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I had thought that for writing long vowels in Japanese, that small kana was mostly used with hiragana and ー was mostly used with katakana.

I was actually thinking of asking whether there were exceptions but then when I looked up a word I'm interested in lately I found all these spellings in WWWJDIC:

  • すげー
  • すげぇ
  • すっげえ
  • すっげー
  • すげえ
  • すっげぇ

Not only are there variants with and , but also !

In general, how do I know when to use which?

Also do I need to know which is needed to type them? Assume I know how to type them if I know the spelling, but consider also the case where I've heard a new word in speech and don't know the spelling yet. (Please don't tell me that's a software issue with nothing to do with Japanese.)

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Is this downvoted by the usual grumpy anonymous downvoter who does this as a hobby? If somebody other than them downvoted it a constructive criticism would be appreciated. –  hippietrail Mar 26 at 12:26
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You can type l as well. I strongly request down-voters to leave a comment. I suddenly got 4 down-votes 3 hours before and don't know why. –  Yang Muye Mar 26 at 12:27
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x works everywhere, but l doesn't. On Macs, typing le will give you れ rather than ぇ. That is why I usually tell people x--it keeps you from having to re-learn if you switch to/from a Mac. –  snailboat Mar 26 at 12:35
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すげえ is an 音便, not intonational lengthening. According to the 現代仮名遣い, large え should be used. But I often see すげー and I think ー is actually widely used in every situation. –  Yang Muye Mar 26 at 12:46
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Whether it's すげー, すげぇ or すげえ, to me is like asking whether LOL is upper or lower case. It's not standard to begin with, so it's up to personal taste. Whether it's すげー or すっげー, of course, depends on how you pronounce it. –  dainichi Mar 27 at 0:33

1 Answer 1

They are all variations of the same word. The only difference here is the degree of emphasis and where the emphasis is. For example, "っ" in "すっ" just represents a bit of pause between "す" and "げ".

"ぇ", "え", and "ー" all represent dragging of the "げ" sound, but "ー" is longer than "え", and "ぇ" is a very short addition. None is more correct than others, and the difference is really only significant when you want to precisely convey the way the speaker has pronounced it.

As a variation, you also see these letters repeated to convey the duration, such as "すげええええええええ!" or "すげーーーーーーー!" In addition, because the size of the letter of "ぇ" is smaller than "え", it is also sometimes used not to represent the volume of the sound as in "すげえええぇぇぇ..." vs "すげええええええ"

Your observation is right that "ー" is normally used with Katakana and not with Hiragana, and in formal writing you almost never see "ー" with Hiragana. But the interesting thing about languages is that in some circumstances that becomes the very reason one intentionally chooses to use "ー" with Hiragana, like "すげー" to adds a subtle hint that the speaker is not very intelligent.

I'm skipping the last part of your question about how to type it in, since there's enough answers on that in the comment section.

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すげ was just an example word. Apparently it turns out to be a bad example because it's so very colloquial. I'm currently hunting for better examples. So the question isn't so much about this word but about the various correct and incorrect ways to write long vowels in hiragana and katakana. –  hippietrail Mar 27 at 6:17

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