Orthography is a standardized way of writing a language.

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Is there a “right” or “best” way to write this Okinawan expression for “cheers”?

When I was still in Okinawa I learned how to say "cheers" / "乾杯{かんぱい}". You can either say just karii or you can use the extended version I pefer karii sabira. My question is how to write it? I have ...
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What does it mean to write wasei-eigo and gairaigo in Romaji?

Wasei-eigo and most Gairaigo (especially in a text or sentence as opposed to being by itself) is usually written in Katakana (イメージ, ジュース, スマート,パンツ,アベック). However, there are times that have seen some ...
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1answer
94 views

Are 万葉仮名 (man'yōgana) chosen consistently?

This answer got me wondering how relevant the presentation in 万葉仮名 is to finding a 漢字 for a given word. As far as I understand, 万葉仮名 are used largely for phonetic value. Knowing that some word was ...
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2answers
222 views

even on 常用漢字表{じょうようかんじひょう}, no kanji have an official 送{おく}り仮名{がな}?

Recently, I was talking with a friend regarding the 常用漢字表 as specified here I noticed that the 送り仮名 property of kanjis is not specified. She was a little puzzled, but concluded that the 文部省{もんぶしょう} ...
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6answers
1k views

Are there words which consist of katakana and hiragana letters together?

Obviously many Japanese words consist of kanji characters plus hiragana since the latter are used for okurigana: 食べる 水割り 鷹の爪 Recently I'v started to discover a few words that use kanji characters ...
4
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1answer
86 views

Are there general rules on when to use kanji vs. kana?

This post is inspired by Tokyo Nagoya's comment in 出来できる vs ~えます form for “can”, “able to” asking why everyone was writing 出来る in kanji in their responses. As I mentioned in my reply to his comment, ...
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1answer
99 views

Origin of 夜露死苦?

I've seen よろしく written out as 夜露死苦 on a couple of occasions where it's being used sardonically. At first I thought it was just authors having fun substituting characters that sound the same, but it ...
4
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1answer
148 views

What special kana are used to write foreign words?

How does Japanese handle sounds outside the 五十音図【ごじゅうおんず】? Are there ways of distinguishing sounds such as V or L in katakana renderings of foreign words? How are the missing sounds in the ワ column ...
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1answer
70 views

ー vs small kana vs long kana for writing long vowels

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 ...
6
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1answer
217 views

Orthography at the turn of the previous century

A couple of days ago I purchased an old book published in 1908. It uses a strange orthography I haven't encountered before. Everything that is not in kanji is written in katakana, including ...
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1answer
239 views

Is 芸姑 a real word?

Do IMEs offer gibberish non-words when they make suggestions? I know that there's many words that have the same pronunciation, and therefore users of IMEs have to choose the correct one. I think 感じ ...
4
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0answers
183 views

Haphazard usage of katakana and hiragana for particles and okurigana

I'm looking at this picture of the 日米和親条約 (Kanagawa convention) from the late Edo period and it seems rather strange: It looks like the non-kanji parts are rather haphazardly written in katakana ...
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2answers
560 views

Under what circumstances does Japanese read from right to left?

In The Global Soul: Pico Iyer, (disclaimer: the depiction of Japan may be offensive) Iyer says: Rather perversely I live in Japan, which, as you know, is the most alien science fiction place on ...
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1answer
95 views

Why the き and さ in the 送り仮名 of 大きい and 小さい?

I've always been puzzled over why 大きい isn't 大い and 小さい is not 小い. Is there some etymological reason? (I'm suspecting historical conjugations that changed the き and さ too, just like why 食べる has the べ ...
7
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394 views

Encountered な with ten-ten

I am currently reading a manga for studying Japanese and encountered something strange. A girl exclaims「な゛?!」 The situation is that she has just had water squirted up her nose, so I am guessing it's ...
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3answers
259 views

What is the difference between the wave dash 〜 and long vowel marker ー when marking long vowels?

I know that the wave dash 〜 can be used in place of the long vowel marker ー sometimes, but I'm not exactly sure what the differences are. Is there any difference in pronunciation? I read once that ...
5
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1answer
244 views

Is there a standard for where to put spaces in kana-only Japanese?

