The Fifth Generation Fallacy


Why Japan Is Betting Its Future on Artificial Intelligence

(New York: Oxford University Press, 1987)

“Unger describes his book as an ‘attempt to explore the borderland where linguistics, Japanese society, and technology meet.’  It is hard to do such an ambitious undertaking as this justice in a short review.  Suffice it to say that anyone even slightly interested in any of these areas will find this an immensely stimulating and enjoyable read.”  –Bob Johnstone, Far Eastern Economic Review, 19 November 1987.

“‘The Fifth Generation Fallacy’ is a fascinating work that vividly portrays Japan’s paranoia, the panic felt in America and Europe, and the effect these countries are having on world technology.”  –John Edwards, PC Week, 1 March 1988.

“J. Marshall Unger’s book is a scholarly exposure of the illusion that given sufficient computer resources, the handicaps presented by using the non-alphabetic (kanji) Japanese written language can be overcome.  .  .  .  Unger’s use of anecdotes adds to the pleasure of reading.  Many would be humorous if it were not for the expensive economic consequences.  His demonstration of the fallacy in expecting a result of ‘The Fifth Generation Project’ to include successfully making machines that non-professionals can use without training deserves an ‘A.'”  –Elliot J. Brebner, Mainichi Daily News, 28 February 1988.

The Japanese edition is of The Fifth Generation Fallacy is entitled Konpyûta shakai to kanji.

Other publications on East Asian writing systems, AI, and computers in English:

2013 Language Policy in Japan: the Challenge of Change, by Nanette Gottlieb.  Journal of Japanese Studies, vol. 39 no. 1 pp. 229–33.

2013 Zipf and Morphemes:  a Response to Sproat. Written Language & Literacy, vol. 16 no. 1 pp. 112–14.

2011 What Linguistic Units Do Chinese Characters Represent? Written Language & Literacy, vol. 14  no. 2 pp. 293–302.

2005 “Japan:  Writing System.”  Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics, 2nd ed., ed. Keith Brown, vol. 6 pp. 95–102.  Amsterdam:  Elsevier.

2005 Review of Multilingualism in China:  the Politics of Writing Reforms for Minority Languages 1949–2002, by Minglang Zhou.  Language vol. 81 no.3 pp. 761–65.

2004 Ideogram: Chinese Characters and the Myth of Disembodied Meaning.  Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press.

2002 “How the Ideographic Myth Misleads Historians:  An Example from the Occupation of Japan.”  Difficult Characters:  Interdisciplinary Studies of Chinese and Japanese Writing, ed. Mary Erbaugh, pp. 194–204.  Columbus, O.:  Foreign Language Publications.

2001 “Functional Digraphia in Japan as Revealed in Consumer Product Preferences.”  International Journal of the Sociology of Language no. 150 pp. 141–52.

2001 Review of The Japanese Mental Lexicon:  Psycholinguistic Studies of Kana and Kanji Processing, by Joseph F. Kess and Tadao Miyamoto.  Word vol. 52 no. 3 pp. 479–83.

2001 Review of Word-processing Technology in Japan: Kanji and the Keyboard, by Nanette Gottlieb. The Times Higher Education Supplement (London), 12 October.

2001 “Functional Digraphia in Japan as Revealed in Consumer Product Preferences.” International Journal of the Sociology of Language, no. 150 pp. 141–52.

2000 Review of Kokugo to iu shisō:  kindai Nihon no gengo ninshiki (National language thought:  language consciousness in modern Japan), by I Yonsuku.  Social Science Japan Journal vol. 3 no. 1 pp. 147–51.

1999 Review of The Book in Japan:  A Cultural History from the Beginnings to the Nineteenth Century, by Peter Kornicki. Journal of Asian Studies vol. 58 no. 1 pp. 204–5.

1998 Review of Asia’s Orthographic Dilemma, by Wm. C. Hannas. Journal of Japanese Studies vol.24 no. 1 pp. 197–201.

1998 Homophones and Homographs: Reflections on L’ambiguïté en japonais écrit, by Maurice Coyaud. Journal of the Association of Teachers of Japanese vol. 30 no. 2 pp. 55–63.

1998 Review of Language Contact in Japan:  A Socio-linguistic history, by Leo J. Loveday.  Anthropological Linguistics vol. 40 no. 2 pp. 346–48.

1997 Review of The World’s Writing Systems, edited by Peter McDaniel and William Bright. With John DeFrancis. Language in Society vol. 26 no. 3 pp. 436–39.

