Sunday, January 7, 2018

wota - Meaning in Japanese | ヲタ

In Japanese, word wota ヲタ is an abbreviation of wotaku ヲタク, and is frequently used to refer to things related to otaku オタク. Sometimes ota オタ is used the same way.

For example, wotagei ヲタ芸 or otagei オタ芸, literally "otaku performance," is a notorious type of dance performed by fans of idols (otaku) in support for their idols.
Wednesday, January 3, 2018

wotaku - Meaning in Japanese | ヲタク

So, this season there seems to be an anime called Wotaku ni Koi wa Muzukashii ヲタクに恋は難しい, a romcom between an otaku and a fujoshi, literally "for an otaku love is difficult." And, despite me saying the word otaku over and over, you can see that in Japanese the word is wotaku ヲタク, not otaku オタク. After all, what's the difference between otaku and wotaku? What does wotaku mean?

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Spaces in Japanese

One question people learning Japanese may have is: does Japanese have spaces between words like English? The answer is: no, not really, but sort of, yes.

Most of the time, Japanese does not use spaces between words. All words are written without any sort of explicit division between them. The only thing in common with English is that words aren't broken in the middle when a line ends; lines often end in a word and start with another word.

You may think this is insane because, after all, how would you be able to tell the words apart without spaces?! But in Japanese you can tell the words apart based solely on the alphabet used to write them (hiragana, katakana or kanji) and on certain word patterns you get used to after a while, so spaces aren't really necessary in the written language.

However, there are still cases where a space is put between words in Japanese, rare cases, yes, but they exist.

Telling Words Apart in Japanese

One thing beginners learning the Japanese language might find confusing and maybe even mysterious is how to tell the words apart in Japanese. After all, Japanese, unlike English, doesn't quite use spaces to separate words. So how do you know where a word starts and where it ends?

The trick is to rely on patterns, mostly patterns based on the alternating Japanese alphabets.
Saturday, December 30, 2017

Jouyou Kanji 常用漢字

Fun fact: there are over 50000 kanji characters! Literally over 9000!!!!11

Oh, that wasn't fun? You are learning Japanese? Okay, then, a better fun fact, then: you only need to know about 2000 kanji to read most Japanese stuff!

Alright, 2000 isn't very fun either, but it's better, okay?

Anyway, the jouyou kanji 常用漢字, also romanized as jōyō kanji, is a set of 2000-something kanji officially classified as "normal use," jouyou 常用. The purpose of this classification is to standardize the language. People learn these 2000 kanji in school and then most stuff should be written with these 2000 kanji. This way most kanji written in Japanese are kanji most people know to read.

Without the jouyou kanji, stuff would get written with weird kanji not everybody knows about, so it'd make language itself useless.
Friday, December 29, 2017

Katakana Looks Cool, Kanji: Serious, Hiragana: Chummy

Because of how Japanese works, some words can be written with any of the Japanese alphabets: they can be written with kanji, without kanji, with hiragana, or with katakana. And sometimes the reason why they're written with one instead of the other is a purely aesthetic choice.

This doesn't happen on whim, though. We're talking design here. Srsbsns. One script naturally looks different from the other. In a word:
Hiragana vs. katakana vs. kanji aesthetics and style. Comparing them to Kemono Friends, Ninja Slayer and Aoi Bungaku respectively.
Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Words Written With Katakana in Japanese

In Japanese, sometimes a word is written with katakana instead of kanji or hiragana. This may happen for a number of reasons.

First and foremost, if a word does not have kanji, or if you want to write a word without kanji for some reason, it's generally better to write it with katakana instead of writing it with hiragana..

This happens because hiragana is normally used to write the stuff between words, such as grammatical particles and okurigana, and not to write the words themselves. So using katakana makes more sense, as that way it's easier to tell the words apart.

Words Written With Hiragana in Japanese

In Japanese, sometimes a word is written with hiragana instead of kanji or katakana. This can happen for a couple of reasons.

First and foremost, if a word does not have kanji, or if you want to write a word without kanji for some reason, it's generally better to write the word with katakana instead.

This happens because hiragana is normally used to write the stuff between words, such as grammatical particles and okurigana, and not to write the words themselves. So using katakana makes more sense, as that way it's easier to tell the words apart.

However, sometimes a word is such that it looks like "the stuff between words," and not like a distinctly meaningful word itself. When this happens, it gets written with hiragana instead of katakana.

Words Written Without Kanji in Japanese

In Japanese, most words are written with kanji, but sometimes a word is written with kana instead of kanji, be it with hiragana or katakana. This can happen for a number of reasons.

First off, some words simply do not have kanji, and if there's no kanji for the word, it's only natural that it can't be written with kanji. This case, however, is rather rare, as most common words do have kanji in Japanese.

