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Edit: This question has been reworded as much as possible from the original to try to make it a question about Japanese. Also, adding the IME単漢字辞書 fixed the IME problem (thanks to Tsuyoshi Ito for pointing that out). Quote about 単漢字辞書: Microsoft IME単漢字辞書には、マクロソフトで読みが確認できたJIS第三・第四水準漢字が登録されています. However, it looks like 鎗 is part of JIS第一水準漢字, so I still don't understand that part.

If I look in the dictionary, やり has three versions: 槍/鎗/鑓 (I understand they are not standard).

When I type やり, my windows IME shows me the following:

enter image description here

Question

Why is 鎗 not on the list? It seems 鎗 is considered to be different than 槍 and 鑓. What is special about the character 鎗?

CLARIFICATION ON ENCODINGS AND IME DICTIONARIES

MS IMEs 標準辞書 is based on jis x 0208 which includes JIS第1水準漢字 and JIS第2水準漢字. 鎗 is part of JIS第1水準 and this is why it comes out why you type そう with the default dictionary on MS IME. 単漢字辞書 is a separate dictionary based on JIS X 0213 which includes 第3水準漢字 and 第4水準漢字, if you add it, it shows 鎗 in the 変換リスト when you type やり. Now, why exactly this behavior occurs to me is a mystery (perhaps its just a bug), but I know that other dictionaries for other non-microsoft IMEs do not exhibit this behavior. I am assuming this is because they include all characters in the BMP and do not divide things up according to shift-jis taxonomy. Also, perhaps the dictionary implementors decided that 鎗 is 異体字, so they left it out.

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You could turn this into a question about Japanese, by asking about the differences in usage for the three characters. In its current form, the question seems to be more suited for a different (computing related) SE site. –  Earthliŋ Sep 27 '12 at 8:38
    
@user1205935: edited. –  Jesse Good Sep 27 '12 at 9:13
    
It appears as the third result in my OSX 10.7.3 IME. –  Jeemusu Sep 27 '12 at 9:19
2  
Candidate 7 in the screenshot says 単漢字 (single kanji letters). If you choose it, rarer kanji letters are added to the candidate list, including 鎗 (at least in the version I use: Microsoft Office IME 2010). But this is a question about the usage of MS IME, not a question about Japanese. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Sep 27 '12 at 11:07
1  
Shift-JIS is an encoding of a character set, and it does not specify readings of kanji letters. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Sep 28 '12 at 0:13

2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Get another IME. "鎗" was the second choice of my suggestion list, 槍 being the first one. I use "skk" via ibus for my IME. The reason it is not in your list is that you assumed that your IME would be exhaustive, and I don't think any IME would ever claim that.

As far as the difference is concerned, just looking at the radicals, I'd say the difference is what the spear is made of: wood, iron, or something else.

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I use an Apple: "鎗" was also the second choice of my suggestion list & 槍 the first. –  Tim Sep 27 '12 at 9:32
    
Thanks, I switched to Baidu IME to solve my problem. It looks like ibus is only on linux, it's my work computer and I'm stuck with windows xp. –  Jesse Good Sep 27 '12 at 9:47

As Axioplase already mentions, if you look at the radicals, you can divide the characters into two groups:

  1. 槍: Made of wood.

  2. 鎗/鑓: Made of metal.

Now, 鑓 is what is known as 国字 and did not originate from China. Also, in current Chinese, 鎗 usually refers to a "rifle" or "gun" and not "spear" (however, the meaning of spear is still present) (Unicode defines it as "rifle, small arms, hand gun" which is kind of amusing). In Japanese, 槍 and 鎗 both mean spear (with the difference being the material it is made from), however if you consider 鎗 as an 異体字, then is most common 槍. Also, 鎗 also has the meaning of "container", etc. (see below) and you can see it in words like 鎗金.

References

【鎗/枪】ライフル

異体字の認定

槍/鑓/鎗・・・ヤリ

鎗と槍の違い 使い分けを教えて下さい。

From here:

鎗 ソウ やり

解字:形声。倉が音を表わし、金属のふれ合う音声を表わす。 字義:

①なべ。三本足があるなべ。   (Type of pot, one with 3 legs) 

②やり。(spear)

③こう(金偏に堅)鎗は、金属や石のふれる音。   (Sound of metal, rocks hitting together)

④長鎗は、米の別名。   (長鎗 is another name for 米)

⑤酒を入れる器。(Container for 酒)

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