The Transcription of Foreign Personal Names into Kanji

University essay from Lunds universitet/Japanska

Abstract: This study relates to the transcription of foreign personal names into kanji in Japanese. The study is based upon a paper where Tokimoto & d’Arcais (2000) confirmed three working principles when natives transcribe place names written in hiragana: that jukugo reading will be preferred over juubako reading, that as few kanji segmentations as possible will be used, and that the names will be segmented bimoraically from the beginning of the word. The purpose was to test these principles on the transcription of foreign personal names, and was carried out as a quantitative online survey. The results differed from those of place names in all three principles, which means that the reasoning behind Tokimoto & d’Arcais’ results had to be reworked. The implications of the results are that the Japanese seem to value the expression of individuality and wish to convey meanings through kanji over said principles. Further, the results indicate that some lexemes carry higher levels of compatibility in terms of being usable in personal names than others. A possible decline in conforming to jukugo reading among younger generations was also detected.

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