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:

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."

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
    Summer.
  • haru
    Spring.
  • fuyu
    Winter.
  • aki
    Autumn.

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, the ateji 当て字, literally "matching characters," are kanji characters matched against a word in a way or another, often in order to write with kanji a word that isn't written with kanji.

Generally, ateji words use the kanji readings to phonetically match them to syllables of the word. For example, "Canada," a loaned word, a gairaigo, is katakanized into kanada カナダ, so it's supposed to be written with katakana. However, it may be also written as kanada 加奈陀, with ateji kanji, because these kanji may be read kanada 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.

Example of yojijukugo 四字熟語, isseki nichou 一石二鳥, "killing two birds with one stone" in Japanese.
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

How to Read Kanji

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.

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
    Person
    Kun'yomi, one morpheme, one kanji.
  • jinsei 人生
    Life [of a person].
    On'yomi, two morphemes, two kanji.
  • otona 大人
    Adult.
    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

Why Gakkou Not Gakukou? - Sokuonbin 促音便

Perhaps the word thing you can come across learning kanji is that "school" is gakkou 学校, "student" is gakusei 学生, and "high-school" is koukou 高校. At first glance, there's nothing wrong with this. Until you notice the reading of the kanji varies.

After all, why is gakkou not gakukou? Why is ippatsu 一発 not ichihatsu? Why is ikkagetsu一ヶ月 not ichikagetsu? Why is kekkou 結構 not ketsukou? Why is masshiro 真っ白 not mashiro? Why is mikka 三日 not mitsuka? Why is otte 追っ手 not ote? Why is nikki 日記 not niki? What's up all these words?!

Examples of sokuonbin 促音便, gakukou becoming gakkou 学校, hitsusatsu becoming hissatsu 必殺, nichiki becoming nikki 日記, ichihatsu becoming ippatsu 一発 and totsuha becoming toppa 突破.

Morphemes in Japanese

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, meaning a morpheme is smaller than a word, and when a morpheme isn't a word by itself, it can't be used alone, only as part of a whole word.

In Japanese, the idea of morphemes are closely related to the kanji. This is because kanji have meanings, they represent an idea, and compose words made out of one or more kanji.

Usually, the last morpheme in a word is a noun morpheme, while the first morphemes are modifiers for that noun morpheme. Knowing this can help you guess the meaning of a word by its kanji, since the kanji often represent the morphemes.

In some cases, a kanji represents whole a word instead of just a partial idea, and they're said to be the kanji for that word. Since some words are made out of multiple morphemes, sometimes a kanji represents multiple morphemes too. There are also cases where a single morpheme is written with multiple kanji, like in jukujikun.

Like other languages, suffixes, prefixes, etc. in Japanese are also considered to be morphemes, even though a lot of those would be written without kanji, but with hiragana.

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. For example, arigato, arigatō and arigatou. Or kohai, kōhai, and kouhai. Or senpai and sempai. Or on'yomi and onyomi. Or even "cake" turning into keeki, kēki and keki ケーキ. After all, what's the correct romaji for these words? 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

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."
Friday, December 8, 2017

Romaji Chart

For reference, a basic chart containing the romaji of hiragana and katakana.

The romaji chart


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.

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

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.

Hiragana ひらがな

The hiragana ひらがな 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 かな

A kana かな (or 仮名) is a way to refer to either the hiragana ひらがな or 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.

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 - Meaning in Japanese

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?

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

w's in Japanese Text - Kusa Slang - ww, www, wwww

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

Chuunibyou 中二病

What's a chuuni...? A miserable pile of secrets!!! There are people out there who are chuuni, and because such people exist, there are characters in anime who are also chuuni just like real people. But what does chuuni mean? And what does chuuni mean in Japanese? And what's the difference between chuuni an chuunibyou?!
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, sometimes the letters JK, pronounced jeikei ジェイケイ, show up in the middle of phrases that are otherwise mostly Japanese. What are these two Latin letters doing there? What does JK mean?

Gakusei 学生 + Student Words

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?

School Years in Japanese

For reference, a list Japanese school years, grades, and the ages characters attend school in anime. Including terms like shougakkou ichinen 小学校一年,.chuugakkou sannen 中学校三年, koukou ichinen 高校一年 and so on.

