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Unnecessary use of rare/obscure kanji

#1
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)
仄聞
慫慂
裨益
相俟つ

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
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#2
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?
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#3
相俟つ is the verb root of an N1 grammar bit. と相まって, according to KZM N1 文法, is based on that verb.

So that's one less thing to study. Big Grin
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#4
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.
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#5
yudantaiteki Wrote: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)
仄聞
慫慂
裨益
相俟つ

If I'm reading something from pre-WW2 I expect obscure stuff, but this article was written in 2008.
Are the above kanji normally written in kana, or are they simply rare words period?
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#6
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.
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#7
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
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#8
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
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#9
yudantaiteki Wrote:(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.)
FWIW I can't read the opening paragraph in English without stumbling. I doubt anyone who who hasn't had some education in medicine could.
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#10
ariariari Wrote:
yudantaiteki Wrote:(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.)
FWIW I can't read the opening paragraph in English without stumbling. I doubt anyone who who hasn't had some education in medicine could.
Actually I can read the English version without stumbling. That could be because I once had temporomandibular joint disorder. For some reason it was incredibly painful in my right jaw to bite down on anything. It went away after awhile, thank god. I still have the food processor I brought to grind up food so I wouldn't have to chew it.
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#11
yudantaiteki Wrote:(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.)
Presumably そしゃく is equivalent in obscurity to 'mastication'. The right sides of 咀 and 嚼 are signal primitives for the reading (c.f. 阻止 and 侯爵, both in the Harry Potter deck), so ought to be guessable for someone who knows the word but not the kanji, in an article about the jaw.

A kun reading for the 疼 from 疼痛 is also in the Harry Potter deck. I didn't know the on-reading とう, but again it's the same as 冬, so ditto re guessability/learnability for someone who knows the word.

Apart from that, both the readings and meanings for the rest seem pretty easily guessable even for me.

My impression is that the English & Japanese versions are about equally challenging for natives.
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#12
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.
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#13
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
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#14
Vempele Wrote:I see 咀嚼 a lot more often than 'mastication'.
You're right - tangorin lists it as a common word (though I didn't know it), which can hardly be said of 'mastication'.
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#15
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
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#16
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.
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#17
ktcgx Wrote:What was the article today on?
The article was about Genji texts/manuscripts.

I think it makes sense that an article would have field-specific terminology in it. I don't have a problem with that. For instance, manuscript articles use words like 合点 (emphasis marks), ミセケチ (marking a symbol for deletion while still allowing it to be read), 臨模本 (a manuscript that attempts to reproduce every feature of its parent text, including the characters per line, exact hentai-gana, even handwriting), and such. But the terms I had in the original post aren't any sort of terms like that, they're just complicated words with rare kanji.

For comparison, I looked at one of the books I use every so often that was written in 1930. These are some of the kanji I had to look up on one page:
気焔
掬ひ落とす

当て嵌める
態々 (read さまざま)
Edited: 2014-12-13, 12:56 pm
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#18
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.
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#19
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.
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#20
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
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#21
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
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#22
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
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#23
Vempele Wrote: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.
No, 懼 was read おそれ (no okurigana).

I get the feeling that the phonetic clues are more important for us than they are for native speakers -- I checked with some native speakers before I made the post to make sure that I wasn't just being especially ignorant in not being able to read the words. As I said in an earlier post, what surprised me is that they didn't make the obvious guesses for the readings of 電纜 and 疼痛 but seemed to be groping instead for whole words that seemed to fit the context that maybe they thought they had heard or seen. Maybe that's because native speakers (throughout their lives) encounter the situation much more often than we do where they know the word but don't know how to read the kanji, and so in most cases figuring out the word from context works better than trying to guess phonetics.
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#24
anotherjohn Wrote: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 don't know, I think homeotherm is pretty obvious in meaning. Though I agree unravelling poikilotherm requires more than a passing knowledge of the roots of scientific terms that come from Latin or Greek.
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#25
Vempele Wrote:韜晦 - the left one is also a signaled reading, if you happen to know 滔
...or 稲, as 爪+臼 is the un-simplified version of 爪+旧 (the same thing applies if you replace 爪 with 勹 like in 餡 and 閻魔).
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