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.
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:

QK - Meaning in Japanese

In Japanese, the letters QK mean a "pause" or "break" to rest. A "recess." It comes from the Japanese word kyuukei 休憩, which, as you'd expect, mean exactly those same things.

The reason why QK in Japanese is kyuukei is that the names of the letters Q and K in English are "cue" and "kay." When "cue" and "kay" are katakanized, they become kyuu キュー and kei ケイ. So the letters are read as kyuu Q, kei K, kyuukei QK.

This can also be seen in the word ecchi エッチ, which is sometimes represented by the letter H in Japanese.

H - Meaning in Japanese

In Japanese, the letter H stands for the word ecchi エッチ, and it means something along the lines of "sex," "sexy," "sexual," or even a bit "sexually perverted."

なに言ってるのよ こんなHな服着せるつもり!?スカートは超短いし!! quote from manga "He is My Master," Kore ga Watashi no Goshujin-sama これが私の御主人様 (Chapter 1)
Manga: "He is My Master," Kore ga Watashi no Goshujin-sama これが私の御主人様 (Chapter 1)
  • Context: a girl doesn't like her uniform.
  • nani itteru no yo
    What are [you] saying?!
  • konna ecchi na fuku wo
    kiseru tsumori!?

    [You] intend to make [us] wear such perverted clothing!?
  • senaka wa konna ni deteru shi!
    The back is getting out this much!
    • It's this much exposed!
  • sukaato wa chou mijikai shi!!
    The skirt is super short!!

So the name of the manga and anime B-gata H-kei B型H系, for example, would mean "[blood] type B, perverted (ecchi) type [of character]." (in this case, B-gata refers to a superstition about personality, where people with type B blood are creative and cheerful, but irresponsible and impatient)

As for why H means ecchi, it's because the name of the letter H in English is "aitch." And when "aitch" is katakanized, it becomes ecchi.

It's originally the reverse: the word ecchi is the one that comes from the letter H. And it comes from the letter H because it's the first letter in the romaji of the word hentai 変態, which's used to call someone a "pervert," among other things.

Guessing The Meanings of Words from Kanji

In Japanese, it's possible to guess the meaning of a word by the kanji that compose that word. This is because, although the readings of the kanji may vary according to the morpheme it represents, the meaning of the kanji remains somewhat constant across different words.

This means if you have a kanji for a word, and kanji for another word, a word that combines both kanji is sort of a mix of both of those words.
Diagram showing the meanings of kanji in various words.

Kanji For Words

Sometimes, a kanji is said to be the kanji for a given word if that word can be written with that kanji alone, or that kanji plus okurigana. That is, the meaning of the kanji match the meaning of the word, and so the word became one of the kanji's readings.

This is useful when dealing with kanji representing morphemes in words instead of whole words.

For example, danshi 男子, "boy," is written with the kanji for the words otoko 男, "man," and ko 子, "child." So "boy" is a word with two morphemes: dan-shi, and those morphemes are written with the same kanji as the words otoko and ko.

The word "volcano" in Japanese, kazan 火山, is written with the kanji for the words "fire," hi 火, and "mountain," yama 山

An example with okurigana: tousou 逃走, "to run away," is written with the kanji for the verbs nigeru 逃げる, "to escape," and hashiru 走る, "to run."

Another utility of this is that knowing the word associated with the kanji can help you guess the meaning of words by their kanji when multiple kanji are mixed together. For example: a word that mixes onna 女, "woman," and "child" together, can be guessed to mean "girl," joshi 女子.

Kanji Meanings

In Japanese, the kanji characters may have meanings associated with them.

Knowing the meaning of a kanji is useful because you can guess the meaning of a word from its kanji if you know their meanings. The easiest way to know a kanji's meaning is to find a word the kanji is for, that is, a word that's written with that kanji alone and no other kanji..

