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Don't Eat With Your Mouth Full

Where can we live but days?

steepholm steepholm
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Japanese Diary 15
My Japanese teacher tells me that, back in the day, Japanese was written mostly in a combination of kanji and katakana, with hiragana being reserved to use by ladies. (Things like The Pillow Book would have been written in that script, I guess.) It's only in recent times - post WWII? - that hiragana has become the standard script to combine with kanji.

Which leads me to wonder - not for the first time - how it was that katakana became the holding pen for linguistic Gastarbeiter that it largely is today. Was this a habit that caught on, or a decree from on high?

I'm unclear on exactly how the switch from katakana to hiragana happened, and in what order, but much of it was in place by the early 20th century. (Which is one reason why telegrams are, or I should now say were, done in katakana -- because that tech arrived in the early Meiji and once that was in place it never changed.) It was certainly before the post-WWII spelling reforms, which largely involved kanji forms -- I vaguely remember there being a circa WWI reform standardizing kana forms, which also involved eliminating some non-standard/outdated kana -- the switch may have coincided.


Interesting. Do you have any ideas about the date of/reason for the association of katakana with loan words? I suppose it may be that this represents the rump of what was once a far more expansive katakana empire.

I don't -- I ought to, but don't.