[KS] == formal question (which version of Chinese characters?)

Yeon-ju Bae yjubae at gmail.com
Tue May 26 06:13:14 EDT 2015

Dear Professor Best,

Thank you so much for your kind clarification.
Before I was able to hear about it, I assumed the reasoning might be based
on the
historical fact that old Koreans had to learn Janapese during the colonial
As you mentioned, I agree that Japanese abbreviated forms might have been
widely used throughout East Asia, especially due to their imperialistic

Although there might be some similarity in terms of education levels so
that it might
help Koreans guess the Janapese simplified forms, I think reading the sound
understanding the meaning might be a different matter. It seems to me that
all of the
three countries have developed each unique way of composition of characters.

In other words, wouldn't it be confusing if a Sino-Korean version of
Chinese or Japanese
forms denotes some other meaning than what's originally intended?
Drawing on the example that has been used, 民俗, 民間, and 傳承 seem to have
different meaning/nuance in Korean, i.e., 'folk', 'among laity', and
'transmission' (at least
according to my first impression of hearing the words).
So I guess the inscription of Sino-Korean forms might not necessarily
render the effect
of translation, as someone else has already mentioned.

Thank you again for the chance of participating in this interesting

Best wishes,

On Tue, May 26, 2015 at 2:13 AM, Best, Jonathan <jbest at wesleyan.edu> wrote:

>  Dear Yeon-ju Bae,
> Interesting question that you ask; I should caution, however, that since I
> am not a linguist or a modernist, I'm not the best qualified person to
> judge the accuracy of my response. I can explain, however, some of the
> reasoning that underlay what I wrote about those two variant ways of
> writing that are commonly known in English as Chinese characters (*hanmun
> *in Korean). My reasoning, in turn, reflects in large part what I've been
> told by others that were hopefully better informed.
> It seems to me that the contexts for the postwar creation in Japan of the
> Tōyō * kanji *and the creation of the Simplified Characters in China are
> quite different. In Japan there was a substantially literate population
> created through decades of popular, free education and a population that
> could understand one another's speech—albeit there existed—and still
> exist—dialectical differences, but these differences were not—and are
> not—insurmountable. In postwar China, in contrast, a very substantial
> portion of its vast population was functionally illiterate, especially in
> rural areas, and there existed such profound dialectical differences
> between regions that not infrequently persons who had not learned the
> official national dialect could not orally communicate with one another.
> The different contexts underlying the creation of Tōyō *kanji* and
> Simplified Characters dramatically effected the forms that the two scripts
> took. I have been told that many Tōyō *kanji* are simply abbreviated
> forms of the "Traditional Characters" and had long been known and used
> throughout East Asia—and I have indeed encountered some of them in Chinese
> dictionaries as common variant forms of the Traditional ones. In other
> cases, the transformations appearing in Tōyō *kanji* are sufficiently
> minor that, if one knows the Traditional form, it is possible to guess what
> the character is represented.
> In China, however, it is my understanding that the Simplified Characters
> were intentionally created by a revolutionary government to make literacy
> more accessible to all and, perhaps, simultaneously to make an overt
> repudiation of the elite culture of the pre-Communist past. Certainly, to
> my eyes at least, the forms of Simplified Characters tend to more radically
> depart from the Traditional forms than do the Tōyō *kanji*.
> Thus, it seems to me that given the high level of literacy in postwar
> Korea, the situation on the peninsula— particularly in the South—much more
> closely approximates that in Japan than the situation in postwar China and
> consequently my assumption that South Koreans with a basic reading
> knowledge of the Traditional forms of h*anja* would likely have an easier
> time grasping the meaning of a word written in Tōyō *kanji* than the same
> word written in Simplified Characters.
> I hope this is helpful in clarifying my posting,
>  Jonathan
>  ------------------------------
> *From:* Yeon-ju Bae [yjubae at gmail.com]
> *Sent:* Monday, May 25, 2015 1:51 AM
> *To:* Korean Studies Discussion List; Best, Jonathan
> *Subject:* Re: [KS] == formal question (which version of Chinese
> characters?)
>   Dear Professor Best,
>  Hope you don't mind my asking, but would you further explain why you
> suspect that most Koreans would be able to read Japanese characters,
> while it might not be the case for Chinese characters?
> Personally, I'm a young student who is not familiar with both forms,
> so I was just wondering.
>  Best wishes,
> Yeon-ju
>  Yeon-ju Bae
> Graduate Student
> Department of Anthropology
> Seoul National University
>  On Mon, May 25, 2015 at 12:57 AM, Best, Jonathan <jbest at wesleyan.edu>
> wrote:
>> Dear Frank and all,
>> What I hoped my response would say is:
>> I suspect that most Koreans would be able to read the Japanese 伝承, but
>> the Chinese  民间 might be a problem for some, so maybe I'd try "民间 (i.e.,
>> 民間)". . .
>> That is, I'd first insert the term in simplified and then in parentheses
>> provide the equivalent in good old fashioned graphs preceded by an i.e. or
>> an equals sign or some such.
>> But it didn't show up that way on Frank's screen (and others?), in part,
>> I suspect, because my computer is not presently set up to do simplified
>> characters and in part because I mis-typed my less-than-brilliant
>> suggestion and copied the simplified version from his earlier email and
>> then stupidly inserted it twice, including once within the parens where the
>> old standard equivalent should have been and so my text appeared with two
>> bits of gobbledygook.
>> But again, given my research interests, the problem of what to do with
>> simplified characters is, happily, not something that I have had to deal
>> with, but surely there are others on the list who have a solution to
>> Frank's original query based on actual experience.
>> Jonathan
>> ________________________________________
>> From: Frank Hoffmann [hoffmann at koreanstudies.com]
>> Sent: Saturday, May 23, 2015 9:57 PM
>> To: Best, Jonathan
>> Subject: == [KS] formal question (which version of Chinese characters?)
>> Jonathan, there is a technical problem -- THIS is how your mail looks
>> for me and I suppose most other list subscribers:
>>  ... I'd try "Ãñ¼ä (i.e., Ãñ¼ä) ...
>> ==>
>> http://koreanstudies.com/pipermail/koreanstudies_koreanstudies.com/2015-May/024018.html
>> Best,
>> Frank
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