Inspired in part by the “Is Japanese really the hardest to learn E.Asian language, and Vietnamese the easiest?” thread.
Disclaimer: I know absolutely nothing about the Japanese language except for what I’ve read on Wikipedia and the web generally, so this question (and the assumptions behind it) may be totally off the wall.
If I understand it correctly, written Japanese uses both ideograms (kanji, derived from Chinese) and syllabaries (hiragana/katakana, which are different from each other in some way I don’t fully understand). As far as I can tell, it would be perfectly possible, although apparently quite unusual, to write nearly any text using hiragana/katakana alone and have it be entirely comprehensible. Functionally, the irreducible uses of kanji seem to be a) really cool puns, b) literary flights and allusions, and c) making you look smart.
Reading translations/English versions of Japanese lit-crit and media-studies articles, I have occasionally come across cases in which native speakers complain about difficult kanji, or discuss an author’s choice to replace obscure or unusual kanji with hiragana/katakana. I was vaguely assuming that this had to do with academic, literary or deliberately pretentious usages, but comments in the linked thread seem to suggest that native Japanese speakers have some difficulty with kanji in everyday contexts as well.
So, questions for the Nippon-savvy branches of the Dope:
- Is there a trend, over time, for the average person to use less kanji in everyday writing?
- Would kanji-free everyday writing actually be comprehensible and usable?
- Is it likely to ever happen?