View Full Version : Write English in Kanji !

Aug 25, 2002, 14:33
With a quarter of the world population using kanji (the Chinese and Japanese), I guess the time will come when Westerners will have to learn kanji at schools. China already has the 3rd GNP after the EU and the US, respectively. At the speed it is growing, China might very well become the world dominant power in less than half a century. Mandarin Chinese is the language with the most native speakers, though it comes 2nd to English if you consider people who have it as a second-language.

So why not to make it easier for everyone and use kanji in English to promote understanding between the two cultures.

As you'll see it isn't so difficult to write English in Chinese characters, because English also has logical roots in most words.

For example, the kanji ’† would be read "middle" alone and "mid-" in kanji compound such as ’†“ú@mid-day, ’†–é mid-night,@’†‹ó mid-air, ’†’n@mid-land, ’†‰Ä mid-summer.

The easiest is to find a kanji that has a meaning in itself, alone, like ”L@cat, Œ¢@dog, ì@river, ‰Æ@house, l person, ‰Ì@song, etc.

As Japanese doesn't use kanji for all words, especially grammatical words (and, to, form of tenses...), it could be the same in kanji English. I guess Chinese does have particular kanji that would be suited for English though, as Chinese grammar is said to be more similar to English than Japanese. The big advantage English has over other European languages (especially Latin ones) is, first, that there is no conjugation, and second that a noun can easily become a verb (eg. to run, a run ; to dance, a dance, to talk, a talk...). That is how Chinese works as well. Words with Latin roots in English are a bit more complicated : to compehend > comprehesion, to introuce > introduction... How to render this -tion or -sion ending ?

The kanji compound in English and Chinese/Japanese wouldn't be compatible though, as the origin and structure of the words is different. We must go back to Latin, Greek and Old-English for this.

Greek words usually have two compound that can be converted in kanji easily. Ex. : ’n‘@geo-graphy, ’nŠw@geo-logy, ’n¡@geo-metry, ¯Šwastro-logy,@DŒ« philo-sophy, DŒê@philo-logy,@Dl phil-anthropy, lŠw@anthropo-logy, –¯—́@democracy...

Geo = earth/land >@“y or ’n
Philo = like >@D
Astro = star, planet (conveniently the same kanji in Japanese) > ¯
anthropo = man > l
graphy = write >@‘
logy = study or language >@Šw or Œê
metry = measure >@¡
sophy = wisdom > ’m or Œ«
demo = the people >@–¯
cracy = power >@—Í or ¨

Then, you could just add ŽÒ, ‰Æ, Žt@for the person who practice it. An Anthropologist become lŠwŽÒ, where the ŽÒ stands for -ist. As we have several kanji for the end of the word, we should use them according to the sound in English. -ist might be ŽÒ, -er ‰Æ and other Žt. That's just an example. A convention must be found. We don't (re)create a writing system in one day !

It's very good on a etymological point of view, as English-speaking children will have to know the original meaning behind each word and will also be able to guess the meaning of little used, academic words quite easily.

It doesn' always work. In "sociology", socio means the society, but 2 kanji are needed in Japanese (and I guess Chinese) : ŽÐ‰ï Shall we invent knew kanji adapted to Western etymology ? (etymo-logy = root + study > Œ¹Šw@or ŒêŒ¹Šw in Japanese, which give the precision it's about the language.

Kanji also works for Latin words, but it's a bit harder. A lawyer is law+person > –@ŽÒ, –@‰Æ or –@Žt (see above).

There are prefix and suffix in Latin as well, but their meaning more difficult to root back from English (so it works well from Italian).

con-, com- > like in : compromise, content, comprehesion, convention, construction, completion, competition, conviction...
pro- > like in : protect, programme, progress, project...
and many more.
pre- > like in precede, precaution, precarious, precedent, precocious, precondition...

For example, "pre" means "before" and "con" mean "with" or "together" in Italian/Latin (I know better Italian than Latin, so I'll give you the Italian translation here). A comprise is a like a promise between two people. Convention comes from the "con + venire" = come together. Comprehension comes from "con + prendere" = take together. Content comes from "con + tenere" = keep together. Conviction comes from "con + vincere" = win together.