Not all kanji have meanings. Some kanji represent words, and they're called logographs. Some kanji represent ideas, and they're called ideographs. But there are also kanji which are phonetic, and other stuff too. So they don't all have meanings. Only some of them do.

For those that do, the meaning may be hinted in the kanji's radical. For example, kin 金, "gold," gin 銀, "silver," and dou 銅, "bronze," all have a 金 radical.

The meaning of a kanji is strongly related to the meaning of the morphemes written with said kanji. Since the readings of a kanji come from the morphemes, the meanings and readings of a kanji end up being related in a way or another.

Sometimes, a kanji's meaning may be completely disregarded and only its reading considered. For example, in ateji 当て字 words.
Sunday, December 24, 2017

Four Seasons in Japanese

The names of the four seasons in Japanese are natsu, haru, fuyu and aki.
  • natsu
  • haru
  • fuyu
  • aki

A single "season" is called a kisetsu 季節. And the word for the "four seasons" in Japanese is the Japanese number "four" followed by the kanji for "season," see: shiki 四季.

Sometimes, shunkashuutou 春夏秋冬 can be used to refer to the four seasons, or to each or every one of them. This word would be a "four-character idiom," yojijukugo 四字熟語.

ateji 当て字

In Japanese, ateji 当て字, "matching characters," are kanji 漢字 used to spell a word that wasn't originally written with those kanji, including words that even don't have kanji to begin with.

They're called ateji because the reading of the kanji, or the meaning of the kanji, matches the word.

For example, gairaigo 外来語 like English loan-words don't have kanji and are normally spelled with katakana. So a word like "Canada" is katakanized as Kanada カナダ.

However, given it's the name of a nation, you may want it to look serious, and kanji looks more serious than katakana. So an ateji may be used: kanada 加奈陀. These kanji were "matched" against the pronunciation of the word: ka 加, na 奈, da 陀.

an ateji, mechakucha 滅茶苦茶

yojijukugo 四字熟語

In Japanese, a yojijukugo 四字熟語 is literally a "four-character idiom," that is, an idiom written with exactly four kanji. This word is sometimes misread as shijijukugo, because the Japanese number "four" can be read as shi or yon.

An example of four character idiom, yojijukugo 四字熟語.
Friday, December 22, 2017

Kanji Read Different Ways

In Japanese, the kanji have multiple readings, which means a single kanji may be read in different ways depending on the word. For example, youna 様な and samazama 様様, This can be a bit confusing for beginners since it works in a way totally alien for us mere Latin alphabet users.

How to read the kanji 日 in the words hi 日, nichijou 日常, senjitsu 先日, nikki日記, tanjoubi 誕生日, seinengappi 生年月日, futsuka 二日  and kyou 今日

Kanji Readings

The Japanese characters known as kanji, unlike our alphabet characters, and even unlike the Japanese characters known as kana, have multiple, different readings.

This means that a single kanji can be read in different ways.

For example, the verb "to read" in Japanese is yomu 読む. In this word, the kanji is read as yo 読. But in another word, "reader," dokusha 読者, the same kanji is read as doku 読.

So a single kanji may not have a single "reading," yomi 読み, but multiple. And these multiple readings can even be classified as kun'yomi 訓読み and on'yomi 音読み depending on their origin, although they also have other differences, like on'yomi being more associated with morphemes instead of words.

Most words use the standard readings associated with their kanji, but sometimes they aren't pronounced exactly the same. This mostly happens because of rendaku 連濁 and sokuonbin 促音便.

Furthermore, there are non-standard readings called gikun 義訓, and readings which aren't associated to a single kanji but a compound, the jukujikun 熟字訓.

Given this myriad of readings a kanji may have, the Japanese writing system has features such as furigana and okurigana which can be used to tell how to correctly read the kanji in a word. Also, in rare cases, the radical of a kanji may hint how it's read.
Wednesday, December 20, 2017

gikun 義訓

In Japanese, a gikun 義訓 is a special type of kun'yomi kanji reading, literally an "artificial kun [reading]."

