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ジェフリー・A・クロフト先生のコラム [1998年-現在] フリーランス・社内翻訳者
学術文献・研究論文・技術機関紙等の翻訳、契約書等の法律文書の翻訳、説明書・規格書等の技術文書の翻訳、手紙・通信文・企業案内・広告・ホームページ等の翻訳に精通。
[2001年-2002年] フリーランス通訳者
日英・英日同時または逐次通訳(主な顧客:富士通, ソニー, TBS等)
[学歴] 学士号:カリフォルニア大学、バークレー校 修士号:モントレー国際大学

第9回:『A reflection on complexity in Japanese―English Comparative Analysis』

I am reflecting today on my findings in one of my graduate school language analysis classes. We were required to select a particular linguistic feature then collect, analyze, and interpret data, and I selected Grammar/Structure as my focus, comparing attitudes toward written and spoken language in Japanese and in English.

I was initially compelled to do this research to investigate the conventional wisdom that written language—in both English and in Japanese—is patently more complex than spoken language. I had heard many times, over many years of studying Japanese and English in a great variety of formal and informal contexts, that written language was much more complex than written language. I decided to do an informal survey of native-Japanese speakers using tokens of Japanese that I had collected that had previously been identified by native-Japanese speakers as marked, or somehow not natural, or authentic speech. Friends and colleagues had advised me not to use these phrases, as they were stilted or odd. I got similar results from my informal survey: The informants confirmed that, while they understood nearly all of these tokens, they did not use them often. They suggested that it was simply because written language is far more complex. I then decided to research the literature in the field.

I found that, although written language cannot broadly be dubbed more complex than spoken language, it may well be perceived as such—by native speakers and non-native speakers alike. The evidence I found refers specifically to learning Japanese and English.

Brown (1994) warns against the temptation to consider writing to be more complex than speech. He reminds us, rather, that writing and speech represent different modes of complexity. He shows that the cognitive complexity is no greater in the written version than in the spoken version of given samples.

I found similar warnings against drawing conclusions of more complexity, rather than of different modes of complexity in written Japanese. Kubota (1992), for example, states that, contrary to popularly held beliefs—held among Japanese and non-Japanese—Japanese text may be regarded as analytical, direct, logical, and concise.

Thus, I concluded, native speakers of both English and Japanese might do well to resist the temptation to rashly define the written language as exceedingly complex, and instead, might more openly recognize the different characteristics of spoken and written language.

Through this data analysis grammar/structure project, I gained experience conducting a field survey; I was able to challenge and investigate a truism on the supposed greater complexity of written over spoken language; I was able to draw parallels between my first and second languages in both the popular perception and in the research; and I was able to expose the fallacy in the conventional view on the relative complexity of the spoken and written word.

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