You can track back all words like this (eventhough I can't as some have changed to much from there original form), they give them a kanji. The problem is what kanji ? I don't know any kanji for "with" for example.

European kanji compound would look very different from the Asian ones. But that may be a good way to understand the structure and origin of the language. People travelling to China or reading signs/books/websites in Chinese would be able to understand them at least partially. As kanji have a strong evocational power and are read more quickly than the alphabet, we could use them for road signs, warnings and all kind of things that need to catch the attention or be understood by everybody whatever language they speak.

Aug 26, 2002, 07:38
The idea of applying kanji based rules to English can be interesting. I've used examples of the words 'before' and 'after' being 'pre'and 'post' when part of other words to explain to people how multiple readings of kanji work (to show that what seems a strange concept at first is actually relevant to aspects of English).

Not just English though, it would be ideal if it would work across lots of languages.
If it worked it would also make complex English words understandable even though you'd never heard them. I have been known to look up English words in my Eng-Jap dictionary and be helped by the result (the only example I can remember: thoracotomy: ŠJ‹¹p)

Like you say,a problem would be that the compounds used in Chinese/Japanese wouldn't match up with how we construct words (e.g. returning to the 'before' example, a quick check shows that most Japanese compounds beginning ‘O don't end up actually beginning 'pre-' in English) so European Kanji compounds (I suggest the name oujukugo: ‰¢nŒê) would look different.

In creating kanji for all those English words that didn't exist in Japanese, you could end up creating new Japanese words.
OK, how about the word 'never' which you pointed out (in that other thread) had no exact equivalent word in Japanese: how would you represent this in ‰¢nŒêH
How about: –³‘¶ŽžDDD–³ŽžDD”ñ—ˆŽž
So, say we chose –³ŽžDDDthis would mean that –³ ne and Žžver
So then every other word using Žž (of which there would be legions) would have to be pronounced 'ver' even though none of the ones likely to use it are at present in English....I get the feeling this might not work, we're gonna end up with about a thousand different readings for each character...

It seems to work really well with some words,though, I thought your example of "Dl phil-anthropy, lŠw@anthropo-logy" was particularly neat.I don't think there are enough words like that though, I don't think you'd have to get too far before it became impossible to limit the number of readings and maintain the integrity of each character's core meaning..

But that's boring, defeatist thinking. Lets forget that for a second: what kanji would you choose for 'never'?
What about the other words they dont have in Japanese: how about ŒÀ¬ŽÒ for 'dwarf'?

Aug 26, 2002, 09:16
hmmm ... problem is that some characters will need to be re-imagined.

muji ... from above is more like an "absence of time" or "lack of time"

checkout the other thread for never :)

Interesting idea you've got going. hehe, you could sort of come up with a espranto like language for Asia!

Aug 26, 2002, 13:22
Here is my suggestion for never. The words comes from "ever" + n negative. "ever" would translate "‰i" (eternal, always). I'm not sure which negative kanji suits best –³@”ñ@”Û.
Here is what my kanji dictionary says :
”Û : say no, deny, is not, or not
Ӗ : is not, not, non-, un-, in-
–³ : without, nothing, -less, non-, un-, in-

Still difficult to choose. I like feeling of ”Û for the idea that you don't want to do sth. or will not do something, but –³ is maybe more natural in this kind of compound (in Japanese at least).

So, I propose that ‰i's reading be "ever" alone, ”Û‰i or –³‰i be used for "never". We still need to find other compound for "always/forever/everytime/all the time" and "eternal". I thought of ‰iŽž (eternal time) for eternal. Every or each is "–ˆ" in kanji. The problem is that in English "every" comes from "ever" (though there is no such relationship in other European languages) Everytime could be either –ˆ“x or –ˆ‰ñ. We don't want to reduce 4 words into one kanji neither, so each of them should have a different one keeping the nuance. Forever has ever in it, so will use ‰i. "Always", "all the time" and "everytime" won't. What's the kanji for "for" ?

