupation Japan pronunciation; the syntax of the sentence (no article or possessive pronoun before "Father") makes it unmistakable that 'my/our father' is meant.

Such accounts of kanji usage are implicitly diachronic. They start with the earliest use of kanji in Japanese texts; some even go back to the earliest forms of Chinese characters, suggesting a direct line of continuous development from ancient China to modern Japan. The problem with this doggedly historical approach is that it imputes certain psycholinguistic processes and kinds of knowledge to modern Introduction: Dreamers or Realists? 19 literate Japanese without justification. It is certainly worth knowing that literary Chinese was used as a written language for various purposes in premodern Japan, that this practice led to the development of many varieties of written Japanese, and that these, in turn, underlie many of the conventional rules that now specify which kanji should stand for syllables in which words.

To that extent, even though they may refuse to read data in romanized form, they already, in a psychologically fundamental way, make use of an alphabetic representation of Japanese words and phrases. Having taken note of the political and practical forces that mitigate against the abolition of kanji, let me recall the lesson of the analysis of our example Introduction: Dreamers or Realists? 23 sentence: the function of kanji in the current Japanese writing system is to replace strings ofkana. The historically accumulated heuristics underlying the conventional rules that prescribe how and when such replacements should be made are neither a part of the Japanese language nor a necessary part of the knowledge that enables literate Japanese to read and write.

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