Take the 2-minute tour ×
Japanese Language Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for students, teachers, and linguists wanting to discuss the finer points of the Japanese language. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Are there any differences (nuances or usage) when using prefix 子, 小 or 仔 for denoting young animals?

Examples:

  • Kitten: 子猫 vs 小猫 vs 仔猫
  • Puppy: 子犬 vs 小犬 vs 仔犬
  • Pony: 子馬 vs 小馬 vs 仔馬
  • Calf: 子牛 vs 小牛 vs 仔牛
  • Lamb: 子羊 vs 小羊 vs 仔羊
  • Piglet: 子豚 vs 小豚 vs 仔豚
share|improve this question
add comment

2 Answers

up vote 10 down vote accepted

The OP's comment just now is on the right track:

小猫 certainly could be just a small cat.
仔猫 would be more common in science, but for a different reason than you guessed: 仔 is actually the correct character for a child animal, but it's not one of the 1945 -- er, 2136 as of last year, is it? -- 常用漢字. Since 子 looks and means almost the same, it took on the added responsibility of being the simplified form of 仔.

I think for the anthropomorphism case those characters would need to be switched. =p

Google hits [Japanese pages only]:
"仔猫" - 3,160,000
"子猫" - 10,700,000
"小猫" - 1,310,000

share|improve this answer
2  
Good point about 常用漢字. Muddying kanji-related waters since 1946! –  Matt Sep 8 '11 at 4:25
1  
@Ross Btw how did you search for Japanese pages only? –  Pacerier Apr 27 '12 at 7:57
add comment

子 means child. 仔 means an animal child, but does not seem to be used much regularly except for mentioning a child of a horse. 小 means small, which often means child but not necessarily.

share|improve this answer
2  
In writing, is the choice of prefix kanji determined by whether we want to focus on the kitten as a child of a cat (子猫) or a smaller version of a cat (小猫)? And is 仔猫 the best choice when writing objective text where the focus is on the kitten being an offspring of animal (e.g. theses paper for biological research) whereas 子猫 is used when we want to treat kitten as if a human kid (i.e. anthropomorphism)? –  Lukman Sep 7 '11 at 23:25
    
@Lukman I think you are on the right track. –  sawa Sep 8 '11 at 0:15
5  
Funny that the animal child character is the one with the human radical… –  Axioplase Sep 8 '11 at 3:36
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.