Shinjitai

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Shinjitai (新字体; meaning "new character form") are the forms of kanji used in Japan since the promulgation of the Tōyō Kanji List in 1946. Some of the new forms found in shinjitai are also found in simplified Chinese, but shinjitai is generally not as extensive in the scope of its modification.

Shinjitai were created by reducing the number of strokes in kyūjitai (旧字体/舊字體, "old character form"), unsimplified kanji equivalent to Traditional Chinese characters, also called 正字 seiji, meaning "proper/correct characters". This simplification was achieved through a process (similar to that of Simplified Chinese) of either replacing the tsukuri (, right-hand part of a kanji) indicating the On reading with another character of the same On reading with fewer strokes, or replacing a complex component of a character with a simpler one.

There have been a few stages of simplifications made since the 1950s, but the only changes that became official were the changes in the Jōyō Kanji List in 1981 and 2010.[1]

Background[edit]

The following forms were established as a result of the postwar character reforms. However, they were not completely created anew, as many were based on widely used handwritten abbreviations (ryakuji, 略字) from the prewar era.[2] Due to the complexity of kanji, many abbreviations were used in handwriting, whose status rose to become official characters in the postwar reforms. Attention was paid to the aesthetic balance of the characters in their new form.[citation needed]

Kyūjitai Shinjitai On'yomi Kun'yomi Translation
tetsu kurogane (noun) iron (metal)
yo ata(eru) (verb) to bestow, to impart
gaku mana(bu) (verb) to learn
tai karada (noun) body
tai utena (noun) stand; short form for Taiwan
koku kuni (noun) country, kingdom, nation
kan seki (preposition) involve, concerning
sha utsu(su) (verb) to write or compose
hiro(i) (adjective) expansive, wide
en maru(i) (noun) Japanese yen; (adjective) round, circular

In almost all cases, characters in the new standard have fewer strokes than old forms, though in a few cases they have the same number, and in a few other cases they have one more stroke. The most radical simplification was 廳→庁, removing 20 strokes. A complete list by stroke count reduction can be found at: [新字体はどこまで画数を減らしたか?](2004/10/16)

Unofficial simplifications[edit]

There are other widely used ryakuji of this sort, such as the abbreviations for (in simplified Chinese, this abbreviation, , has become official) and (which exists in Unicode as 㐧 [3]), but these have not been included in the shinjitai reforms.

Unlike simplified Chinese, which was applied to all characters, the simplification in shinjitai were only officially applied to characters in the Tōyō and Jōyō Kanji Lists, with the kyūjitai forms remaining the official forms of Hyōgaiji (表外字?, characters not included in the Tōyō and Jōyō Kanji Lists). For example, the character (KYO, agaru, ageru; raise [an example]) was simplified as , but the character (keyaki; zelkova tree) which also contained , remained unsimplified due to its status as a Hyōgaiji.

Simplified forms of hyōgaiji do exist, and are referred to as extended shinjitai (拡張新字体?). However, they are unofficial, a position reiterated in the National Language Council’s 2000 report on Characters Not Listed in the Jōyō Kanji Table.

The Asahi Shimbun newspaper is thorough in its simplification of hyōgaiji, and its in-house simplifications are called Asahi characters. For example 痙攣 (KEIREN; cramp, spasm, convulsion) is simplified following the model of 經→経 and 戀→恋. This is also said to have been done because in the age of typewriter-based printing, more complicated kanji could not be clearly printed. See the article on Asahi characters for more information.

The JIS standards contain numerous simplified forms of Kanji following the model of the shinjitai simplifications, such as (the simplified form of ); many of these are included in Unicode, but are not present in most kanji character sets.

Methods of simplifying Kanji[edit]

Adoption of grass script forms[edit]

Cursive script (also known as grass script) and semi-cursive script forms of kanji were adopted as shinjitai. Examples include:

  • 圖→図
  • 觀→観
  • (religion/ceremony radical) →
  • 晝→昼

The aforementioned handwritten simplification also originated from semi-cursive, but is not generally accepted in official Japanese writing.