Gakkou + School Words | 学校

Most anime is in a school, and everybody knows "school" in Japanese is a gakkou 学校. But is it a shougakkou 小学校 or a chuugakkou 中学校? Wait. What's the difference between shougakkou and chuugakkou, again? What about koukou??? What are the meanings of all these words?!
Wednesday, November 22, 2017

NG - Meaning in Japanese

In Japanese, sometimes the word NG is written, like that, with Latin alphabet letters, in the middle of a phrase with mostly Japanese characters. In this case, the acronym NG stands for "not good," which is, obviously, English. However,  in English, "NG" doesn't stand for "not good." Plus, the meaning of NG is in Japanese is rather specific and not just "not good" in general.

Sore wa NG, from manga Kobayashi-san Chi no Maidoragon 小林さんちのメイドラゴン: yowatte nakereba honrai kateru aite demo nain daga na, nani ga atta ka shiran ga kami ni kansha shiyou. a. sore. kami wa NG waado. nani? If not weakened wasn't even someone I could win against though. Whatever happened I don't know but thank god for it. Ah. That. God is an NG word. What? 弱ってなければ本来勝てる相手でもないんだが。なにがあったか知らんが神に感謝しよう。あ。それ。髪はNGワード。何?


Monday, November 20, 2017

Gaijin 外人

So you've been called a baka gaijin on the internet and, being the anime connoisseur you are, you know what baka means, but you aren't very sure about what gaijin means? Well, gaijin means "foreigner." You've been called a "stupid foreigner."
Sunday, November 19, 2017

Betsuni 別に

The word betsuni is one of those words you're sort of forced to hear in anime. Every tsundere must be fluent in betsuni before getting their license, and every bored character  must be able to say betsuni in answer to practically every question in order to show how much he doesn't care about things. But wait... are these two betsuni the same betsuni? What does betsuni mean in Japanese?
Saturday, November 18, 2017

Juuni Taisen: Warrior Taglines Explanation

This season we have Juuni Taisen 十二大戦, "the great battle of twelve [warriors]," and one cool thing about this anime is that every warrior has a different way of killing, and that way of killing gets an immense tagline on screen.

Each tagline tells what a character is about, but some subtitles' translations have taken some huge liberties in translating the taglines from Japanese, so watchers end up associating phrases to characters that the original author didn't intend for people to associate.

In this post, I'll write the original Japanese taglines and some very literal translations, and explain how the Japanese works and their actual meanings in English like chewing and putting in mouth in a way easy to understand.

Rat - Ox - Tiger - Rabbit
Dragon - SnakeHorse - Sheep
Monkey - Chicken - Dog - Boar
And an image chart at the end.
Friday, November 17, 2017

Masaka まさか

The word masaka means "it can't be," right? Or "could it be," right? That's its meaning, right? That what masaka means in Japanese, right? I mean, bakana! doesn't actually mean "impossible!" So... could it be that... masaka...?!
Thursday, November 16, 2017

Bakana! バカな!

B-b-b-bakana!!! "impossible!!!", "it can't be!!!" The word bakana doesn't actually mean those things I just said? Even though people always translate bakana! as "impossible!" and so on? Bakana! If the word bakana doesn't mean that, then what does bakana mean in Japanese?!

Types of Moe + Attributes, Relationships & Situations

For reference, a list of a Japanese words, tags, labels, etc. associated with moe character attributes, relationships, situations and scenarios.
Saturday, November 11, 2017

Moe 萌え

One of the best things about anime is moe 萌え. You could go as far as saying that some people only watch anime because of moe. That some people like the most moe anime the best. But... what is moe? What does the word moe mean in Japanese? Does moe in the west mean the same thing as it does in Japan? What is moe really about?
Friday, October 20, 2017

Japanese Halloween Words

Seeing as it's almost Halloween, I figured I'd make a vocabulary list with common Halloween words in Japanese, including words for witches, magic, and names of creatures and costumes commonly seen in Halloween. (also some short descriptions of the Halloween practices since not all of us get to them)
Halloween in Anime: yay for cultural appropriation! Example of trick-or-treating in Osomatsu-san おそ松さん

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Shoujo-ai 少女愛

The shoujo-ai genre is a rather rare genre of manga and anime, there being few shoujo-ai works. But is shoujo-ai? What makes something a shoujo-ai? And what does shoujo-ai mean in Japanese, the language it came from?