Second, we have extremely simple, extremely common words, such as mama まま, for example. Since they're so common and simple, writing them with kanji feels like an overkill that'd make every phrase much harder to hand write. So such words get written with hiragana instead.

Likewise, suffixes are often written without their kanji. For example, nai 無い, "nonexistent," has a kanji, but it's rarely used as a lone adjective. It's far more common as an auxiliary adjective, like in shinai しない, "to not do." So that gets written as shinai しない, without kanji, and nobody ever writes it as shinai し無い.

Words Written With Kanji in Japanese

Most Japanese words are written with kanji, or with a mix of kanji and kana, which might be okurigana, instead of solely with hiragana or katakana.

This is the norm. When there's a kanji for a word, that word normally gets written with that kanji, even thought it could be written with hiragana and katakana instead if one wanted to.

In some cases, a word that doesn't have kanji can get written with kanji anyway. This happens when people simply pretend that kanji exist for that word, turning the word into an "artificial reading," a gikun 儀訓. In this case, the kanji are chosen based on their meanings. If the kanji are chosen based on their readings instead, it's called an ateji 当て字.

Words That Don't Have Kanji in Japanese

In Japanese, most words are written with kanji, which might mislead you into thinking that all Japanese words can be written with kanji, and that there is a kanji for every word. This is not true. There are words in Japanese that simply do not have any kanji associated with them.

The most obvious case where this happens, for example, is with loaned words. When a word is loaned from Chinese, it may have kanji, because the kanji came from Chinese. But when a word is loaned from English, English doesn't have kanji, so the word doesn't get to have kanji in Japanese either.

Such words, loaned from the west, are called gairaigo 外来語, and they undergo a process called katakanization and are written with katakana instead. Because these words aren't associated with kanji but with katakana, they're sometimes called "katakana words," katakana-go カタカナ語.

Homonyms in Japanese - Homophones & Homographs

The Japanese language is full of homonyms, and if you're planning on learning Japanese, or at least understand what characters are saying in anime, then you got to know what homonyms are, and what are homophones and homographs.
Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Same Word, Different Kanji

Sometimes in Japanese, a single word is spelled with different kanji. This can happen for multiple reasons.

Primarily, those different kanji may have slightly different meanings, and in writing they can specify which is the meaning of the word. This happens when a word can be used in multiple different ways.

For example, the word hayai はやい means either "fast" or "early," but if you're fast you're probably getting there early, and if you're early it was probably because you were fast, so they mean almost the same thing most of the time.

In writing, different kanji specify the meaning of the word. If it's hayai 早い, it means "early," if it's hayai 速い, it means "fast." To be honest, I'm not sure if they're the same word or different words that are homophones, but that's how it works.

Same Kanji, Different Word

Sometimes, in Japanese, a single kanji may be used to write multiple, different words.

For example, 金 is the kanji for the word kane 金, "money," and kin 金, "gold." In this case it'd be called an homograph, since both words are written exactly the same. Note that, when multiple words are written with the same kanji, each word becomes one of the kanji's readings.

Another example: hosoi 細い, "thin," and komakai 細かい, "fine," "detailed." This isn't an homograph, since the hiragana at the end of the word changes. This kana, by the way, gets called okurigana, and is used precisely to let you tell apart multiple words written with the same kanji.

A more complex example: gaikoku 外国, "outside country," a "foreign country," and kokugai 国外, "country's outside," that is, "outside of the country." Here, we have different words written with the same, multiple kanji. But in one word the kanji order is reversed, and changing the order of the kanji changes the meaning of the word.

Kanji Backwards Spell Different Word - Semordnilap

Sometimes in Japanese two words are written with the same kanji, but one is spelled in one way, while the other is spelled backwards. That is, the order of the kanji is reversed.

This is something to watch out for if you're trying to guess the meaning of words from their kanji, because even though the meaning of the kanji remain the same, and the reading may vary a bit, the last kanji generally represents a noun morpheme, while the preceding would act as modifiers.

If the order changes, which kanji are modifiers change too, and as a result the meaning of the whole word changes.

For example: gaijin 外人 is written with the kanji for the word "outside," soto 外, and "person," hito 人. So literally an "outside person," a "foreigner."

However, when you write gaijin backwards you get jingai 人外, which has "person" modifying "outside," meaning it's something "outside of people." Indeed, the word jingai can be used to refer to non-human stuff, like monsters, monster girls, etc. which are outside of what you'd call "people."

jingai vs. gaijin - difference in meanings: 人外, "foreigners," like Americans; 外人, "non-humans," like monster girls

But that's just in anime-land. Normally, jingai would refer to a person who acts inhumanly, or to their inhuman acts, or refer to a place "outside of people['s realm]," that is, a place nobody lives on, an uninhabited place.

Some more examples: