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Prescriptive kanji simplification

Ken Lunde

Ph.D. Dissertation, 1994


The simplification of Chinese characters (kanji) is a recognized historical process. Normally such a simplification grows spontaneously out of the demands of everyday use, but simplification by fiat is at least a theoretical possibility. Such a round of simplification by fiat, here called 'prescriptive simplification,' seems to have taken place in the PRC in 1977. What has gone unrecognized is that simplification by fiat was also attempted in Japan in 1983, albeit on a much smaller scale, and emanating from the government-controlled organ called the Japanese Standards Association. In this dissertation I marshal evidence to show that prescriptive kanji simplification has occurred in Japan, and discuss its consequences.

Department of Linguistics University of Wisconsin-Madison

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