Writing Systems and Linguistic Structure
  • ISSN 1387-6732
  • E-ISSN: 1570-6001
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This paper has three goals. First, it addresses the problem of ambiguity induced by a large number of kanji graphemes that are used in the current Japanese writing system. Secondly, it summarises and examines claims that this ambiguity is reduced by an orthographic device called okurigana. Thirdly, it argues that the disambiguating function of okurigana is seriously restricted by several constraints. To support this argument, a survey of the Joyo Kanji Hyo (i.e., inventory of kanji graphemes and their readings recommended by the Japanese Cabinet for daily use) is presented. The results of this survey demonstrate that even though okurigana actually disambiguates a number of kanji graphemes, it fails to do so in many cases because of the constraints. This indicates that a significant amount of ambiguity remains unresolved in the kanji script.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): ambiguity; disambiguation; homography; Japanese; kanji; okurigana
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