Re: Proposal for encoding the 'kaida' writing of the Yaeyama islands

From: ll077003 (
Date: Thu Feb 10 2011 - 14:29:59 CST

  • Next message: Mark Rosa: "Re: Proposal for encoding the 'kaida' writing of the Yaeyama islands"

    Re: Kaida writing in the Yaeyamas and Yonaguni -- thanks for all the replies!
    @ mpsuzuki and Bill -- As Bill has mentioned, this writing system is limited in what it can express, and does not attempt to convey phonetic information. That's an advantage considering that the three islands where it was used have somewhat-mutually-unintelligible languages, but it also meant that the system couldn't keep up with what is required of a modern writing system. Verbs are only implied ("give", "send", "possess" depending on context) and I don't think there are any adjectives at all.
    That Wikipedia article could be a little bit better; it's incomplete and has errors (the part about them being used "without understanding of their meaning" is untrue, and there certainly are distinct words for male and female horses, bulls/cows, etc.). In the spirit of "to ask is to volunteer", I suppose I should get on there and fix it myself!
    @ mpsuzuki and Van -- It didn't originate from Old Hanzi at all. While you might see references to the famous underwater ruins off the coast of Yonaguni and how there's a kaida character engraved there (, I think this is either a prank or simply an overactive imagination seeing something where there isn't anything. Real evidence points to this system being invented after the Satsuma invasion in 1609; the islanders presumably saw tax collectors and surveyors walking around making marks on paper, and, much in the way that Sequoyah devised a writing system for Cherokee by looking at American papers without understanding English, started inventing their own characters.
    The numerals and a few others seem to come from kanji/hanzi. But they're not ancient.
    I recognize the source of the glyphs on Wikipedia; they come from Gisuke Sasamori's 1893 trip to Okinawa and the book he later wrote. Other writers use forms that are more stylized and aren't quite as "picture-like". If you look at some of the samples below, you'll see the difference.
    @ William O. and everybody -- Let me start introducing some real examples, online, that are better than the simple list of characters that's on Wiki.

    * My own collection of kaida writing-related material on Facebook: of actual samples; lots here) scanned pages from books)

    * Here's a Yahoo blogger who's posted high-quality scans of a Japanese article in the journal of the National Museum of Ethnology (written by yours truly); click on the magnifying glass at the bottom right corners of the images for the high-resolution version. If you can read Japanese, you should be able to follow along with the gloss below the originals:

    * Another blogger whose scanned image I just found now (and can read easily); it contains dates (no year given, though it's a leap year) with contributions of fish and rice for various families, plus population tallies.

    * Photo (, description by Toshikazu Sasaki (, and related newspaper article ( for a bilingual tax notice, written on a wooden board in 1892. This was written by a Japanese person and the kaida characters have Japanese-style stroke order and direction.
    * If you'll permit more references to my own work, my master's thesis about kaida writing is graciously hosted by Yuka Hayashi at Kyoto University:

    A big file at 19 MB; if prompted, the ID and password are "ikuyo" and "kuruyo", no quotes. There are many other scanned images interspersed with the text as well as a list of local pronunciations. Flames and disparaging comments will be given what attention they deserve. ^_^;
    I can also post a list of books which, in addition to serving as documented evidence of the use of these characters, might also be of general interest. They're mostly in Japanese, and pre-WWII. If anyone wants them, just say so.

    And can I attach the font to a message bound for the entire list?

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