1996 “Taking Digraphia Seriously: Future Software for East Asia.” Journal of the Chinese Language Teachers Association, vol. 31 no. 3 pp. 45–55.

1994 Review of The World on Paper, by David R. Olson. The Times Higher Education Supplement (London), 2 December.

1994 Review of Understanding Japanese Information Processing, by Ken Lunde. Journal of the Association of Teachers of Japanese, vol. 28 no. 1 pp. 103–10.

1994 Rejoinder to Geoffrey Sampson, “Chinese Script and the Diversity of Writing Systems,” with John DeFrancis. Linguistics, vol. 32 no. 3 pp. 549–54.

1993 Rejoinder to Chad Hansen, “Chinese Ideographs and Western Ideas.” Journal of Asian Studies, vol. 52 no. 4 pp. 949–54.

1993 “Two Cultures Still: Lessons Learned Criticizing the Fifth Generation Project.” Asian and Pacific Quarterly, vol. 25 no. 2 pp. 18–27.

1991 Review of A History of Writing in Japan, by Christopher Seeley. Monumenta Nipponica, vol. 46 no. 3 pp. 381–84.

1991 Review of Language the Modern State, by Nanette Twine. Monumenta Nipponica, vol. 46 no. 4 pp. 548–50.

1991 “Minimum Specifications for Japanese and Chinese Alphanumeric Workstations.” Characters and Computers, ed. Victor H. Mair and Yongquan Liu, pp. 131–40. Amsterdam: IOS Press.

1990 “The Very Idea: The Notion of Ideogram in China and Japan.” Monumenta Nipponica, vol. 45 no. 4 pp. 392–411.

1990 “The National Research Council’s December 1989 Symposium on Japanese-English Machine Translation.” First International Japanese-English Translation Conference: Proceedings, pp. 53–58. Tokyo: Japan Association of Translators.

1989 “Language Engineering versus Machine Engineering: A Linguist’s View of the Character Input Problem.” Text Processing Chinese by Computer: Characters, Speech and Language, ed. Wesley A. Clark, pp. 113–23. Washington, DC: National Academy of Sciences.

1988 Rejoinder to Wm. C. Hannas, Review of The Fifth Generation FallacySino-Platonic Papers, no. 8 pp. 6–11.

1988 “Machine Translation in Japan: Where Are They Coming From? Where Are They Headed?” Languages at Crossroads: Proceedings of the 29th Annual Conference of the American Translators Association, ed. Deanna Lindberg Hammond, pp. 93–102. Medford, N.J.: Learned Information.

1986 Review of Neurolinguistic Aspects of the Japanese Writing System, by Michel Paradis, Hiroko Hagiwara, and Nancy Hildebrandt, and The Chinese Language, by John DeFrancis. Journal of the Association of Teachers of Japanese, vol. 20 no. 2 pp. 232–40.

1986 “Teaching Japanese on the PLATO Computer-Based Education System.” Getting America Ready for Japanese Science and Technology, ed. Ronald A. Morse and Richard J. Samuels, pp. 165–81. Washington, D.C.: Asia Program of the Wilson Center, Smithsonian Institution.

1986 “Japanese Research and Policy on Health Hazards of Video Display Terminals.” Office of Naval Research Far East Scientific Bulletin, vol. 11 no. 1 pp. 4–12.

1984 “Japanese Orthography in the Computer Age.” Visible Language, vol. 18 no. 3 pp. 238–53.

1983 “Chinese Input in Computer-Based Education (Abstract).” Proceedings of the International Conference on Chinese Information Processing [Beijing], vol. 1 pp. 332.

1983 “A Compressed Representation of Line-Drawn Chinese Characters.” Proceedings of the International Conference on Text Processing with a Large Character Set[Tokyo], pp. 352–53.

1983 “A Mnemonic Code for Sino-Japanese Characters (Kanji) Based Entirely on their Readings.” Computer Processing of Chinese and Oriental Languages, vol. 1 no. 2 pp. 135–44.

1983 “Real-time Han’gŭl Input on the PLATO Computer-Based Education System.” Korean Linguistics, vol. 3 pp. 145–58.

1983 “The Problem of Japanese Input.” Journal of the Association of Teachers of Japanese, vol. 18 no. 1 pp. 56–64.

1979 “Kanamajiribun Editing and the PLATO Computer-Based Education System.” Journal of the Association of Teachers of Japanese, vol. 14 no. 2 pp. 141–56.