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Can anyone explain the difference between these words? They all basically mean "to set up / to found", and from what I've researched, it's all very 微妙 to me.

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そうりつ「創立」 is used for foundation/establishment of buildings (refer to physical items, have some sense about first time establishment one's life or pioneer alike)

この学校は1970年に創立された This school was founded in 1970.

せつりつ「設立」 is used for foundation/establishment of organized associations (kind of logically, general word)

この協会は自然保護のために設立された This association was organized for preserving nature.

設立 is more general word, so it would be used for those kind of foundation stuff, and there is another word 「創設」, which is combination of above two kanjis, and make 創設 and 設立 more close when related to company.

Note: But why I used "refer to physical items" for 創設 is, it suppose to be point to physically visible building, but for "associations", main point is not about assciations's building, but refer to logically grouped one.

じゅりつ「樹立」 is used for foundation/establishment of new goverment, parties, records (similar to 設立 but only for special things)

新党を樹立した Founded new political party

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goo gives 創立 as "starting a new organization or institution," not a physical building. bit.ly/kBQNWO –  Amanda S Jun 3 '11 at 19:37
    
Also, the Daijisen definition for 設立 includes such things as facilities (physical) and systems (abstract). I think some more clarification is needed here to determine how much overlap there is. –  Derek Schaab Jun 3 '11 at 20:04
    
@Derek - I guess that's the intent behind my original post; to find where they overlap and where they don't. –  istrasci Jun 3 '11 at 21:08
    
Added few more explanations ... –  YOU Jun 4 '11 at 4:40
    
Nice disambiguation @YOU, 勉強になった。 –  crunchyt Jun 4 '11 at 6:08

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