I have to read a lot of academic articles for my job, and while most of them are written at a normal level and perfectly readable, some authors seem to go out of their way to use rare words or unusual kanji. I guess this is like academics in English who use overblown syntax and rare words in their writing.
The article I was reading today had all these words:
電纜 (in some metaphorical use, I'm still not sure what it means in the context even after looking it up)
If I'm reading something from pre-WW2 I expect obscure stuff, but this article was written in 2008.
(We also had fun this week trying to get college-educated native speakers to read the opening paragraph of Wikipedia's TMJ article out loud without stumbling: 顎関節症（がくかんせつしょう,Temporomandibular joint disorder）とは、顎関節部や咀嚼（そしゃく）筋等の疼痛、関節音、開口障害ないし顎運動異常を主要症候とする慢性疾患群の総括的診断名であり、その病態には咀嚼筋障害、関節包・靭帯障害、関節円板障害、変形性関節症などが含まれる。 At least this is (probably) necessary medical-specific words, though.)
Edited: 2014-12-12, 5:12 pm
You know, when I had TMJ in Japan, I was so glad that the doctors were able to write in English to explain things to me.
What was the article today on?
I'm not saying it makes them less obscure, but even the J-E dictionary for Rikaichan has definitions for the middle three.
I have the most fun with words that have abstract definitions in Japanese dictionaries and no translations in the common (free) J-E dictionaries. They lead me on dictionary hunts like the ones I took as a child... usually ending with me giving up, unlike the adventures of my childhood.
Since I'm not a native speaker I can't say for sure, but I think they're all rare words except maybe for 相俟つ. 仄聞 has a fairly apparent meaning since 仄か is written in kanji often enough that many native speakers would recognize it; they might not know the reading of 仄聞 but the meaning is just 仄かに聞く. The other three are pretty rare, though, even if they do show up in rikaichan.
Yeah, I'm also starting to get the idea that this is the Japanese equivalent of writers using long, obscure words that look like they came straight from a thesaurus, instead of more common words, when writing in English. I've been running into a lot of these when reading novels, like in the current one I'm going through I see stuff like 抽籤 used, when 抽選 would do...in a book also published in 2008. Who knows, maybe some writers just have a thing against using jouyou kanji...
Edited: 2014-12-12, 10:52 pm
Richard Wiseman, in his book "Quirkology" coins the theory that all professions create their own obscure terms as a measure to prevent intrusism/professional encroachment.
Edited: 2014-12-13, 7:31 am
What I found was interesting when I tried this on native speakers is that they didn't immediately guess とうつう for 疼痛; I'm not sure, but I think that rather than guessing the on-yomi based on the phonetic, they were trying to think of a word that they thought they had seen or heard before. Perhaps that's the go-to guessing method for native speakers with larger passive vocabularies than ours, and who learned the language differently.
I see 咀嚼 a lot more often than 'mastication'. 疼痛... 冬 is just ふゆ most of the time, and 終 doesn't share its on'yomi, it's only natural not to expect it to be signaling. 疼 and 痛 both have kun'yomi, okurigana omission would have been plausible.
Edited: 2014-12-13, 10:34 am
IIRC "common" means "in the top 25000" - just because a word is on the list doesn't make it common, but any word that isn't on the list is pretty damn rare (at least in that corpus). Like their tag for the 2500 most common kanji (in newspapers, so they miss some that are common in fiction, like 頷), only even more inclusive.
Edited: 2015-07-05, 2:49 am
Re obscure terms, I just ran across these in All You Need is Kill:
変温動物 = change + warmth + animal
恒温動物 = constant + warmth + animal
In English those are 'poikilotherm' and 'homeotherm' respectively.
A win for Japanese there, methinks.
I feel it's more of an issue of obscure words rather than obscure kanji in most cases. Take 仄聞 and 疼痛 for instance, none of them use particularly rare kanji, nor do they have irregular or hard to guess readings. Also, if it's a kanji issue, it should be easier to understand if you write そくぶん and とうつう, and I would guess that while some people would find this easier to pronounce, most people would not find it easier to understand.
Similar problem with 電纜 and 慫慂. Would it be easier to understand if it said 電らん and しょうよう? For most people, probably not. And seeing as the readings here aren't much of a problem to guess (especially 電纜. 慫慂 could also be じゅうとう or something like that if just guessing), I don't see too much gain in writing it in hiragana instead.
相俟って is where I could possible agree with you, as the word itself itself is relatively common. But even then, 俟 isn't rare enough to be called obscure in my opinion, although I agree that using it in this case would hinder understanding more often than it would help.
My preference would be furigana rather than hiragana, because then at least you can look the word up more easily. Academic publishers seem to have an aversion to using furigana though (especially annoying with names). But I agree that it's more obscure words than obscure kanji, although the reason a lot of kanji are rare is that the words they represent are rare too.
I knew those kanji, though not 態々 and 気焔 (though it's now obvious to me that 焔 is mostly interchangeable with 炎). I assume you meant 懼れる for 懼.
I'm currently reading Dies Irae - it's where I learned 焔, actually. The script contains 2752 unique kanji.
殷々と... is that just 段々 in a weird font? Nope!
荊棘 - furiganized as いばら, but the 棘 is then superfluous according to dictionaries.
久闊を叙す - took me a while to realize this wasn't uncle.
韜晦 - the left one is also a signaled reading, if you happen to know 滔 (EDICT says "obscure term" for all definitions of 滔々. FWIW I've seen it mean "eloquently" in multiple works).
蹲る - mentioned because they only furiganized the second through fifth uses or so; the word itself isn't rare. The first use was conjugated in such a way that it could have been 蹲う.
And a bunch of weird readings of common kanji:
流離う - multi-kanji kun'yomi verbs are always fun.
希う - 乞い願う
Edited: 2014-12-13, 1:31 pm
If you mean furigana then I agree with you. While I hate furigana-riddled texts I think it's very powerful tool for making the reading experience smoother when dealing with names, rares words or ambiguities.
@Vempele 危懼 is probably more common.
Edited: 2014-12-13, 1:29 pm
Oh right, +1 on the furigana for rare/ambiguous readings (names being ambiguous by default) - and err on the side of more furigana at first use, I've seen too many authors act like they have no idea what is and what isn't obscure (furigana on words with obvious phonetic primitives, no furigana on 殷々; Dies Irae has mostly been good about this, though).
@Taishi Oh. Haven't seen that one before.
Edited: 2014-12-13, 1:57 pm