July 1, 2008

The Post Where I fix Japanese AND English Over a Mug of Cocoa

If you could fix a language, what would you do to make it better? Here are some whimsical thoughts of mine:

English: Get rid of the plural forms of nouns. Trust me, we are already halfway there. Consider: I like cheesecake vs. I like cheesecakes. Which is correct, and which do you use? Let's face it, we use and drop the plural at random. And don't even get me started on uncountable nouns. I'm looking at you, rice. Also, most of our loanwords can't decide if they have a plural form. Moai. Moais.
"But Clay, we need our plural(s)", I hear you say, your monocles popping out of your eyes in horror. Bah. Plural nouns are as redundant as your extra monocle. We can tell everything from be-verbs and pronouns. "I curled two cat. They were light." Totally clear; we don't need an s.

We could try using plurals whenever the context somehow isn't clear if you're gonna whine about it. "Cats," he grunted as he curled another... Or, we could take a page from Japanese and use grouping suffixes (Japanese has no real plurals! Discuss amongst yourselves because I am a little verklempt): "Cat-kind," he grunted...
I still feel like keeping plural forms of pronouns and the singular "a" though, to keep things clear. "It was pretty cat" is too weird (my students would disagree though). As long as we're on pronouns, let's get a proper plural you. "Yous" sounds too gangster, so let's all agree that "guys" is ripe for losing all of it's political-incorrectness and being a valid word.
Regardless of these suggestions, the internets stays as the internets. Cause I loves the internets.

So long and thanks for all the fish(es). Oh wait, gotta fix Japanese too...

Japanese: The moon-speak characters kanji can stay, but with caveats: 1) We simplify how to write them, and 2) we simplify their readings.
I don't like a lot of simplified Chinese characters because they get stripped to meaningless squiggles, especially when you consider them from a Japanese perspective. For instance 廣 → 广 makes sense until you consider how many other kanji use that radical, and 寧 → 宁 makes even less sense considering the meanings. Moreover, むしろ should just be in hiragana anyways and 寧日 means peaceful day which matches the simple kanji while having nothing to do with the usual 寧 meaning, so use the simple one instead! Sheesh.
So yeah, simplified Chinese characters aren't my cup of china, but Japanese lingual-finaglers did a good job of simplifying a few kanji about a hundred years back and it's time to finish the job. For instance 虫 used to be 蟲 and 国 used to be 國. Those are simplifications that work for us mnemonic-makers. More of that, please.

As for readings, we can keep all the kunyomi you want, as long as we have okurigana to remind us. For instance 前売 should always be 前売り(a real word that I suspect exists because someone, a genius of my ownmold, realized the bother too), and 前え売り would be even better. Let's just get as many okurigana on the outside of a kanji as possible. Why do we still use kanji, besides the fact that they look pretty, if they are so troublesome? I'll remind you: a language swimming in homophones. We need kanji.

The onyomi, meanwhile, should be congealed down to just one for each kanji. This will mean 生 is only read せい for instance (and all compounds that have it as a main element should be pronounced the same). But 生 reminds me, it's a real jerky kanji. I want some radicals added to it depending on what kind of 生 we are talking about. ナマ? キ? Use a radical or okurigana to give us a clue!

It would be nice if we could get all particles to live in hiragana land too.

That's all for now, but what bugs yous about English/Japanese? Oh, one more: Don't say オッス at night, punks. Just kidding, by that logic I could no longer say howdy.