Sunday, August 29, 2021

【】 - How Brackets are Used in Japanese

In Japanese, "brackets," kakko 括弧, refers to symbols that enclose text such as 【】, (), 『』, 「」, 〈〉, 《》. They're generally like English brackets, except that Japanese brackets may get rotated 90 degrees when Japanese is written vertically.

For [], {} used in examples in this site, see Reading The Examples.

In Japanese

The word for "brackets" in Japanese is kakko 括弧, however:

Sometimes kakko means kakkou 格好, "appearance," like in kakko-ii かっこいい, "cool."

Sometimes kakko is translated to "parentheses" instead. In English, brackets are symbols that enclose text, and that includes parentheses, but the term "brackets" alone typically refers only to the square brackets, not to parentheses.

Names for Brackets in English(
Type of bracket Also called
[] Square brackets Brackets
() Round brackets Parentheses
{} Curly brackets Braces
⟨⟩ Angle brackets Chevrons

How to use:

  • hajime-kakko
    Starting bracket. Opening bracket.
  • owari-kakko
    Ending bracket. Closing bracket.
  • kakko-hiraki
    Opening a bracket. Open bracket.
  • kakko-toji
    Closing a bracket. Close bracket.
    • kakko tojriu
      (same meaning.)
  • kakko-hiraki something kakko-toji
    Open bracket, something, close bracket.
    Open parenthesis, something, close parenthesis.
  • kakko something kakko-toji
    (same meaning.)
  • kakko something
    (same meaning.)

【】, Square Brackets

The 【】 are the Japanese square brackets. They're in some ways used in places where we'd use parentheses in English, specially when adding extra, parenthetical information. They're called:

  • sumi-tsuki-kakko
    Corners-attached brackets. Brackets with corners.
    • In English, they're also called "lenticular brackets."(【) to distinguish from English's square brackets.

In Dictionaries

In dictionaries, the square brackets may contain either the reading of a kanji (the furigana ふりがな), or the kanji 漢字 of a word, depending on the design of the dictionary. For example:

  • 漢字【かんじ】
  • かんじ【漢字】

Above, ka-n-ji かんじ in hiragana ひらがな shows the reading for 漢字.

Dictionaries may also use dashes or dots to separate the okurigana 送り仮名, e.g.:

  • ta.beru
    To eat.
    • The middle dot ・ after the ta~ た~ separates it from the okurigana ~beru ~べる.
An ad created for Nihongo Gokan no Jiten 日本語語感の辞典, "Japanese nuance dictionary," showing a salaryman apologizing in several ways, from "bowing," ojigi お辞儀, to dogeza 土下座, "prostration."
  • Context: an ad for Nihongo Gokan no Jiten 日本語語感の辞典, "Japanese nuance dictionary," depicting various apologetic gestures, the last (leftmost) one being the dogeza 土下座. The text aren't terms for the gestures, but words related to apology. Only the first item has a word enclosed by brackets with its reading after it, the rest are only enclosed by brackets.
  • ayamaru
    To apologize. (title of the ad.)
  • shitsurei
    Excuse me. Pardon. Said when doing something that "lacks respect," literally, hence why you excuse yourself.
  • gomen
    Forgive me. Sorry.
  • sumanai
    Sorry. Literally in the sense of something done that "won't disappear," so it's a regrettable mistake or gratitude that won't be forgotten, but in practice it's used for all sorts of minor stuff.
  • moushi wake nai
    [I] have no excuse. (nai, arimasen, gozaimasen, mean the same thing.)
  • chinsha
    To explain yourself and apologize. Used when not only you're at fault, but you also have some explaining to do, e.g. to explain to a client why things have gone wrong, and apologize to them for things going wrong.
  • shazai
    Apology, in the sense of assuming fault, "crime," "sin," tsumi 罪.
ミンチは俺の嫁!! お前の嫁はあたしだろ!! 俺の嫁【おれのよめ】 2次元キャラへの愛情表現のひとつで、お嫁さんにしたいほどそのキャラを愛しているという意味、または宣言。
Manga: Danna ga Nani wo Itteiru ka Wakaranai Ken 旦那が何を言っているかわからない件 (Chapter 1, 合わない趣味とハマったソリ)
  • Context: a wife doesn't understand what her husband is saying.
  • Minchi wa ore no yome!!
    Minchi is my waifu!!
  • omae no yome wa atashi daro!!
    Your wife is me, [did you forget]!!
  • Footnotes:
  • ore no yome: nijigen kyara e no aijou hyougen no hitotsu de, {{{oyome-san ni shitai} hodo sono kyara wo aishiteiru} toiu} imi, mata wa sengen.
    俺の嫁【おれのよめ】 2次元キャラの愛情表現のひとつで、お嫁さんにしたいほどそのキャラを愛しているという意味、または宣言。
    My waifu: one expression of affection toward 2D characters, the meaning {being [that] {[you] love that character enough {to want to make [them] [your] wife}}}, also a way to declare that.
    • Inside 【】is the furigana for 俺の嫁.

In Titles

Online, in titles, square brackets sometimes enclose the category of a page (e.g. news) or video (on Youtube, NicoNico, etc.)

