So I just received back some comments on a project proposal that contained this word “operationalization.” And it occurred to me that I actually have no idea what this means!

Breaking it apart, 1) we have a root, “opus/opera,” meaning “work” (same as in the musical terms).

And now a whole string of derivational suffixes:

2) the noun “opus/opera” becomes the verb “operate”;

3) which becomes another noun, “operation”;

4) which gets turned into an adjectival form, “operational”;

5) from which we get another verb, “operationalize”;

6) which finally gives us … yet another nominal form, “operationalization.”

That’s 3 nouns, 2 verbs, and an adjective, if anyone is keeping count.

So the question is: how do we simplify this thing? “The procedure whereby something is made operational/workable/usable?” I guess that’s what it’s trying to convey.

But even more fully parsed: “The procedure whereby something is put into a form which can serve as an entity upon which one can do some kind of work.”

Ugh. That’s just one ugly word, isn’t it?

The contextual phrase was “operationalization of theories,” so why not just something like: applying the theories? That’s about half the number of syllables plus pretty much anyone can understand it.

But … that seems to be the point. Non-academic folk aren’t supposed to understand academic-speak anymore. Not just when specialized terms do need to be used, but, like, ever, it seems…

are the Japanese really forgetting how to write kanji correctly?

I found this post on Language Log yesterday rather sad:

According to a recent survey of more than 2,000 people, 66.5 percent of Japanese think they are losing the ability to correctly handwrite kanji. Moreover, the level is above 50% for every age group except for the youngest (16-19), who are of course still actively studying characters and thus must be prepared for tests; and even there the figure is still very close to the 50% mark.

And these figures are much higher than 10 years ago.

The significance of this isn’t completely clear to me as the article (and perhaps the recent survey as well) doesn’t specify the relative number of kanji which are becoming difficult for those that replied in the affirmative. I’d guess all the more frequent characters remain easily writeable. But the long-term trend of writing less and less by hand seems assured, so… I assume there is an increased use of hiragana for less frequent characters. Which, on top of the ever more frequent non-native borrowings into katakana, will make the writing system a stranger hybrid over time.

There’s an interesting post near the bottom of the comments section about the history of Chinese character use within Korean, and the stages by which, over the course of the past century or so, the former has ceded most of its ground to the Hanguel (the native Korean syllabary). Still very hard for me to imagine the same thing happening within Japanese, for several different reasons, but it’s an unusual situation.