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I came across this sentence in a manga:


There is no kanji use in that speech-bubble, making it hard to work out the meaning. In fact, I haven't been able to find the meaning of anything past なに (which I already knew means "what").

What does it mean when the whole sentence is in kana?

(And, as a side question that I hope is related, all-kana doesn't seem like it should make the sentence that much harder to translate, but I can't seem to find any of the combinations characters aside from なに and possibly すんじ (which ignores the ゃ and doesn't seem to fit the context anyway). So is there something that I'm missing here?)

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You seem to be asking two questions here: 1. What does this sentence mean, and 2. What does all-kana spelling signify? The latter is an entirely different question. It's worth noting that the only word in this sentence which is normally spelled with kanji is なに. (It is possible to maximise the use of kanji by spelling the sentence like 何為んじゃ此ん餓鬼ャー, but that looks utterly ridiculous.) – Zhen Lin Aug 5 '11 at 5:57
I was expecting a question about robot speech in all katakana or an English sentence transliterated straight into katakana, both of which are not uncommon. – hippietrail Aug 5 '11 at 7:15
up vote 10 down vote accepted

I'm often driven crazy by the lack of kanji in manga and other written works. I spent so long learning their Asian hieroglyphics, the least they could do is use them!

Anyway, I believe the sentence, filled out, is:



なにするの -> なにすん (の here makes it a question)

だ -> じゃ

この -> こん

ガキは -> ガキャーーー

The ーーー at the end is just an extension of the last vowel, probably because the speaker is screaming in the middle of a typically histrionic manga attack on someone else.

The translation would then be something like:

What the hell are you doing you fucking brat!

... where "brat" could be swapped out with things like "punk" or other variants. You could also vary up your choice of curse words and a little bit of the order, in order to best capture the feeling you think the manga is trying to convey.

I think the reason situations like this are mostly done in kana and not kanji is because it is meant to reflect spoken speech (is that redundant?), not written text, and so it conveys inflections and pronunciations that would be hard to do with fixed kanji. That's why you see it a lot in manga.

The only way to learn this kind of thing is with practise. The way people play with abbreviating words and changing the way they are said is by definition beyond textbooks. Think of it like how in English you could see "whassup?", or even "'sup", in a comic, and only by familiarity would you know it's actually "what's up?".

Note I'm not at all a professional translator.

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Your translation makes perfect sense in the context. I hadn't really come across abbreviations before (this manga is probably beyond my abilities, but I like it). I'll have to find some kind of slang dictionary (online or otherwise). They have them in English, so I'd assume Japanese ones exist. Thanks! – AlbeyAmakiir Aug 5 '11 at 4:01
@AlbeyAmakiir there are on-line slang dictionaries (entirely in Japanese), but if you can't parse the sentence, it's not going to be very helpful I'm afraid… . – Axioplase Aug 5 '11 at 4:09
Nice breakdown. ガキャー is most likely from ガキは, and じゃ is a colloquial/dialect/archaic equivalent of だ. – Matt Aug 5 '11 at 4:19
Matt is right. And Dave's ですか is obviously wrong. Why do expect the original to be a polite form when the whole sentence is offensive? – user458 Aug 5 '11 at 4:21
@sawa: I wasn't translating for politeness levels, just for meaning. You have to understand that from a Japanese learning point of view, people are often taught that です is the fundamental word and だ is a casual variation. That may or may not be correct in the eyes of a native speaker, but I was appealing to the sensibilities of a learner. – Questioner Aug 5 '11 at 4:50

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