Webpages set their title using a <title> HTML tag in the page's metadata, which may not appear in the body of the page itself, but can be seen as the title of the page as a Google results, or when shared on Twitter, and so on.

Some examples:

  • Putting koushiki 【公式】, literally "public-style," in the sense of a public statement, an "official" statement, in a page title to claim it's the official page, website, or forum, or publication of a brand. Warning: anybody can write "official" in the title of something, even if it isn't official. The examples below are links to pages with "official" in the title:
  • A category for indexing, such as author name.
    • 【Ado】ギラギラ(accessed 2021-08-29)
      【Ado】踊(accessed 2021-08-29)
      Among others, are songs uploaded by Ado on youtube featuring the artist's name within brackets in the title.
    • [Emu-vii] REOL - YoiYoi Kokon
      [MV] REOL - 宵々古今(accessed 2021-08-29)
      [Music Video] REOL - Every Evening Past and Present.
      • yoiyoi is archaic Japanese. It's a plural or frequency reduplication of yoi 宵, "evening," so it means reoccurring across multiple evenings, just like hibi 日々, "every day," means reoccurring across multiple days.
      • Here, the text in brackets, MV, means Music Video, and it's REOL, れをる, that is the name of the artist.
    • 【MAD】 a type of video in which someone edits an existing video and audio to change its meaning, from the English word "mad," as in "crazy." Nowadays often means the same thing as AMV, Anime Music Video, in which a fan edits clips of an anime with a song..
    • 【TAS】 in game-play videos refers to Tool-Assisted Speedrun, which looks like cheating, but it's closer to puppetry.
    • kami 神, "literally "god," "divine," is used as slang qualifying prefix for all sorts of God-tier things, like, kami-kai 神回, "divine episode," kami-shiin 神シーン, "divine scene," kami-sakuga 神作画, "divine animation," and so on.
    • 【Touhou】 Bad Apple!! Pii-Vi 【Kage-e】
      【東方】Bad Apple!! PV【影絵】(accessed 2021-08-29)
      Touhou】 Bad Apple!! PV 【Shadow Picture】
      • Touhou is the name of a game.
      • A PV is a Promotional Video.
    • 【C91】 Msjidesunon 【新刊】(accessed 2021-08-29)
      • "C<number>" refers to the Comiket, コミケット, a biannual doujinshi 同人誌 convention. The 91st instance was held in December of 2016. Artists use such tags on samples of works they'll publish at the convention uploaded as illustrations to Pixiv, to talk about their attendance, etc.
      • shinkan
        New publication. New book. 
  • A text introducing the title or heading of an article, such as "BREAKING," i.e. sokuhou 速報, "quick-report," "news flash." Apparently, the term for such phrases is "kicker."( there an “official” name for a heading prefix, or qualifier?) 

(), Round Brackets

The round brackets are used in Japanese in various ways: they can contain the furigana for a phrase; when coming after someone's name, they typically contain their age, or other personal information, such as marital status or gender; on the internet, they come at the end of sentences containing actions, and work in a certain way like asterisks in English.

They're called:

  • maru-kakko
    Round brackets. Parentheses.
Morita Mayu 森田真由, example of beta-me ベタ目.
Character: Morita Mayu 森田真由
Anime: Morita-san wa Mukuchi 森田さんは無口 (Episode 1)
  • Context: Morita Mayu's name in a box, with her age, 16 years old, inside parentheses.
・・・・・・・・・それだけか? (笑)と書いてあります 笑えるかァァァァァァ!!(怒) うわっ!!
Manga: Gintama 銀魂 (Chapter 10)
  • Context: characters from Gintama do odd jobs. Someone left a monstrously huge dog outside their home, with a letter that said "please take care of my pet."
  • ......... sore dake ka?
    .........only that? (that's all that is written?)
  • kakko-warai to kaite-arimasu
    (laugh) is [also] written. (literally.)
  • waraeru kaaaaaaa!! kakko ikari kakko-toji
    [How] can [I] laugh!! (anger)
    • waraeru - potential verb from warau 笑う, "to laugh."
    • See also: tsukkomi ツッコミ.
    • Although the manga makes no distinction, in the anime adaptation (10th episode), Shinpachi 新八 pronounces (笑) as kakko warai, without kakko-toji 括弧閉じ, "close [round] bracket," while Gintoki 銀時 pronounces (怒) as kakko ikari kakko-toji.
  • uwa'!!

See the article about parentheses for details.

「」, 『』, Hook Brackets

The 「」 and 『』 are single and double quotation marks. They're called:

  • kagi-kakko
    Hook brackets.
    • As in a fishing hook, which has a bent tip, not as in the swinging punch used in boxing.
    • Not to be confused with the homonym kagi 鍵, "key."
  • ni-juu kagi-kakko
    Double hook brackets.

They're used in several ways. They can quote text like English quotation marks, but they can also surround names of fictional works and people, and emphasize text.

See Quotation Marks for details.

