September 1942 QST
Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles
QST, published December 1915 - present (visit ARRL
for info). All copyrights hereby acknowledged.
Less than a year had passed since the surprise
attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese navy when this article was published in
America had sprung into high gear to help the war effort - both as civilians and
as military members. A vital part of the strategy was to educate as many people
as possible regarding the tactics and habits of the enemy. Media of all sorts were
used to help get the word out.
Yes, there was a time in this country when patriotic Americans banded together
proudly and unabashedly toward the common cause of survival for our heritage and
established way of life. Even major magazine publishers, television broadcasters,
and Hollywood actors lent their talents. A host of young and even middle-age boys
and men responded to their country's call to service.
QST did its part, probably more so than most forms of media, by appealing to
those people capable and willing to contribute to the vitally important task of
communications. How many hobbies could be directly applied to the needs of the military
and homeland defense? Precious few, other than radio design, assembling, testing,
and operation. I suppose to be fair I would have to mention a few other hobbies
like vehicular maintenance, firearms marksmanship, and model building... oh, and
sewing for the ladies.
If you know or are related to any of the authors of there articles, please thank
them for all of us for their service. Let us hope that, seeing the way the country
is moving these days, that their effort was not ultimately in vain.!
The Japanese Morse Telegraph Code
With Some Notes on the Japanese Language
By Donald B. Millikin (Manhasset, N.Y.)
Japanese Morse Code is used on the landline telegraph system of Japan and by
Japanese ship and fixed radio stations. However, when messages are sent to foreign
countries or ships they are transmitted by International Morse.
Although the dot and dash signals are identical in both codes for the numerals
and for the letter U, there are great differences between Japanese and International
Morse. Signals for the single letters A, E, I, N (or M), and O in the Japanese system
are totally unlike the equivalents in the International. The other combinations
of dots and dashes represent the two-letter and three-letter groups of Romaji (pronounced
English language phonetic system approximating the Japanese spoken sounds.
Messages in Japanese Morse may be transmitted according to the Romaji spelling
or the Nippongo modification. No dependence can be placed upon frequency tables
for Japanese single letter occurrences because of the differences in spelling and
peculiarities inherent in the language itself; tables of digraphs and trigraphs
are needed. Although the word lengths of plain language text vary greatly, messages
are frequently sent in regular groups of fifteen letters each. Such com-munications
are not in code, the code messages being usually transmitted in five-letter groups.
Japanese Morse signals are recorded on paper tape by means of the ink-recorder
just as the char-acters of the International code are received on tape. For the
ideographs, or "picture-writing," that are equivalent to Romaji, both tape and page
types of teleprinters are used.
Accurate translations of messages transmitted in Japanese Morse would be difficult
unless one were familiar to some extent with the Japanese language and the Romaji
and Nippongo spellings. The following notes will be intelligible to anyone equipped
to go ahead with such translations.
Notes on the Japanese Language
It is a strange fact that of these three neighboring countries between which
frequent communication has existed for a great many years, China has not deviated
from ideographic script, Korea in-vented an alphabet, and Japan devised a syllabary.
Most of the ideographs in the Japanese language are taken from the Chinese. The
Japanese found by analysis that all of the required sounds could be conveyed by
less than one hundred different syllables. They selected the ideographs corresponding
to these sounds and reduced them first to forms called "Hiragana" (sometimes spelled
with a K - "Hiragana "). These forms were simplified later into "Katakana" A number
of years ago an Englishman. J. C. Hepburn, invented the system of using Roman letters
to represent the Katakana ideographs. His method is known as Romanized Kana, or
Romaji. It has been used in printing Japanese and an under-standing of it is essential
to the proper use of the Japanese Morse code. The Japanese used the Hepburn system
until a few years ago, when they developed a. modified spelling known as "Nippongo,"
because they did not like employing a method invented by a non-Japanese,
Twenty-two letters of our English alphabet are used in Romaji, but L, Q, V, and
X do not appear as there are no similar speech sounds in Japanese. The only letters
occurring by themselves are the five vowels, A, E, I, 0, D, and the consonant N
(or M). All other letters appear in combinations of two or three. Only a single
one-letter word exists - E. All words end in a vowel or N. Digraphs and trigraphs
always end in a vowel. The vowels may be short or long. Long I is always doubled
and written as II, to avoid confusion between I and T. The other four vowels are
sometimes doubled to indicate the long sound, as AA and EE, or a line is placed
above them, e.g., O and
U. In the trigraph SHO at the end of a word the
ideograph for U is add when the O is long. C, F, and J occur only in the syllables
CHI, FU, and JI, in Riimaji. They are absent in Nippongo. Consonants doubled are
NN, PP, SS and TT. When the combination HA is a part of a word in Kana characters
it is pronounced and written in Romaji as HA; but when it occurs alone as a two-letter
word it is pronounced and written WA. Whenever KA appears by itself at the end of
a sentence it is not a word but indicates interroga-tion. If the letter N occurs
before B or P it is pronounced and written as M. The word NO has many meanings and
may also be used as the apostrophe ('). It is a contraction for the . word MONO
and may be further contracted to N', in this particular case. KOTO is used occa-sionally
in the place of NO.
The names of the numerals are as in Chinese:
The number twelve is written Ju Ni. Thirty-five is San Ju Go (3 times 10 plus
Some examples of changes from Romaji to Nippongo are:
SHI becomes SI
FU becomes HU
ZI or DI
DZU " DU
SHI and Y A, or SHA, becomes SYA
CHI and YA, or CHA,
JI and YA, or JA,
SHI and YU, or SHU,
CHI and YU, or CHU,
JI and YU, or JU,
SHI and YO, or SHO,
CHI and YO, or CHO,
JI and YO, or JO,
The spellings of words are changed, e.g.:
UJI to HUJI
SHINTO to SINTO
CHOSEN to TYOSEN
This chart, designed by Charles E. Holden, shows the characters of the Japanese
language in order of frequency of appearance. In each group are Roman letters showing
the English spoken equivalents or "Romaji"; the dots and dashes of the Japanese
Morse code; the heavy characters of the Katakana ideograph equivalents; and the
lighter Hirakana equivalents, used principally for letter writing and newspaper
type. There is only one set of ideographs for the numerals, and the telegraph code
equivalents are the same as in International Morse. The code symbol for a hyphen
is also used before a vowel to indicate that it is long. Note that some characters
have two groups of dots and dashes for their code equivalents.
The effect of the Nippongo modification may be seen in these tables of single-letter
frequency of occurrence. A count of telegraph text is also shown; the tendency to
omit unimportant words and to abbreviate results in somewhat different figures.
Note that in Nippongo the occurrences of C, F and J have dropped to zero. The literary
Romaji statistics have been reduced from a count of 5118 letters.
Here is a table of digraphs and their supporting single vowels, listed in order
of frequency of ap-pearance in the Japanese language, based on a literary text count
of 2524 (Holden). There are no other digraphs. These data can be used only after
Japanese characters have been translated into Romaji, of course.
The author is indebted to Messrs. Charles E. Holden and Frank L. Jackson, both
of New York City, whose studies of the Japanese language have been helpful in the
preparation of this article. The chart on page 24 is the work of Mr. Holden.
Posted February 10, 2020
(updated from original post on 2/16/2011)