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The historical Kana orthography: A study of the present-day understanding of the old orthography


  • Joachim Wahlquist

Summary, in English

The Japanese writing system has gone through a variety of changes over the years, one of these being the abolishment of the historical kana orthographical system in 1946. This system of writing, which was based on the historical and ancient writing of the kana from many centuries before 1946, had evolved into a system that was very different from the spoken language and hereby the reforms quickly came to end much of the formal usage of the system. This study tries to ascertain the modern general knowledge among Japanese people of the old writing system. In addition to this, the study also attempts to answer a multitude of secondary questions that asks what factors affected the results, where Japanese people claim to have seen the system applied and what Japanese people think of the historical kana orthography. To this end the study conducted a survey of which the results of 76 different individuals were tallied up to answer the questions asked. The outcome showed that Japanese people on average got 51% of the questions which asked the participants to choose, out of multiple options, the right historical kana orthographical spelling of a modern word right and 21% almost correct. It was also concluded that the Japanese people on average got 90% of the self-written answers, which made the participants write a historical kana orthographic word into modern Japanese, right. There did not seem to exist any clear correlation between gender, age, reading habits, education and the results. In regards to where people had seen it employed, many claim to have seen it used in Japanese lessons and in books. In regards to Japanese people’s thoughts of the system most were apathetic to the historical kana orthography and with this the average claimed to not want to see the system used to a greater extent.


Publishing year




Document type

Student publication for Bachelor's degree


  • Languages and Literatures


  • Historical kana orthography
  • present-day knowledge
  • factors
  • appraisal
  • survey
  • written variants


  • Nicholas Kalivoda