Some modern reforms of writing systems

Japanese writing reforms

Matching language and writing systems

Japan shows the importance of social and political context for the type and nature of writing system reforms. Japan is a country whose script in some ways may seem even more formidable than Chinese, but whose educational standards and wealth are envied by the rest of the world.

The Japanese are both pragmatic and nationalistic in their attitude to their writing system.

From about 800 A.D. the supplementary syllabic kana system was developed from their adopted Chinese characters, kanji, and used to represent Japanese vocabulary and grammar more fully since the characters alone were inadequate. The 'hiragana' version is now used as an initial learning system in schools, but it used to be called 'women's hand', because women, without access to classical education, developed it for their own use.

From the Meiji period, there was official and semi-official work on script reform that made possible some later rapid reforms that were implemented after World War II, under pressure by the American occupation.

After 1940 patriotism put a stop to serious proposals that had been made to use the roman alphabet as the major script, but a new 'official' list of only 2000 Chinese characters included some simplifications, and the kana were updated to make up for a thousand years of speech change.

Simmering nationalism prevented further reform after the American occupiers departed, although the Japanese government continued to attempt to reduce the number of kanji . However, adults believe kanji characters facilitates their reading, and even computer users argue that Japanese cannot be written without it.. A common strategy with computers is to type in hiragana or a similar simple symbol system, and the computer transforms it to the complex script including kanji. The official list of kanji to be learnt has been increased.

Interestingly, Japanese were prominent in early development of computer analysis of English language to develop electronic techniques to deal with its structure and present writing