Japanese orthographic issues

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Japanese orthography issues are language policy issues dating back to the Meiji Era when there were changes made aimed at writing the (standard dialect of the) Japanese language as the national language of Japan using a phonemic orthography.

This article deals with both the acquisition and application of rare Han characters with only limited usage in the contemporary Japanese language of today (Hyōgaiji) and Han characters in everyday use (Jōyō kanji and Jinmeiyō kanji) as well as government policies (and official decisions) pertaining to either or both.

History[edit]

Before World War II[edit]

The modern syllabary system and general-use character list are often discredited as part of a conspiracy to abolish all Han character usage in Japan as plotted by the General Headquarters under the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces. However, various prototypes had already been established domestically before the Second World War attempting to obliterate Han character usage in Japan. There are examples of their adoption dating from the end of the Taishō period in both Japan proper as well as its colonies under the Japanese Empire.

In November 1922, the Provisional Japanese Language Committee (predecessor to the Japanese Language Council) selected and passed a list of 1,963 Han characters for daily use. This general-use character list was to become the archetype of the common-use character list in use today.

In December 1923, the Provisional Japanese Language Committee passed a draft on reforming the Japanese syllabaries. This reform was to become the archetype of the modern syllabary system used today.

Language reforms[edit]

The language reforms made at the end of the Second World War have been a major issue in its influence on contemporary Japanese, particularly within the scope of government policies dealing with Han character usage.

In April 1946, Naoya Shiga published "National Language Issues" in the periodical Kaizo, in which he made a proposal[citation needed] to the effect of abolishing the Japanese language and adopting French, "the most beautiful language in the world". Again, on November 12, the Yomiuri Hochi (today’s Yomiuri Shimbun) carried an editorial entitled "Abolish Han Character Use!" Then again in March that same year, the First United States Education Mission under the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers, submitted on the 31st the First United States Education Mission Report, which indicated the negative effects of Han characters in formal education and the convenience of the Latin alphabet and furthermore, with plans to implement these findings into the government policy of the Allied Forces, a decision was reached for the total abolition of Han characters, and to ease the population into this phase the general-use character list and modern syllabary system were also established.