Monday, March 6, 2017

々 Kanji Meaning

If you have been reading Japanese for a while you might have come across this kanji: 々. It doesn't look like a kanji, I know, it looks like a katakana, like ma マ, but it's always next to kanji, so it's a kanji, right? Anyway, it makes you wonder: "what is 々 and why does it have so many readings? What does it mean?"

Examples of 々 in Japanese words: dandan 段々 hibi 日々 hitobito 人々 tokidoki 時時 sanzan 散々 junjun 順々 komagoma 細々 samazama 様々

Function

When you have a word that has the same kanji twice (repeated) like hitobito 人人, you might feel like it's a pain in the ass to write and a pain in the sight to read the same kanji two times in a row. So, instead, what the Japan did was make a kanji that you can use to mean you are repeating the last kanji. Like this: hitobito 人々.

So every time you have the 々 in a word, you are just repeating the last kanji. It's its substitute. It's a shortcut. An abbreviation. The writer means 人人 but writes 人々, so when you read 人々 just pretend it's actually written 人人 and that will save you a lot of trouble.

Is It a Kanji?

The 々 is a kanji and it isn't. It's technically a "Chinese character," so it is a kanji 漢字, but at the same time it's not used like other kanji are used in Japanese. It's used as a mark, punctuation.

Name

In English, the name of the 々 symbol is repetition kanji, repetition mark, or kanji iteration mark.

In Japanese, there are also multiple names for it.
  1. kurikaeshi 繰り返し
    Because that's what it does. It "repeats," kurikaesu 繰り返す, stuff.
  2. kurikaeshi fugou 繰り返し符号
    "Repetition symbol."
  3. dou-no-ji-ten 同の字点
    "Same-letter mark."
  4. onaji 同じ
    Because it's the "same."
  5. noma ノマ
    Because 々 looks like the katakana noma ノマ.

Change in Pronunciation

In a lot of words containing 々 we can see there's a change in the pronunciation of the morpheme. For example, hito 人 starts with an h, so if we repeat it, one would think we'd get hito-hito 人々, but instead we get hibobito 人々, with a b.

This doesn't happen because of the kurikaeshi 々, it happens of rendaku 連濁.

That is, if you wrote the same word without kurikaeshi 々, it'd still be hibobito 人人. Because rendaku adds a dakuten ゛ to syllables in words (hi ひ to bi び).

Also note that 人人 and 人々 are still the same word, just written differently. The kurikaeshi 々 doesn't repeat the sound of a kanji makes, it's just a writing convenience to pretend you've written that kanji twice.

Another example: samazama 様々 and samazama 様様, "various," or tokidoki 時々 and tokidoki 時時, "sometimes."

々々

In rare cases, the repetition mark may be repeated. When you have two 々 in a single word, it sometimes means that the kanji is repeated twice instead of once. To have an idea:
  • Ryuugajou Nanana no Maizoukin 龍ヶ嬢七々々の埋蔵金
    Nanana Ryuugajou's Buried Treasure.

Note that, however, words like the above are mostly made up and do not actually exist. Since a word where you're repeating the same thing thrice is bit ridiculous.

In normal cases, the two 々々 will not repeat a kanji twice, but, instead, repeat two kanji once. For example:
  • hitori 一人
    One person.
  • hitori-ri-ri 一人々々 (wrong!)
  • hitorihitori 一人々々 (right!)
    One by one. To each person individually.
  • baka 馬鹿
    Stupid.
  • bakabakashii 馬鹿々々しい
    Nonsense.

kojinkojin 個人々々 written with two 々 in the manga Azumanga Daioh あずまんが大王

How to Type 々

Normally you don't need to explicitly type 々. If you type a word with repeated kanji like hitobito ひとびと and try to convert it to kanji, you should get the choice to convert the hiragana to 人々, with the 々 kanji already.

To type it alone, some IME's show it as a choice if you try to convert kurikaeshi 々. But since kurikaeshi can be kurikaeshi 繰り返し plus a lot of other words, the 々 kanji might be way down the list.

Personally I just type hibi 日々 and delete the 日. It's easier that way.

Example Words

Of course there are more words with the repetition kanji 々 in Japanese. That's why it's worth explaining about. Here are some examples:
  • hitobito 人々
    People.
  • hibi 日々
    Days. Everyday.
  • samazama 様々
    Various (things, na-adjective).
  • iroiro 色々
    Various things. Stuff. (substantive).
  • nakanaka 中々
    Very.
  • tamatama 偶々
    Accidentally. By chance.
  • dandan 段々
    Gradually.
  • masumasu 益々
    Increasingly.
  • tsugitsugi 次々
    One by one. One after other.
  • tokidoki 時々
    Sometimes.
  • komagoma 細々
    In detail.
  • junjun 順々
    In turn. In order.
  • sanzan 散々
    Thoroughly.
  • souzoushii 騒々しい
    Noisy. Annoying.

As we can see, both the reading and meaning of the repetition kanji 々 varies according to the word. After its function is to vary depending on the kanji preceding it. That's why 々 has so many different names, because it actually means nothing and has no reading of its own.

This is obvious, but let me state it anyway: there are no words in Japanese that start with 々. After all it needs to go after something to have meaning at all.

Why Are There So Many Words With Repeated Kanji?

Now maybe one very important question that everyone will end up asking one day is: why are there so many words with repeated kanji, repeated syllable patterns like that? Just... why?

Geez, I don't know. It's just the way the language is. Try not to worry about it. Personally I think words like that are funny.

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