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I just happened across an Asahi Shinbun article with a headline that reads:
日本{にほん}の子{こ}どもの幸福度{こうふくど}は6位{い} 豊{ゆた}かさの一方{いっぽう}、深刻{しんこく}な貧困{ひんこん}

(-) Compacting articles as much as possible is a standard practice in every newspaper in the world. Yet, the 3 character long "子ども" was written instead of the 2 character long "子供".

(-) My understanding is that "ども" in "子供" is not 送り仮名{おくりがな}。 If somehow it is, I hope someone can elaborate? "送り仮名" does not happen after tangible nouns, right?

The writer of that headline absolutely has a reason for writing "子ども", but I cannot imagine what it is. Conserving space in a newspaper is paramount, and "子供" looks good to me.

thank you.

share|improve this question
子ども is preferred over 子供 for the same reason as 障がい者 is preferred over 障害者. – user1016 Dec 29 '13 at 4:07
差別表現らしいです。全くおかしな話だが。。 – Ash Dec 29 '13 at 5:24
Etymologically, it was 子ども, the noun 子{こ} meaning child and the collectivizing suffix 〜ども. Now that we have such interesting usages such as 子供たち, it might not be relevant... I do see people spelling 友達 as 友だち though, etymologically relating it to the 〜たち suffix. Or is it because 達 is not very common? – user54609 Dec 29 '13 at 21:02
達 is pretty common. – snailplane Dec 31 '13 at 4:35
up vote 11 down vote accepted

The reason is the negativity associated with the plural suffix 供, which tends to be used in a derogatory way as in [野郎供]{やろうども}, [雑魚供]{ざこども}, etc. "Mouths to feed" is what 子供 could sound/look like and unfortunately that is what the word used to often imply because Japan has not always been a wealthy nation like it is now.

In schools (Japanese schools. of course) I myself never officially learned to write こども or 子ども entirely in kanji -- never. I had long been wondering why Japanese-learners write it in kanji. However, in June of 2013, our Ministry of Education changed its mind and announced that it would use 子供 in all of its official documents.


I myself will probably keep writing it as こども or 子ども because old habits die hard, but since last June, we have every reason to write it as 子供. Newspapers can go either way because they are not official documents issued by the government.

share|improve this answer
"Ministry of Education changed its mind and announced that..." >>>ええっ!知らざった! – user1016 Dec 29 '13 at 6:02
Speaking as a learner, no one ever taught this to me, and I found this very interesting! I always wondered why my 漢和辞典 used 子ども instead of 子供. I've definitely seen 子供 used by native speakers, though. Searching through my notes, I found lots of examples, like this sentence from プラチナデータ. – snailplane Dec 29 '13 at 12:08
知らざった! Interesting word choice...conjugating Classical 知らず -> 連用形 知らざり -> modern past 知らざった? Is such usage common? I've never seen it... – user54609 Dec 29 '13 at 21:00
@user54609 Sorry I think it's (Internet?) slang... I wanted to sound funny hehehe – user1016 Dec 30 '13 at 14:59
Interesting slang anyways...revival of old forms. Well, I guess Japanese does things like that, such as changing the already 音便-ified "〜う" back to "〜く" in adjectives (寒く -> 寒う -> 寒く etc). – user54609 Dec 30 '13 at 15:48

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