・・・そうだねシャミ子普通にウィンナー炒めてたもんね 料理はできるもんだね 「は」ってなんですか!!
Manga: Machikado Mazoku まちカドまぞく (Volume 1, Page 113, 普通に加熱することの難しさ)
  • Context: Chiyoda Momo 千代田桃, who can't cook like a normal person, is impressed the cooking of Shamiko シャミ子.
  • ...sou da ne, Shamiko φ {futsuu ni} win'naa itameteta mon ne
    That's right, Shamiko was frying wieners {normally}.
  • ryouri wa dekiru-n-da ne
    Cooking, [you] can do, huh.
    • A contrastive wa, implicating Shamiko can't do other things normally, because she's a klutz, but cooking she can do.
  • "wa" tte nan-desu ka!!
    What do you mean by "wa"??!!
儂は燦の父親で瀬戸内魚類連合瀬戸組 組長 『瀬戸豪三郎』じゃ ドス その妻『瀬戸蓮』!
Manga: Seto no Hanayome 瀬戸の花嫁 (Chapter 1, 瀬戸のおんな)
  • Context: a character sitting in agura あぐら position introduces himself, as does his wife.
  • washi wa {San no chichioya de} Seto-uchi-gyorui-rengou Seto-gumi Kumi-chou "Seto Gousaburou" ja
    父親瀬戸内魚類連合瀬戸組 組長 瀬戸豪三郎』じゃ
    I {am Sun's father and} Seto's Inner Fish-kind Alliance, Seto Group's Boss, "Seto Gousaburou."
  • dosu
    (used when a threatening character makes an entrance.)
  • sono tsuma "Seto Ren"
    [His] wife, "Seto Ren"! (literally.)
    • sono その - "of the aforementioned."
    • sono hito no tsuma
      The aforementioned person's wife.

″″, 〝〟, Whisker Brackets

The double prime symbol is sometimes used as a quotation mark in Japanese, specially when used to emphasize text. It's called:

  • daburu minyuuto
    Double minute. (because primes are used to show minutes and seconds in timings.)
  • nono-kagi
    nono hooks. (from the shape.)
  • hige-kakko
    Beard brackets.
    Whisker brackets.
出久くんには関節が2つある この世代じゃ珍しい・・・何の“個性”も宿ってない型だよ
Manga: Boku no Hero Academia, 僕のヒーローアカデミア (Chapter 1, 緑谷出久︰オリジン)
  • Context: in a series about people that have powers called quirks, a doctor examines Midoriya Izuku 緑谷出久, talks about how quirkless people have two joints in his pinky toe, and then says:
  • Izuku-kun niwa kansetsu ga futatsu aru
    Izuku-kun has two joints.
    (double subject construction.)
  • {kono sedai ja mezurashii...} {nan'no "kosei" mo yadottenai} kata da yo
    A type {rare in this age}, [that] {doesn't [contain] any quirk}.
    • yadoru
      To dwell. (in this case, for a quirk to dwell in his body, i.e. for a quirk to be contained in him, for him to contain a quirk.)

〈〉,《》, Angle Brackets

Angle brackets are sometimes used as quotation marks, specially with messages generated by computers, robots, and computer-like characters. They're called:

  • yama-kakko
    〈〉 "mountain brackets."
  • nijuu-yama-kakko
    《》 "double mountain brackets."
    • Not to be confused with « and »,  which are called guillemets.
こういう時は困った時の『大賢者』 早速質問してみた 《解。スライムの身体は魔素のみで動いています。酸素は必要ではない為、呼吸は行っておりません 》 そういえば…、意識してなかったが、呼吸なんてしていなかった。
  • Context: a guy was reincarnated in another world as a slime, with a knowledgeable guide called "great sage." Then, he falls in the water, but doesn't suffocate.
  • kouiu toki wa, {komatta} toki no "dai kenja"
    In times like these, the "great sage" of {troubled} times. (literally.)
    • It's a good idea to consult with her when you're troubled, hence {komatta} toki no, "of when {[you] are troubled}."
  • sassoku shitsumon shite-mita
    [I] tried asking [her] promptly.
  • "kai. suraimu no karada wa masou nomi de ugoite-imasu.
    sanso wa hitsuyou dewanai tame, kokyuu wa okonatte-orimasen"
  • 《解。スライムの身体は魔素のみで動いています。酸素は必要ではない為、呼吸は行っておりません 》
    "Answer. the body of a slime moves by magic particles alone. Since oxygen isn't necessary, [the act of] breathing isn't being performed."
  • souieba..., ishiki shitenakatta ga, kokyuu nante shite-inakatta.
    [Now that you mention it...], [I hadn't paid attention] but, [I] hadn't been breathing.

〔〕, 〘〙, Tortoise-Shell Brackets

The 〔〕 and 〘〙are used to quote or emphasize text. They aren't commonly used in Japanese. They're called:(

  • kikkou-kakko
    〔〕, tortoise-shell bracket.
    • Due to their bestagonal hexagonal shape.
    • This is the official English name for this character.(〔)
  • nijuu-kikkou-kakko
    〘〙, double tortoise-shell bracket.

{}, Curly Brackets

The term for curly brackets in Japanese would be nami-kakko 波括弧, "wave brackets," for they're wavy.


Marks & Symbols

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