It happens when a word is written with a given kanji because of the kanji's meaning, that is, originally the word would be written with other kanji, or without kanji, but it was written with those kanji instead because of their meanings, effectively giving the kanji an unusual (artificial) reading.

In manga, gikun is often used to write a different word in the furigana, specially an English word in the furigana.

Example of gikun reading from manga Made in Abyss メイドインアビス. The word oobaado オーバード, "aubade," being used as furigana for naraku no shihou 奈落の至宝, "precious treasure of the abyss."

jukujikun 熟字訓

In Japanese, a jukujikun 熟字訓 is a special type of kun'yomi kanji reading, literally a "kanji compound kun [reading]."

It mostly happens when a single morpheme is written with multiple kanji instead of one. For example:
  • hito
    Kun'yomi, one morpheme, one kanji.
  • jinsei 人生
    Life [of a person].
    On'yomi, two morphemes, two kanji.
  • otona 大人
    Jukujikun, one morpheme, two kanji.

The consequence of a jukujikun reading is that it's impossible divide the reading of the word in two. For example, you can divide jinsei 人生, which has two morphemes, into jinsei 生. But you can't divide otona into otona 人 or otona 人.
Tuesday, December 19, 2017

sokuonbin 促音便

In Japanese, sokuonbin 促音便 is a change in pronunciation that adds a sokuon 促音, a "geminate consonant," also called a "double consonant," represented by the small tsu or literally doubling the consonant in romaji, at the boundary of two morphemes.

It's why gakusei 学生, "student," and koukou 高校, "high school," combine not into gaku-kou がくこう, as you would expect, but into gakkouこう (学校), "school," changing the ku く of the first morpheme into the small tsu っ.

Other examples include: ippatsu 一発 (ichi + hatsu), ikkagetsu 一ヶ月 (ichi + kagetsu), kekkou 結構 (ketsu + kou), mikka 三日 (mitsu + ka), nikki 日記 (nichi + ki), and so on.

Examples of sokuonbin: gaku + kou = gakkou, nichi + ki = nikki, ichi + hatsu = ippatsu, totsu + ha = toppa.


In morphosyntax, a morpheme is the smallest part of a language that has any meaning. Normally, one would think that would be a word, however, some words are made out of multiple morphemes, which means a morpheme can be smaller than a single word.

One example in English is the suffix "-ian" in the words Italian, Canadian, Martian, and so on. The words that share this "-ian" morpheme share its meaning, however, "-ian" alone doesn't mean anything: it isn't a word by itself, it's a morpheme.

Note: all words are composed of morphemes. Even "cat" contains one morpheme: "cat." So there are morphemes that can be used as words, also called "free morphemes," and morphemes that are always used as affixes, also called "bound morphemes."

Examples of morphemes in Japanese
Friday, December 15, 2017

Different Romaji, Same Word

Every now and then you see a single same word with multiple, different romaji. Specially containing letters with macrons, like āēīōūn̄.

For example, arigato, arigatō and arigatou. Or kohai, kōhai, and kouhai. Or senpai and sempai. Or on'yomi and onyomi. Or "monster" being monsutaa, monsutā or left as literally monster in romaji.

After all, what's the correct romaji for these words? And why does this even happen?

Example list of Japanese words with multiple, different romaji, such as arigatou, sensei, kouhai, senpai, oniisan, oneesan, okaasan, otousan, imouto, otouto, doujin, and sen'yuu

Monday, December 11, 2017

Romaji Systems - Hepburn, Nihon, Kunrei, JSL & Waapuro

So you've learned what romaji is: the transliteration of Japanese words to the Latin alphabet. Good. But why is the romanization done in a way and not in another? Who decided the romaji in the romaji chart? Who chose which letters match which kana? And why?