I have come to realise that European used much more preposition in compound words that Asian ones. Just take "preposition", postposition", "composition", "repositioning", etc. It would be easy to put into kanji if there were suitable kanji. pre-(‘O), post- (Œã) and re- (Ä) evident, but some like com-, pro- or for- aren't. Interestingly, these suffix are explained in Japanese in my electronic dictionary - probably because it helps Japanese people guessing the meaning as they are used to kanji. This motivates me even more to transcribe English into kanji. Does anyone know Chinese kanji on this forum ? There must be kanji for preposition in Chinese.

To be continued...

Aug 26, 2002, 17:28
Hmmm. For 'never'I think ”Û—ˆŽž or something is better 'a time that doesn't come'. If you use a negative kanji then ‰i couldnt you also think of that as 'not forever' 'not eternal', i.e. it would be more representative of a word like 'finite' than of the word 'never'.

For prepositions would you need to use kanji? If you're gonna start thinking about Chinese prepositions you might as well just have everyone learn Chinese. You can see why the Japanese went with the whole hiragana thing...

OK, how would you render these words in kanji:

time, clock, watch, hour, timetable

These are all gonna have to use the Žž character I would think, but how can the pronunciation differences be reconciled?

For example 'watch' in Japanese is ˜rŽžŒv. How can a one-syllable English word be split over 3 characters? We could make it easier as the full English word is 'wristwatch'but can we pronounce ˜r as 'wrist' when presumably you'd already want to be reading it as 'arm' (and pronouncing ŽèŽñ as wrist). Even if we got round that youd then end up with the ŽžŒv part of wristwatch and the standalone ŽžŒv=clock being pronounced differently.
Again, you'll end up with thousands of potential readings for each character if you carried this on through. Plus the problem of one syllable English words which can oly be logically represented by multiple kanji would be a BIG problem.

Aug 26, 2002, 18:07
That's why it won't always be possible to find kanji for all words, or you'll have to invent a kanji for clock and another for watch.
Chinese, then Japanese, built their words on kanji, not the opposite like we are trying to do. But not all Japanese words have kanji, that's why they needed to invent the kanas. However words like television, telephone o photograph are easily rendred in kanji.

tele = far
vision = see/view
phone = listen
photo = light
graph = write

So, respectively ‰“Œ©,@‰“•·@and Œõ‘. If you start to invent kanji that aren't connected to the origin of the word (and therefore the pronounciation), you could just take the Chinese/Japanese ones. They are the most logical, but don't fit European words'etymology.

Aug 26, 2002, 22:24
Hmmm, you might be interested in turning to Latin then. English isn't the base.

If you take the base Latin words and then like how kanji are built off radicals you might be on to something.

Not inventing kanji compounds but rather using latin and it's conterpart radicals to invent a kanji.

kanji came from turtle shell cracks and picture graphs. So why not just make a few more along the lines of Latin?

You should also look into the Klingon language. There are a bunch of sites that go into detail about Kligon and the language used in the Lord of the Rings along with how you go about making your own language.


Aug 27, 2002, 03:18
I don't have any comments other than this is some interesting reading...something to ponder

Aug 27, 2002, 11:08
hmm, let's go on a slight tangent.

You can use some of these ideas her in a form of shorthand. I write kanji in my dataplanner for days and months. ‰Î (kayoubi no ka) is faster than Tues. for me ... errrr, split hair of a second so sue me. But it makes writting notes fun ... lol ... who would ever think that writting in their data planner is fun. ... Never mind me I'm talking to myself.

Anyway, I have been using kanji at times in place of regualr English words ever since I started to learn Japanese. It's great practice and sometimes even quicker. :)

Aug 27, 2002, 11:40
You're right Moyashi. Weekdays names have the same origin in Japanese, English or other Latino-Germanic languages. The English root is just so remote that most people don't realise it (then you need to know some Scandinavian mythology...).

Here is a complete explantion from this site (http://www.top-education.com/HOLIDAYS/oursevendays.htm#origin)

Monday is the second day of the week, day of moon goddess, Selene, Luna and Mani.
Derived from Lunae Dies, day of the moon, the name reflects the ancient observance of feast days dedicated to moon goddess or planet.

The metal silver, dedicated to the moon, is associated with Monday.

Tuesday is the third day of the week. In the Roman calendar the corresponding day was dies Martis, the day of Mars, associated with Ares. Tiw's day is derived from Tyr or Tir, the god of honorable war, the wrestler and the son of Odin and, or Woden, the Norse god of war and Frigga, the earth mother. His emblem is the sword, and in olden days the people paid him great homage. Tuesday was named in his honor.

The metal iron, dedicated to Mars and interpreted as his spear and shield, is an attribute of Tuesday

Wednesday, the fourth day of the week, corresponds to the Roman Dies Mercurii. The name derives from the Scandinavian Woden (Odin), chief god of Norse mythology, who was often called the All Father.
Quicksilver, a liquid mercury that contains amounts of the platinum group metals, has been interpreted as the caduceus of the Greek Hermes (Mercury in Roman myth), and is therefore an attribute of Wednesday

Thursday is the fifth day of the week. It derives its name from the Middle English Thoresday, or Thursdaye, corresponding to the Roman dies Jovis.

Thor, the god of strength and thunder, defender and help in war, son of Odin, is the counterpart of Jupiter or Jove. Thor is one of the twelve great gods of northern mythology. He is the only god who cannot cross from earth to heaven upon the rainbow, for he is so heavy and powerful that the gods fear it will break under his weight. It was said that whenever Thor threw his hammer, the noise of thunder is heard through the heavens. Thursday was sacred to Thor.

The metal tin is associated with the thunderbolt of Jupiter (Zeus in Greek myth) and is an attribute of Thursday.

I am the Thunderer!
Here in my Northland,
My fastness and fortress,
Reign I forever!
--Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


Friday is the sixth day of the week. The name is derived from the Germanic Frigga the name of the Norse god Odin's wife. Frigga is considered to be the mother of all, and the goddess who presides over marriage. The name means loving or beloved.

The corresponding Latin name is Dies Veneris, a day dedicated to Venus, the goddess of love.

The metal copper, dedicated to Venus, is associated with Friday.

Saturday is the seventh day of the week, corresponding to the Roman dies Saturni, or day of Saturn, the Roman god of agriculture.

Saturday is also represented by Loki, the Norse god of tricks and chaos.

The metal lead is associated with the scythe of Saturn, and is therefore an attribute of Saturday.

Sunday is the first day of the week.

From prehistoric times to the close of the fifth century of the Christian era, the worship of the sun was dominant.

Sunday celebrates the sun god, Ra, Helios, Apollo, Ogmios, Mithrias, the sun goddess, Phoebe.

The metal gold, as dedicated in the symbols of alchemy, is associated with the sun god and Sunday.

In the year 321, Constantine the Great ruled that the first day of the week, 'the venerable day of the sun', should be a day of rest. The sun's old association with the first day is responsible for the fact that the Lord's Day of Christianity bears the pagan name of Sunday.

Once we know this, we realise that we don't have to change anything to the Japanese kanji. Probably because the 7-day week system comes from Europe. Japanese have just transcribed the Roman names. That same us time ! Look at the Latin equivalent (English, French, Italian, Spanish) :

Monday=Lundi=Lunedi=Lunes > moon = "luna" in Latin@ŒŽ
Tuesday=Mardi=Martedi=Martes > Mars'day@‰Î (god of war and fire)
Wednesday=Mercredi=Mercoledi=Miercoles > Mercury's day@… (the planet Mercury is called …¶ and the metal …‹â, lit. liquid silver)
Thursday=Jeudi=Giovedi=Jueves > Jupiter's day@–Ø (King and and Father the Gods, like the stem of the genealogical tree)
Friday=Vendredi=Venerdi=Viernes > Venus' day@‹à (ever noticed that the planet Venus has a golden colour)
Saturday=Samedi=Sabato=Sabado > Saturn's day or Sabbath@“y (god of agriculture and earth)

Aug 28, 2002, 04:39
I make use of that common origin to help me remember the names of planets in Japanese (..mercury...kind of sounds like Mercredi..Japanese for Wednesday is …—j“ú so it's …¯Ij A bit convoluted, but since we English saw fit to use the names of Nordic gods for Tue-Fri I have to dredge up my highschool French.

May 29, 2004, 19:13
...Konnichiwa, my namae wa danieru. nice to meet anata. lmao.. would be cool..

Feb 25, 2005, 02:05
What a fine idea! I wonder why I didn't find this thread earlier.
This could have far-reaching results not only for new ways to bridge the communication gap between CJK countires and the rest.
I had tinkered a little with expressing latinate, greek, or germanic compunds using kanji, but never to this degree of seriousness.

That the Chinese language (Mandarin) is in many ways in parallel to English is something that amazed me, too, and helped me greatly in my studies.
If I may do a broad generalization, the English word order

1. Predicative clause: Subject-Verb-Object-Adverbial phrase

is roughly identical in Mandarin.

However the forward-word-hijacking (what is the standard nomen.?) observed in the formation of a question using an interrogative part of speech, phrasal noun strings, and relative clauses

2. Interrogative clause: Interrogative-(whatever remains of SOVA)

3. Phrasal noun: Object-Verb
man-eater: O+(V+agent marker):
anthropophagoi: O+(V+agent pulralizer): "man-eaters"
homicide: O+V: man+kill(er)
blood curdling: OV
life giving: OV
law giving: OV
breath taking: OV
(*note: Interestingly some Japanese kanji compounds share this feature of OV. Quite a few actually; I just can't remember one now.)

4. Relative clause: Relative-(whatever remains of SOVA)

are not necessary in Mandarin.

The same word order can be retained in the fashion of certain standardised academic tests or quiz show formats such as

5.You go to which school?
你ã哪˜¢ŠwZ? (Simplified)
Ž¢ã哪ŒÂ›{Z? (Traditional)

is the standard in Mandarin. As for 3. Verb-Object word order is retained.

HlŽí: (VO)+N: "eat-man-kind" for cannibal
ŽElŽÒ: (VO)+N: "kill-man-person"

As for relative clauses 4., they do not switch word order either. The Mandarin relative clause comes before the modified noun with a adjectivising “I at the end of the relative cluase.

With so many parallels in word-formation and syntax, and very few and easily adjustable differences, expressing English in kanji/hanzi/hanja will be a very exciting experiment that will foster language awareness for speakers of Mandarin as well as for English speakers.

As for prepositions, both Classical Chinese and Mandarin have a fairly developed body of prepositions.
with=ˆÈ (Classical Chinese; using -, taking -> with -)
with=æî (Mandarin; with -, together with -)

Feb 25, 2005, 02:30
I can see some advantages in doing this. A form of shorthand when having to write long tracts of script springs to mind. The alphabet still has some advantages over Kanji. The obvious one is putting files into order. As I can see, with kanji it is up to the person who files to work out a system. If they leave then someone else has to either work out their system of introduce their own. Maybe a mixure of the two is the answer?

Feb 25, 2005, 07:13
I'm sure filing with kanji is done by order of the stroke order of the radicals. Also, there seems to be a set order to the radicals of the same stroke, so it's similar to a 216 "letter" alphabet.

Sensuikan San
Feb 25, 2005, 12:07

Like Lexico - I also hadn't noticed this interesting thread.

Now, as I've confessed already, my knowledge of Kanji is still just this side of non-existant ! (I can just manage to read and write “ú–{ .... ! ). Nevertheless, the concept is fascinating in the extreme, as a means of supplying the world with, shall we say, a "written Esperanto". In many ways it would be far superior to learning a new language or languages, wouldn't it ? Just carry on in your own sweet way in your own tongue - but write it down, and anyone can understand !

And ... is this not how Kanji evolved in the first place ? To allow merchants and travellers in China and South East Asia to communicate, regardless of language or dialect ?



Feb 26, 2005, 02:00
I'm sure filing with kanji is done by order of the stroke order of the radicals. Also, there seems to be a set order to the radicals of the same stroke, so it's similar to a 216 "letter" alphabet.
Thanks for that info. Wasn't sure how they managed to file, but now you mention stoke order it sound logical.
Just thought of another advantage of writing English in kanji, spelling. In the english speaking world similar words can be spelt differently ie: Labour-labor, colour-color, travelling-traveling. Written in a kanji equivalent it wouldn't matter if you were English, American or Australian the word would still be spelt the same way. Also would children find learning kanji easier to spell as it is based on pictograms instead of rules like 'I before E except after C unless etc..'?

