略字・幽霊字

第403課: 略字 & 幽霊字

The existence of non-standard characters ought not to be a surprise in a writing system composed of thousands of unique glyphs spanning thousands of years and multiple cultures. 異体字, or variants of what are viewed to be the same Kanji, are not the only abnormalities that can be found in this writing system. 

In practical use, many Kanji can be seen written in shorthand. These abbreviated forms known as 略字 are pervasively used in Japanese society. For some, it may be only a matter of time before they are incorporated as officially recognized variants that could one day appear in your options when typing. 

略字

The first kind of 略字 involves applying the same simplification patterns used during the simplification of Kanji for designating 当用漢字 in script reform which occurred immediately after World War II that had not been applied to characters not chosen as general use Kanji at the time. In 1981 when the 当用漢字 list was replaced with the 常用漢字, a handful of characters had their existing 略字 recognized officially. 

旧字体新たに採用された略字体 旧字体 新たに採用された略字体

Starting in 1955, 朝日新聞 took it upon itself to fully implement the same simplification patterns for the 当用漢字 with most other Kanji. These character forms became known as 朝日文字・朝日字体. The newspaper reformatted approximately 4,o00 Kanji. By the 1980s when the need for establishing glyphs in word processors became essential, several were adopted into mainstream typing, all of which examples remain today, and for the lucky Kanji which were adopted as  常用漢字 in 2010, those simplifications became officially recognized as proper variants.

正字体 朝日字体 正字体 朝日字体
 痙𫞬 俱
 殲𫞔 俠 
 儘  倅

※伜 had existed since the 明治時代, so it is not necessarily an 朝日文字 strictly speaking.

※Examples in bold are very frequently used.

Even for those that are still commonly used, it is not a guarantee that such simplifications will display properly in all fonts or on all systems. As such, in 2007, 朝日新聞 reversed course by going back to the original ‘standard’ forms of around 900 characters. 

Such simplifications that we have been discussing may also be known as 拡張新字体. In some cases, the differences are so minor that they’re viewed as font discrepancies. For instance, the radical 辶 (movement) had one of its strokes removed in general use Kanji, but the original stroke count was preserved for all other Kanji. Affected Kanji of this discrepancy include the following: 辿・辻・辷・迚・迦・遙

Since then, more characters utilizing this radical have been designated as general use Kanji, which has led to both the simplified and the non-simplified form of the radical being used interchangeably. Nonetheless, such simplifications have not become readily typeable universally, though publishers are free to incorporate them into their own fonts. 

正字体 拡張新字体 正字体 拡張新字体
 嘘
 摑
 頚
  瀆 涜 潑 溌
 藪 薮 蠅 蝿
 攪 撹 曾 曽
 鷗 鴎   簞 箪

俗字

Also known as 俗字 or 筆写略字, the second kind of 略字 involves any and all other forms of simplification that cannot be explained by mere font discrepancies which have not generally become recognized. There are two noteworthy exceptions to this: 〆, which stands for ‘しめ’ as in 締め and ヶ, which stands for 箇. Both are formally recognized as standard simplifications which are heavily used in official writing.

Putting those two examples aside, many ‘nonstandard’ abbreviations have come about before and after script reform, and as a veteran learner of Japanese, you will have undoubtedly encountered a number of such abbreviated forms. As they are viewed no differently than shorthand, it is exceptionally rare to see them used in publications, teleprompts, etc., but handwritten messages and displays may contain them with high frequency. 

Displaying 略字 online is a rather difficult undertaking. Many have been incorporated into Unicode, but to view such characters properly, both the typer and the viewer must have the information installed. Otherwise, the glyph will corrupt and display as a square, question mark, or some other abnormality. With that being said, if any of the following examples do not properly display, properly researching this topic will require searching for images and/or the fonts to download to make them viewable.

正字  俗字 正字 俗字
 第   㐧 喜   㐂
   权 曜   旺
   魚   鱼 点   奌
 州   卅 個   㐰
 品   𠯮 職   耺・ 职
 傘   仐
 濾 沪   歴   厂
 幅 巾 鹿   𢈘
 潟   泻 経   圣
 働   仂

※To see more important 略字 which cannot be displayed as glyphs, check this Wikipedia article.

幽霊字

There is what’s known as a Japanese Industrial Standard for what glyphs are contained in set of characters used to type the Japanese language, also known specifically as JIS X 0208, which was last revised in 1997. This standard is separate from the concept of UNICODE, but characters defined in JIS which had not been incorporated into UNICODE prior are currently, which led to a unique problem of its own. 

There are two particular large Kanji dictionaries that have been published which include thousands of Kanji. The 新字源 published by 角川書店 lists over 13,000 Kanji, while the 大漢和辞典 holds 15 volumes covering over 50,000 Kanji, meant to be the most thorough cross reference for Chinese characters between the two cultures. 

When the JIS character set was composed, though, there were dozens of Kanji that were said to not be contained in either resource, their existences being questioned altogether. After intense investigations, many were pinpointed in ancient writings, name registries, etc. Yet, 11 “ghost” characters remained (shown below). 

Many happened to come about by miswriting existing characters upon forming their respective computer glyphs, which means that there is the slight chance that those ‘mistaken’ forms may be incorporated into the pedantic handwriting of a very small minority, but that would not change the fact that none of these so-called ghost characters have true legitimate meanings or readings.

※These ghost characters may also be referred to as 幽霊文字・幽霊漢字.

幽霊字
墸・ 壥・ 妛・ 彁・ 挧・ 暃・ 槞・ 蟐・ 袮・ 閠・ 駲