The answer is: various people. And they did it in multiple ways, for different purposes. That's right, romaji isn't as simple as you thought. There are different system of romaji, or "romaji styles," roomaji-shiki ローマ字式.

The systems of romaji Hepburn Traditional and Modified, Nihon-Shiki, Kunrei-Shiki, and JSL, and examples of their differences

This article doesn't explain in detail the rules of each system. It just attempts to highlight how one romaji system is different from another.


Katakanization, katakana-ization, and sometimes kana-ization, is the process of writing a non-Japanese word with a Japanese alphabet, or rather, a kana syllabary, specially the katakana syllabary.

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

In Japanese, 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.

Loan-Words in Japanese

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


In writing, a diacritic is a mark added to a letter that means it's pronounced differently from normal, like the ticks in the e's of résumé.

In Japanese, there are two diacritics, the dakuten 濁点 and the handakuten 半濁点. They're added to the kana 仮名, the hiragana and katakana, to turn "unvoiced sounds," seion 清音, into "voiced sounds," dakuon 濁音, or "semi-voiced sounds," handakuon 半濁音.

For example: unvoiced, ka-sa-ha-ta かさはた, voiced, ga-za-ba-da がざばだ, and semi-voiced, pa ぱ.

handakuten 半濁点, ゜

In Japanese, the ゜ diacritic, called handakuten 半濁点, literally half dakuten 濁点, is used to create "semi-voiced sounds," handakuon 半濁音, which are the sounds pa-pi-pu-pe-po ぱぴぷぺぽ.

It's also called handakuonfu 半濁音符, or maru 丸, "circle," because it looks like a circle. .

dakuten 濁点, ゛

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

In Japanese, 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

In Japanese, on'yomi 音読み, 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

In Japanese, 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 are 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, that even allow you to guess the meaning of a word from its kanji.

Also unlike the kana, the way a kanji character is read may vary depending on the word. A single kanji character may have multiple readings, which can be classified into kun'yomi 訓読み and on'yomi 音読み readings.

Kanji diagram showing furigana reading and meaning: "Chinese characters."

Sometimes kanji are accompanied by furigana 振り仮名 which tells the correct reading. Certain words contain okurigana 送り仮名 to help disambiguate the proper reading.

katakana カタカナ

The katakana 片仮名 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.

hiragana ひらがな

The hiragana 平仮名 is one of the three Japanese "alphabets". It's counterpart of the katakana カタカナ. Both hiragana and katakana 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 hiragana is read always stay the same.

The hiragana is normally used to write the Japanese particles, to write the furigana 振り仮名, to write the okurigana 送り仮名, and to write some simple, common words that aren't written with kanji.

kana 仮名

In Japanese, the kana 仮名 are the hiragana ひらがな and the katakana カタカナ syllabaries, or the characters (letters) that compose them. The kana, together with the kanji 漢字, would form the entirety of the Japanese alphabet.

Unlike kanji characters, which can be read differently depending on the word, the kana characters are always read the same way (except for when はへを are pronounced wa, e and o). Because of this, the kana are normally used to explain how a kanji is supposed to be read.

A way this is done is through the furigana 振り仮名, which is written beside the kanji, and another is the okurigana 送り仮名, which is written after to distinguish between multiple standard readings.

Besides that, certain diacritics called dakuten 濁点 can change the pronunciation of a kana. For example: ka か to ga が.

For reference, a romaji chart:

The romaji chart

Japanese Pronouns - I, You, He, She, They, My, This, That

For reference, the pronouns of the Japanese language, and the posts which talked about them.
Friday, December 1, 2017


おk means "ok" in Japanese, ok?

It's read oke おけ or ookee おーけー, ok?

It`s like up うp, ok?

