LINGUIST List 12.2651

Wed Oct 24 2001

Sum: Kana/Kanji and Brain Damage

Editor for this issue: Marie Klopfenstein <>


  1. John W. Nelson, Kana/Kanji & Brain Damage

Message 1: Kana/Kanji & Brain Damage

Date: Mon, 22 Oct 2001 22:49:56 -0400
From: John W. Nelson <jwnelson2COMPUSERVE.COM>
Subject: Kana/Kanji & Brain Damage

Several weeks ago I posted a query concerning research on speakers of
Japanese who suffered from brain damage. The impetus for the query was an
article on the web that made reference to case studies of individuals with
some form of brain damage who could only function in one of the two
Japanese syllabaries, i.e., hiragana or katakana, but not both: 

The explanation given in the article was that "Hiragana can form pictures but
Katakana can only form sounds" -- a fallacious conclusion that seems to
have been reached in part by examining the manner in which hiragana is
commonly used (particularly in the case of furigana, I presume). However,
it hardly needs saying that the functional differences between the Japanese
syllabaries are merely conventional. It is indeed true, as the author
states, that "everything in kanji can be written in Hiragana". However,
everything in kanji can also be written in katakana with no loss of
understanding on the part of the Japanese speaker. He or she would
undoubtedly find it odd that the expected hiragana had been replaced by
katakana, but once accustomed to this fact, the understanding of the
written passage would not be impeded. Thus, a case where an individual
retains proficiency in one syllabary at the expense of the other would be
intriguing to say the least.
While the article did not provide the source of these case studies, I
knew that members of the LINGUIST list could provide some direction in this
area. No one was familiar with the particular case mentioned above, but I
received quite a number of references to books and articles dealing with
the general topic. The list of works is compiled below.

John W. Nelson

(I'd like to thank the following individuals for their contributions:
Stefano Bertolo, Joaquim Brandao de Carvalho, Karen Croot, Fred Cummins,
Peter Hendriks, Laura L. Koenig, Tadao Miyamoto, Richard Sproat, and Joseph

Suggested References:

Besner, D., and N. Hildebrandt. "Orthographic and Phonological Codes
in the Oral Reading of Japanese Kana." _Journal of Experimental
Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition_ 13 (1987): 335-43.

Erickson, D. M., I. G. Mattingly, and M. T. Turvey. "Phonetic Activity in
Reading: An Experiment with Kanji." _Language and Speech_ 20
(1977): 384-403.

Flaherty, M. "Are Japanese Kanji Processed Like Pictures?"
_Psychologia_ 36.3 (1993): 144-150.

Flaherty, M. "Word-Picture Interference Effects in Chinese, Japanese
Kanji and Kana, and English." _Psychologia_ 37.3 (1994): 169-179.

Flaherty, M., and M. Connolly. "Space Perception, Co-ordination and a
Knowledge of Kanji in Japanese and Non-Japanese." _Psychologia_
38.4 (1995): 130-142.

Flaherty, M. "Memory for Phonetic and Abstract Visual Material and
Success in Learning to Read English and Japanese by Second
Language Learners." _Psychologia_ 41.1 (1998).

Fujimori, Misato, Atsushi Yamadori, Toru Imamura, Mutsumi Sato,
Yoko Takatsuki, Manabu Ikeda, Yoshitaka Ikejiri, Yoshitsugu
Nakagawa, Masamichi Nakai, and Tatsuo Shimomura.
"Reading and Comprehension Disturbances of Kanji and Kana in
Alzheimer's Disease and Frontotemporal Dementia." _Neurocase_
193 (1997): 381-390. (in Original Article)

Hsuan-Chih, Chen, Ed. _Cognitive Processing of Chinese and Related
Asian Languages_. (The Chinese University Press, 1998).

 Yamadori (1985) in _Introducing Neuropsychology_ (Tokyo: Igakusyoin)
 is cited in the above work saying that broca aphasia affects kanji more
 than kana while conduction aphasia affects kana more.

 Aizawa et. al. (1996) in the _Japanese Journal of Neuropsychology_
 is also cited in the above work for a case study of a high school girl
 with a damaged corpus callosum who could write kanji and kana
 with one hand, but only kana with the other.

Kess, J. F. and T. Miyamoto. (1994). _Japanese Psycholinguistics:
A Classified and Annotated Research Bibliography_. (Amsterdam:
John Benjamins, 1994).
[Contains a chapter on kanji/kana processing involving Japanese aphasics]

Kess, J. F. and T. Miyamoto. (1999). _The Japanese Mental Lexicon:
Psycholinguistic Studies of Kana and Kanji Processing_. (Amsterdam:
John Benjamins, 1999).
[Contains a chapter on kanji/kana processing involving Japanese aphasics]

Mochizuki, H., and R. Ohtomo. "Pure Alexia in Japanese and Agraphia
Without Alexia in Kanji." _Neurocase_ 6 (2000): 287. (in Data Sheets)

Paradis, Michel, Hiroko Nagiwara, and Nancy Hildebrandt. _Neurolinguistic
Aspects of the Japanese Writing System_ (Orlando, FL: Academic Press, 1985).

Patterson, Karalyn, Tsutomu Suzuki, Taeko Wydell, and Sumiko Sasanuma.
"Progressive Aphasia and Surface Alexia in Japanese." _Neurocase_ 1
(1995): 155-166. (in Articles)

Saito, H. "Use of Graphemic and Phonemic Encoding in Reading Kanji
and Kana." _The Japanese Journal of Psychology_ 52 (1981): 266-273.

Sakurai, Y., K. Sakai, M. Sakuta, and M. Iwata. "Naming Difficulties in
with Agraphia for Kanji after a Left Posterior Inferior Temporal Lesion."
_Neurocase_ 1 (1995): 139x-154x. (in Case Reports)

Sasanuma, S. "Impairment of Written Language in Japanese Aphasics.
Kana Versus Kanji Processing." _Journal of Chinese Linguistics_ 2 (1974):

Sasanuma, S. "Surface Dyslexia and Dysgraphia: How Are They Manifested
in Japanese?" _Neurocase_ 1 (1995): 167f-172f. (in Case Reports)

Sasanuma, S., N. Sakuma, and K. Kitano. "Reading Kanji Without Semantics:
Evidence from a Longitudinal Study of Dementia." _Neurocase_ 1 (1995):
167g-172g. (in Case Reports)

Sasanuma, S., H. Ito, K. Patterson, and T. Ito. "Phonological Alexia in
Japanese: A Case Study." _Neurocase_ 6 (2000): 173a. (in Case Reports)

Sugishita, M., K. Otomo, S. Kabe, and K. Yunoki. "A Critical Appraisal of
Neuropsychological Correlates of Japanese Ideogram (Kanji) and Phonogram
(Kana) Reading." _Neurocase_ 6 (2000): 292a-293a. (in Data Sheets)
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