Monday, December 11, 2017


Katakanization, katakana-ization, and sometimes kana-ization, is the process of writing a non-Japanese with a Japanese alphabet, a kana alphabet, mainly the katakana alphabet.

It's what turns, for example, the word "blog," written with the Latin alphabet, into burogu ブログ, written with katakana.

Examples of katakanization of words game, level, pet, class and video, geemu, reberu, petto, kurasu, bideo, ゲーム, レベル, ペット, クラス, ビデオ

Katakanization is used on western loan-words, gairaigo 外来語, wasei-eigo 和製英語, and western names, be it names of real people or names of things like Halloween and Christmas. Because such words are normally katakanized, they're sometimes called katakana-go カタカナ語, "katakana words."

Although katakanization may happen with any western word, it often happens with English, so, in Japanese, katakanized words are called katakana eigo カタカナ英語, "katakana English."
Thursday, December 7, 2017

Katakana-go カタカナ語

In Japanese, katakana-go カタカナ語 (also katakanago), and sometimes katakana kotoba カタカナ言葉, "katakana words," refers to loan-words coming from English and the west, that is, the gairaigo 外来語, which are noticeably written with katakana instead of kanji or hiragana, as they go through katakanization.

Despite katakana-go meaning literally "katakana words" or "katakana language," not all words written with katakana are called katakana-go. Again: it refers only to loan-words. For example, katakana カタカナ is not katakana-go, but arufabetto アルファベット is.
Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Eisei-Wago 英製和語

If an wasei-eigo 和製英語 is an English word Made in Japan™, an eisei-wago 英製和語 must be a Japanese word made in England AMERICA.

I mean, literally. Just look at the kanji: eisei 英製, "English-made," wago 和語, "Japanese word."

An eisei-wago is a Japanese word used by English speakers with a meaning that's not the same meaning it had originally in Japanese of Japan. That is, even though it's a Japanese word, a native Japanese speaker will find its meaning strange, because it doesn't mean the same thing he's used to it meaning.

Wasei-Eigo 和製英語

A wasei-eigo 和製英語 is a special type of loan-word. It is, as its kanji literally mean, a Japanese (wa 和) made (sei 製) English (ei 英) word (go 語). A Japanese-made English word. Or, in other words, an abomination English word that was invented in Japan.

Now you might be asking: how is this even possible? Japan doesn't really speak English, do they? They speak Japanese! According to the flags on language switchers, English is an American language, and sometimes a British language. English isn't official of Japan!

That's true. Japan doesn't speak English. But they do speak Engrish. Clearly just using a lot of English-made gairaigo 外来語 wasn't enough for them, so they took the matters into their own hands, seized the means of production, and started fabricating English... in Japan.

After all, why import English words if you can make them domestically?

Gairaigo 外来語

In Japanese, a gairaigo 外来語 is a type of loan-word. Not all words loaned to Japanese are called gairaigo. In particular, Chinese loan-words are not gairaigo. One of its synonyms, yougo 洋語, would imply it refers only to "western words," that is, words from outside of Asia.

The kanji of gairaigo 外来語 are literally "outside-coming word," the very definition of loan-word. But it's better to think of it like the term gaijin 外人, that is, it doesn't apply to China and Korea for some reason.

Because normally Japanese is written vertically, and the gairaigo usually come from languages written horizontally, the term yokomoji 横文字, literally "horizontal letters," is also synonymous with the foreign words.


If loaning words was like loaning money the Japanese language would be bankrupt. It loans, WAYYYYYYYYYYYyyyyyyy too many words. Too many. Way more many than English and perhaps any other language in the world.

Japanese loans so many words it even has multiple ways to classify the words it loans. There are the gairaigo 外来語, or yougo 洋語, which are western loan-words. There are the wasei-eigo 和製英語, which are English words with an overwritten meaning. There are kango 漢語, which are loaned from Chinese. And the list probably goes on and on and on.

By the way, a Japanese word loaned to English is called a gaikougo 外行語. And the opposite of a wasei-eigo would be eisei-wago 英製和語.
Monday, December 4, 2017

Dakuten 濁点 / Tenten

The dakuten 濁点, sometimes called tenten てんてん, chonchon ちょんちょん, or dakuonpu 濁音符, are diacritics, accents used on kana to represent a "voice sound," a dakuon 濁音. They look like two small diagonal marks ゛ on the top right of the kana. For example: ga が is ka か with dakuten.

