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Here is a piece of text from 「ノルウェイの森」by Haruki Murakami:


How are these things before もちろん and かなり called and what function they serve?
Is it a mark equal to or something informal like ~~~ and expressing a short speech pause in a middle of the sentence? In any case, what is its name?

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It looks rather like the parenthetical use of dashes... in English. But then again Murakami's work has western influences. – Zhen Lin Sep 7 '13 at 16:06
up vote 3 down vote accepted

It is called a "dash", ダッシュ in Japanese, according to this wikipage.

Several usages of the symbol are listed in the page. The usage here is to insert an extra explanation to the sentence (or word before the first dash). You can see that if you take off everything between the two dashes, the sentence is perfectly correct and meaningful. The portion between the two dashes is only to add an extra explanation that the statement is purely the writer's own opinion. You can treat it as a pair as bracket "()" here.

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Wouldn't it be easily confused with the long vowel mark? – user54609 Sep 7 '13 at 23:18
@user54609 A "dash" takes up the space of two character, with no space in between (if it is displayed with proper font). Also, hiraganas and kanjis don't take a long vowel mark. Thirdly, it is usually very easy to tell from the context around. – fefe Sep 8 '13 at 1:47

In English typography, there is a practice to substitute two short dashes in order to simulate a long one -- like this -- with or without surrounding spaces, when the stock character is not available in the given typesetting system.

What you have there looks like an imitation of the practice, using kanji style dashes. The writer probably thought, "I want to use this neat thing seen in Western writing, in my native writing".

It looks like a Western influence, akin to the main stream use of roman numerals, or punctuation like exclamations and question marks.

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