It's not that those law texts were entirely written in Katakana. Instead
they were written in a mix of Kanji and Katakana, where today Japanese
text is a mix of Kanji and Hiragana (plus words of foreign non-Chinese
origin in Katakana).
The reason for this lies in the history of the Kana. Originally,
Katakana were developed by monks translating buddhist texts, later they
used them for administrativa of their temples. On the other hand,
Hiragana developed as a result of women writing (mostly poetry). While
the monks studied and used Kanji, usually women did not use Kanji and
their writings were therefore usually entirely in Hiragana. The perhaps
most famous example is Genji Monogatari (The tale of Genji).
The earliest legal documents would have been written by monks and so it
is no wonder that there was a tradition to write laws in a mix of Kanji
and Katakana. You are right, if it was entirely in Katakana it would be
very difficult to read (ever read Genji Monogatari?) and probably
ambiguous. But then again, those texts are so old-fashioned in any
aspect that even Japanese linguists find them most difficult to
On Friday, November 30, 2001, at 11:32 , Eric Hildum wrote:
> This is very odd, as for most of Japanese history, writing in kanji
> was a
> sign of education. In fact, older documents are almost pure kanji -
> many of
> the words now written in hiragana in modern usage were written in kanji
> previously. Further, writing documents in katakana tends to make them
> ambiguous, which is not a good thing when writing laws. Are you sure
> this is
> on 01.11.30 0:11 AM, Gerhard Fasol at fasol_at_eurotechnology.com wrote:
>>> Now I wonder how agile the Japanese are in inputting Kana on their
>> A very small fraction of Japanese uses katakana.
>> Before WW2 laws were written in katakana, and it's a way
>> to express that laws are old, saying that they are written
>> in Katakana.
> Eric Hildum
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Received on Sat Dec 1 06:29:58 2001