The dakuten are applied to the consonants to turn them into voice consonants. It's used to turn K-S-T-H into G-Z-D-B. The diacritic that turns H into P, and looks like a circle ゜, is called handakuten 半濁点, literally "half" dakuten.

Dakuten and handakuten chart

Compound Kana - ひゃ, しょ, ちゅ

Compound kana is a term that refers to when a normal-sized kana is followed by small kana in writing, creating a syllable of one single mora that's represented by multiple kana. For example kya きゃ.

A compound kana represents a diphthong (syllable with two vowels), and in Japanese it's called youon 拗音, "distorted sound."

Normally, a compound kana starts with a normal-sized kana ending in i, such as ki, ni, chi, shi きにちし, followed by a small ya, yu or yo ゃゅょ. Such compound kana are found in native Japanese words.

Chart with examples of most common compound kana in Japanese

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Okurigana 送り仮名

The okurigana 送り仮名 are the kana written after a kanji (below or at its right, depending on the writing direction) to disambiguate which word it represents. For example: komakaiかい and hosoi, "small" and "thin," are written with the same kanji, but its reading and meaning changes depending on the okurigana.

A word written only with kana never has okurigana, by definition, as okurigana only refers to kana after kanji (no kanji, no okurigana). Also, a suffix, auxiliary verb, or second word written with kana after a word written with kanji is not an okurigana. (example: suru is not an okurigana, despite frequently coming after kanji)

Okurigana examples

Generally, the okurigana is found in inflections of adjectives and verbs, but it appears in other types of words too. It's almost exclusively used with kun'yomi words, but it's also used with on'yomi words, too, although rarely. And in modern Japanese the okurigana is written with hiragana, although in the past katakana was used too.

Small Kana - ゃゅょぁぃぅぇぉっ

The "small" kana, often called chiisai kana 小さいかな, are smaller versions of normal-sized kana, for example: aa あぁ. Another name for the small kana would be sutegana 捨て仮名, although that term may sometimes refer to the okurigana 送り仮名 instead.

The small kana aren't simply written smaller as an stylistic choice, they have purpose and function in the Japanese language, and you don't even need to change the font size to type them.

Small Kana & What They Often Represent - Small ya, yu, yo: compound kana. Small a, i, e, o: foreign words. Small tsu: double consonants. Small ka, ke: month counter.
Saturday, December 2, 2017

On'yomi 音読み

An on'yomi 訓読み, also transliterated as onyomi, and sometimes written in dictionaries as just on 音, refers to the reading of a kanji 漢字 based on its original Chinese reading from the time the kanji were imported from China into Japan.

However, note that, since it's been quite some time since it happened, the current, modern Chinese pronunciation of the kanji is not the same as the Japanese pronunciation of the on 音 readings.

The counterpart of on'yomi is the kun'yomi 訓読み. Their differences were explained in kun'yomi vs. on'yomi.

On'yomi of the kanji of the Japanese word ichinin 一人

Kun'yomi 訓読み

A kun'yomi 訓読み, also transliterated as kunyomi, and sometimes written in dictionaries as just kun 訓, refers to a reading of a kanji 漢字 based on a Japanese word that existed before the kanji were imported into Japan from China.

Its counterpart is the on'yomi 音読み. Their differences were explained in kun'yomi vs. on'yomi.

Kun'yomi of the kanji of the Japanese word hitori 一人

Kanji 漢字

The kanji 漢字 is one of the three Japanese "alphabets". Unlike the kana かな, the hiragana ひらがな and the katakana カタカナ, the kanji isn't actually a syllabic alphabet, but a collection of logograms, representing words, and ideograms, representing ideas and meanings.

Also unlike the kana, the way a kanji character is read may vary depending on the word. A single kanji character can have one reading, or it can have multiple. And the readings can even be classified as kun'yomi 訓読み readings or on'yomi 音読み readings.

The meaning of kanji and the reading of the kanji in kanji 漢字

Because of this, kanji is sometimes accompanied by furigana 振り仮名, which tells the proper reading of a kanji in a given word.

Katakana カタカナ

The katakana カタカナ is one of the three Japanese "alphabets". It's counterpart of the hiragana ひらがな. Both katakana and hiragana are sometimes referred to as kana かな.

Unlike the kanji 漢字, whose readings may vary depending on the word, the way a kana such as katakana is read always stay the same.

The katakana is normally used to write onomatopoeic words, to write loan-words, and to write foreign (non-Japanese) names. Sometimes it's used to write the readings of kanji in online dictionaries.