I’ve ranted about the joyo kanji list before. There’s an ongoing discussion about a proposal for revisions to the list, which has been going on since 2005 and is tentatively scheduled to go live in 2010. I found this recent, very interesting paper about it published by NHK (or something affiliated with NHK, at least) that I would very much recommend anyone who’s interested in the subject to read. I would like to point out some observations about the proposal here.
Only five kanji are proposed for removal: 銑 錘 勺 匁 脹. Notice that 匁 (monme) that I specifically ranted about before is among them. Good! 脹 (as in for instance fukuramu, but I guess we can write that using 膨 anyway) and 錘 (tsumu, although I associate it more with omori, which is usually written 重り anyway) are a little surprising though, I would say.
The following characters are highly likely to be added to the list: 藤 誰 俺 岡 頃 奈 阪 韓 弥 那 鹿 斬 虎 狙 脇 熊 尻 旦 闇 籠 呂 亀 頰 膝 鶴 匂 沙 須 椅 股 眉 挨 拶 鎌 凄 謎 稽 曾 喉 拭 貌 塞 蹴 鍵 膳 袖 潰 駒 剝 鍋 湧 葛 梨 貼 拉 枕 顎 苛 蓋 裾 腫 爪 嵐 鬱 妖 藍 捉 宛 崖 叱 瓦 拳 乞 呪 汰 勃 昧 唾 艶 痕 諦 餅 瞳 唄 隙 淫 錦 箸 戚 蒙 妬 蔑 嗅 蜜 戴 瘦 怨 醒 詣 窟 巾 蜂 骸 弄 嫉 罵 璧 阜 埼 伎 曖 餌 爽 詮 芯 綻 肘 麓 憧 頓 牙 咽 嘲 臆 挫 溺 侶 丼 瘍 僅 諜 柵 腎 梗 瑠 羨 酎 畿 畏 瞭 踪 栃 蔽 茨 慄 傲 虹 捻 臼 喩 萎 腺 桁 玩 冶 羞 惧 舷 貪 采 堆 煎 斑 冥 遜 旺 麵 璃 串 塡 箋 脊 緻 辣 摯 汎 憚 哨 氾 諧 媛 彙 恣 聘 沃 憬 捗 訃.
If you’re a gourmand like me you’ll be pleased to find that fond concepts such as 丼 (don, that I specifically asked for), 串 (kushi, skewer), and 酎 (chuu, as in 焼酎 shochu) are among them.
Early in the list we also find some characters used for place names such as 岡 (oka, as in 福岡 Fukuoka), 奈 (na, as in 奈良 Nara), 韓 (kan, as in 韓国 Korea), 阪, 那, 鹿, etc. As you know, place names have as a principle been excluded from the joyo list before, being included instead in the jinmei-yo kanji list, but these have been deemed so frequent and common that they will now be on the joyo list, according to the paper.
By the way, a kanji has to fulfill one of the following in order to be considered for inclusion:
- It appears frequently, and also has a strong ability to form words. Examples: 闇, 溺.
- In mixed kanji-kana writing, it increases the reading efficiency.
→ Or even if it doesn’t appear frequently, writing it with kanji makes it more easy to understand. Examples: 遜 in 謙遜 (kenson, humility), 堆 in 堆積 (taiseki, pile).
→ Widely used pronouns. Examples: 誰 (dare, who?), 俺 (ore, I/me).
- As an exception to the non-inclusion of proper nouns.
→ It’s used in the name of a prefecture or such. Examples: 畿 (kin of the 近畿 Kinki region), 韓 (kan of 韓国 Korea).
- It’s often used in social life and seen as necessary.
→ Although its frequency of use in newspapers and magazines is low, it’s a necessary character. Example: 旦 in 元旦 (gantan, New Year’s Day).
On the list we also find such well-known favorites as 誰 (dare, who?), 尻 (shiri, buttocks), 叱 (shika.ru, scold), 桁 (keta, beam or digits), and 嵐 (arashi, storm), that – I don’t know about you, but I at least learned pretty early on in my Japanese studies, so I would say they are kind of basic. 挨拶 (aisatsu, greeting) is also making its joyo debut. Other more contemporary kanji characters includes 癌 (gan, cancer) and 拉 (ra, as in both 拉致 rachi, abduction (as in by North Korea), and the more pleasant connotations of 拉麺 ramen).
Now this list is more surprising, I think. The following characters were being considered for inclusion in the joyo list, but alas they won’t be included: 叩 噓 噂 濡 笠 嬉 朋 覗 撫 庄 溜 鷹 揃 頷 摑 翔 喋 嚙 洩 禄 栗 馴 駕 鴨 淵 駿 賭 蘭 胡 蘇 狼 蝶 搔 惚 蒼 腿 菩 吊 雀 樽 壺 祀 卿 歪 棲 釜 毅 磯 桶 柿 揆 躇 躊 鷲 憐 狽 萌 媚 寵 秤 撥 遡 謳 套 刹 蔓 醬 疼 賤 顚 捏 糊 饉 倦 屛 毀 恍 斡 膠 誼 疇 謗 乖 截 誹 綬.
As you can see, the list includes the very frequently seen 嘘 (uso, lie), 噂 (uwasa, rumor), 喋 (shabe.ru, talk), among others. The paper lists the following as reasons for not including a certain kanji in the list, but I can’t really figure out which one applies to the above…
- Although it appears frequently, it has lost its ability to form words. Examples: 濡, 覗.
- Although it appears frequently, it is mostly used as a proper noun. Examples: 鷹, 鴨.
- Its ability to form words is weak, and instead it can be handled by writing kana or adding furigana. Examples: 醬, 顚.
- It has a weak ability to form words, and is restricted to particular fields such as transcriptions or historic words. Examples: 菩, 揆.
I can see why 栗 (kuri, chestnut), 雀 (suzume, sparrow), 柿 (kaki, persimmon) and the like were dropped – even though they’re quite common characters, they refer to very specific and specialized things and aren’t useful for writing anything else (except 麻雀, mahjong), but I would have thought 釜 (kama, kettle) and 淵 (fuchi, abyss) were common enough concepts, and the kanji used in enough compounds as well, to be included.
Also, classics such as 萌 (mo.e), 遡 (sakanobo.ru, go back), and the recently popular and esthetically intriguing 乖 of 乖離 (kairi, separation) are apparently not good enough to make it into the list.
Anyway, these proposals are tentative, and with the kanji of the year being 変 (chenji, change), who knows how the final list will end up?