Standardization and unification of character forms[edit]

Characters in which there were two or more variants were standardized under one form. The character (, shima; island) also had the variant forms (still seen in proper names) and , but the 島 form became standard. The 辶 radical was once printed with two dots (as in the hyōgaiji ) but was written with one (as in ), so the written form with one dot became standard. The upper 丷 portion of the characters 半, 尊, and was once printed as 八 and written 丷 (as in these three examples), but the old printed form is still seen in the hyōgaiji characters and . The character (SEI, SHŌ, aoi; blue) was once printed as but written as , so the written form became standard; the old printed form is still found in the standard form in hyōgaiji characters such as and , but is used in some fonts.

Change of character indicating On reading[edit]

Kanji of the keisei monji (形声文字) family contain a radical (bushu, 部首) and a character indicating its On reading (onpu, 音符). 清, 晴, 静, 精, 蜻 are all read with the On reading SEI, as indicated by the onpu . In this method of simplification, an onpu that is complicated is replaced by a simpler kanji with the same reading, for example, the character (I, kakomu; enclose), in which the onpu is (read as I), is replaced by (also read as i, although this is actually the Kun reading) to become . Other simplifications of this method include 竊→窃, 廰→庁, 擔→担. There are also colloquial handwritten simplifications based on this model, in which various non-kanji symbols are used as onpu, for example (MA; demon) [simplification: ⿸广マ, 广+マ {Katakana ma}], (KEI; jubilation) [⿸广K, 广+K], (, fuji; wisteria) [⿱艹ト, 艹+ト {Katakana to}], and (KI; machine, opportunity) [⿰木キ, 木+キ {Katakana ki}].

Use of variant character[edit]

In some cases a complex character was replaced to a simpler character that is neither a graphical variant nor shares an On reading, but had traditionally been used as a variant. Examples include 證 → 証 and 燈 → 灯, respectively replacing 登 → 正 and 登 → 丁. In both these cases the other character had both a different meaning and a different reading, but had been in long use as a simplified character, which was then standardized.

Removal of complicated portions[edit]

Some kanji were simplified by removing entire components. For example,

Adding a stroke[edit]

In five basic cases, and six derivations, for a total of eleven cases, kanji were simplified by adding a stroke, making the composition more regular:

  • (涉→渉, ) – the bottom becomes common 小
  • 賓→賓 – similarly
  • 卷→巻 (圈→圏 – the bottom becomes 己
  • 免 (勉, 晚→晩 – formerly the middle stroke was part of the lower left stroke, now these are separate, so the lower two strokes form the common 儿
  • 卑 (碑) – formerly the small stroke at upper left of 十 was part of the vertical stroke in 田, but now it is a separate stroke.

Inconsistencies[edit]

Simplification was not done uniformly. Firstly, only a select group of characters (the jōyō kanji) were simplified, with many characters outside this group (the hyōgaiji) retaining their earlier form. Secondly, even when a simplification was done in some characters within this group, the analogous simplification was not applied to all characters.

For example the character , meaning "dragon," was simplified in isolation and in some compound characters, but not others. The character itself was simplified to , as was the compound character ("waterfall") → , it was not simplified in the characters ("attack") and ("basket").

Conversely, the character was not simplified, nor was the compound character , but in the other compound character it was simplified, resulting in .

Similarly, is used in isolation, but in compounds has been simplified to , such as to ; has been simplified to in some characters, such as to , and to , but only to in isolation or some other characters (there are also similar characters such as ).

Controversies[edit]

Like one of the controversial aspects of simplified Chinese, some shinjitai were originally separate characters with different meanings. For example, the kanji (GEI; performance, accomplishment) was simplified to , but was originally a separate character read with the On reading UN. Many of the original characters which have become merged are no longer used in modern Japanese: for example, (YO, arakaji(me); in advance) and (YO, ama(ri); excess) were merged with and , respectively, both archaic kanji for the first person pronoun "I". However, poses a problem, in that Japan's first public library, Untei (芸亭) (built during the Nara Period) uses this character. This character also has significance in classical Japanese literature, and Japanese history books have had to distinguish between the two by writing UN using the old form of the 艹 radical, (十十).

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Glyph conversion[edit]