何言ってるか全然わからない ドラゴン語でおk・・・
Manga: Kobayashi-san Chi no Maid Dragon 小林さんちのメイドラゴン (Chapter 4)
  • Context: a dragon maid doesn't understand a guy.
  • nani itteru ka
    zenzen wakaranai

    [I] have no idea what [he] is saying.
  • doragon shauto de ookee...
    With dragon shout it's OK.
    (can you say that again in dragon language?)
    • Here, shauto シャウト is a gikun for go 語, "language."
    • This is a reference to a meme.
    • nihongo de ok
      With Japanese language, it's ok.
    • Which normally would be used if someone is speaking English or Greek or something, and a Japanese native that doesn't understand those languages would rather have them speak in Japanese.
    • From there, the meme is used when someone is saying stuff that you can't understand, full of jargon, so it sounds like a different language to you.

うp - Meaning in Japanese

On the internet, in Japanese forums and websites, sometimes you might encounter the following strange word: うp (or うp), which mixes Japanese the Latin alphabet together.

うp example usage in a forum board from the anime Inuyashiki いぬやしき

Now, if you're like me, a complete idiot unable to put 2 and 2 together, you might be wondering: but what does うp mean?! Oh noes, my nihongo skillz aren't l33t enough to decipher the cultural intricacies of Japanese internet-speak! What do! *Googles*

Thursday, November 30, 2017

ww, wwww, wwwww - Internet Slang

Sometimes in anime there's a scene with a computer or laptop and we get to see the beauty that are internet forums in Japan: a bunch of anonymous trolls trolling non-stop. And then, of course, there are the comments, which sometimes end up in a very peculiar way: with a bunch of w's.

What does the w mean in Japanese? What about two w's? ww? Three?! www? Is it World, Wide and Web???

ww in Japanese internet comments in the anime Saint Oniisan and Inuyashiki

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Japanese Christmas Words

Since it's almost Christmas, I figured I should make a list of Japanese words related to the holidays, including some assorted vocabulary and phrases, too.

Anime Jesus Christ in Christmas, his birthday, eating a Christmas cake as a birthday cake, from the anime movie Saint Oniisan  聖☆おにいさん
Saturday, November 25, 2017

chuuni 中二

In English, chuuni is an abbreviation of chuunibyou 中二病, "middle-school second-year syndrome," generally referring to someone acts and talks like they live in a fantasy game or anime world, with magic, evil organizations, and stuff like that.

In Japanese, chuuni 中二 is also an abbreviation of the school year chuugaku ninen 中学二年, "middle-school, second-year."

Dark Flame Master, also known as Togashi Yuuta 富樫勇太, example of chuunibyou 中二病.
Anime: Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! 中二病でも恋がしたい! (Episode 1)

chuunibyou 中二病

In Japanese, chuunibyou 中二病, "middle school second-year syndrome," generally refers to thinking, acting, or talking like you live in a fantasy game, manga or anime world, which is extremely embarrassing and you'll regret doing that in front of others later in your life.

In English, it's normally abbreviated to chuuni.

Dark Flame Master, also known as Togashi Yuuta 富樫勇太, example of chuunibyou 中二病.
Character: Dark Flame Master
Anime: Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! 中二病でも恋がしたい! (Episode 1)
Thursday, November 23, 2017

小1, 中2, 高3, 大4 - Abbreviated School Years

In manga and anime, sometimes when characters are introduced by a panel with some text, there's a certain kanji followed by a number that doesn't make much sense. Such kanji are 小, 中, 高 and 大, and the numbers often range from 1 to 3. But what does it mean?!

JK, JC, JS, JD, DK - Meaning in Japanese

In Japanese, JK means Joshi Kousei 女子高生, "high school girl," or it can mean JouKou 常考, which translates to "obviously." In both cases, JK is a slang.

学生, Gakusei & Words for "Student" - Vocabulary

In anime set in school it's normal to hear a bunch of words containing sei 生 that mean "student, " be it gakusei, shougakusei, chuugakusei, koukousei, seito, ichinensei, tenkousei, rettousei, danshikousei, joshikousei, and so on. But what's the meaning of these words? And the differences between them?