Feb 26, 2005, 02:53
as a means of supplying the world with, shall we say, a "written Esperanto". In many ways it would be far superior to learning a new language or languages, wouldn't it ? Just carry on in your own sweet way in your own tongue - but write it down, and anyone can understand !That sure sounds like the idea. With English spreading all over the globe, giving it an alternate means of writing couldn't hurt. And as Mycernius pointed out, the document length gets drastically shortened. There were studies done on this topic, and the effect was notable although I forgot the exact figure. It might also help people with dyslexia; the syllabic nature of the character (Chinese 1, Sino-Korean 1, Sino-Japanese 1-2; if that can be preserved in the English version of kanji writing) could help people having trouble reading alphabetic writing.
And ... is this not how Kanji evolved in the first place ? To allow merchants and travellers in China and South East Asia to communicate, regardless of language or dialect ?Interesting idea; what I remember is that some of the oldest characters were used to mark pottery to denote the maker's clan or tribal identity, which definitely presupposes trade.

From the times of the Eastern Zhou down to modern times, the written language of China was the binding thread that connected the regions and the spoken languages. The ability of the common written language to overcome dialects, languages, and time has been the singular uniqueness of that part of world.

Even today when people from China, Korea, and Japan cannot converse, they often rely on the written langauge to manage communication. Although choppy and unsystematic, they get the message across. I think with a systematic standard established, English speakers will have a ball with this new videogram. Various simplified soltuions would also help to ease the learning process.

Feb 26, 2005, 03:40
I have very little knowlegge of kanji but this thread is very informative. Thanks for the info.

Feb 26, 2005, 11:09
Try your luck on this sentence:

Sensuikan San
Feb 26, 2005, 11:46
Before we all get too enthused ... Kanji is not without its limitations, though, is it ?

Apart from the fact that the learning period required to amass a reasonable working vocabulary (which doesn't seem to hinder Japanese or Chinese speakers to any great degree, I admit....) is a little prolonged... there is the problem of obsolescence.

It is my understanding that, fairly recently, a team of engineers, craftsmen and enthusiasts were restoring a WWII Mitsubishi A6M5 "Zeke" aircraft (the famous "Zero"). They had at their disposal, old drawings, mauals and design documents from the 1940's to assist in their task .....

.... but they couldn't read half of it !

The Kanji was out-dated and long out of use - particularly many of the 1940's-era technical terms. (Any of you folks in your teens know what an "advance-retard" control does ? - or even ... what is a carburetor ? - but I bet you all drive ... !).

They got over the problem by sniffing out a few old guys (much older than Uncle Frank or myself !) to read it for them ! And there weren't many left !

I think that this could well be the "Achilles Heel" of any pictographic form of writing in a technological age, where terminology comes, goes, evolves, dies and changes on almost a daily basis.

Just think about it for ten minutes ....



Feb 26, 2005, 14:00
I think that's the "Achilles Heel" of any script, as you pointed out. I know what a carburetor is, but I have no clue what an advance-retard control does. Anyway, before the end of WWII the Japanese used traditional forms of kanji. The kanji they use nowadays is simplified, in some cases so much so that the original character cannot be infered from the newer one. For instance, (old form on the left) é“=‘Ì and ˜ð=‰ï. I'm guessing that's the reason it was hard to read. At any rate words in any language become obsolete, so I don't think it's a kanji-specific deficiency, if you can call it that.

Feb 27, 2005, 09:12
I thought the Japanese standardised kanji after WW2? As for words going out of favour or being spelt differently, that happens in English as well. Do you use thou and thee, do you spell Choose as Chuse (Jane Austen did) or even Queen as Kween (Shakespeare used several differnet ways)? Writing does evolve along with the language.

Sensuikan San
Feb 27, 2005, 09:24
Hi Mycernius ....

No, I don't use "thou", or "thee" .... but, I can still read them, pronounce them ... and from that, very quickly work out what they possibly mean...or repeat them and ask .... !

With an out-dated Kanji character, which I've never seen before ... I can only shake my head and wonder at it ..... or consult a cryptographer at great cost perhaps !