I've noticed that when Japanese is written mostly or entirely in kana, it's often written with spaces. For example, a lot of old video games had spaces. I've also seen this in children's books: ...
9
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1answer
165 views

「はは」(母) and ハ行転呼

It occurred to me the other day that if ハ行転呼 had affected all applicable environments without exception, 母 /haha/ (or I guess properly it was /ɸaɸa/, right?)should have become /hawa/. The Japanese ...
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1answer
263 views

The forward slash (English vs Japanese)

In English it's common to list multiple items as item/item/item, with the / representing or. What about in Japanese? Do I keep the forward slash, or maybe 「・」 so it would be アイテム・アイテム・アイテム? ...
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1answer
287 views

Working with parentheses (English vs Japanese)

In English I could write, "Birds (various kinds)". In Japanese could I translate the version using parentheses as something like 鳥類(各種), or should the language/parentheses be used differently? I'm ...
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1answer
813 views

What qualities characterise girlish Japanese handwriting?

In English, handwriting is generally seen as girl is the mini. caps are almost as large as the maxi. caps, the edges are rounded out, and if the dots are replaced with little cirles reminiscent of the ...
5
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1answer
242 views

Legibility of handakuten and dakuten in small font sizes

I occasionally come across text with a small font size where I can tell that there's either an handakuten ゚ or a dakuten ゙ in a kana character, but I need to zoom in to tell which one it is. Does ...
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1answer
598 views

Why is ローマ字 spelt without an ン?

Why is ローマ字 spelt without an ン? As far as I can tell, it's not because you can't have an ん sound before a じ sound, because 漢字 has an ん sound before 字. Did early Europeans' term for Roman letters not ...
6
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1answer
433 views

Why do Japanese people read Classical Japanese with a set of weird sound shifts?

I'm learning a bit of Classical Japanese recently, and of course the spelling of words is pretty different, due to sound changes over the centuries. For example, きょう was spelled けふ. That I can ...
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1answer
127 views

Are there rules for when 'e' becomes 'a' in compound words?

For example: て+つな=たづな(手綱) め+ふた=まぶた(瞼・目蓋) かね+つち=かなづち(金槌) The only thing I can see for sure is that the second word becomes voiced, but that's more of an after-the-fact thing than a rule that ...
4
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1answer
285 views

Horizontal writing in the middle of vertical writing

My character dictionary is written in vertical style. In this dictionary, columns of text are sometimes divided into two smaller columns, which are read right-then-left. I've read that this is ...
8
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1answer
369 views

Difference between うーん and ううん

What is the difference between うーん and ううん? In a comment on Pronunciation of ううん, paullb said that he usually sees the negative interjection ううん written as うーん. This confused me, because I thought ...
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314 views

What is the difference in usage between a plural using (a) the kanji repetition character 々, (b) a plural using -たち, and (c) the singular?

I know that there are some noun that are made plural by the kanji repetition character, such as 人々 and 国々. My question is, how does this differ from using the non-plural form of the noun? And how does ...
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1answer
390 views

Writing キリン vs 麒麟 (Giraffe vs Qilin)

The word きりん appears to mean either a giraffe, or the Qilin. I've noticed that it is written 麒麟{きりん} when it means Qilin, and キリン when it means giraffe. Is it a mistake to write 麒麟 if I mean ...
6
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1answer
222 views

Distinguishing 沙 from 砂

I looked up both 沙 and 砂 in my 学研{がっけん} 漢和辞典{かんわじてん} today. It appears that they share the same list of readings (サ、シャ、すな、いさご). I also see that some words can be written with either kanji. Here are ...
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932 views

Which writing system (hiragana, katakana, or kanji) should we use when writing out someone's name?

I know how to read hiragana and katakana, but know nothing else. A lot of people I know want me to write their names in Japanese. Is it right to write them in any system, or are there specific rules?
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4answers
433 views

Is the “wa-particle” in katakana ワ or ハ?

Is the "wa-particle" in katakana ワ or  ハ? (Just a quick question - I think I have seen both used, but if ワ is correct then I have just seen the results of a computer o/p automatically using ハ)
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1answer
179 views

Is one transcription of “Andrew” more standard than another?

I recently looked at the disambiguation page for Andrew on the Japanese Wikipedia, and found that there were several "アンドルー"s, and several "アンドリュー"s. I couldn't discern any trend that one form ...
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663 views

Did any writing systems exist before kanji was imported?

Did any writing systems, or even failed attempts at them, exist for Japanese before kanji was imported from China?
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3answers
261 views

Why can some words be written with or without okurigana? How do the uses differ?

What is the difference for word compounds that can exist with 送り仮名 and without and still retain the same pronunciation? As an example: 巻き貝 と 巻貝 取り引き と 取引 If I'm correct, both of these are ...
4
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2answers
170 views

不被下候: When was it common, and what were the rules?

In a shrine graffito written in 1559, two carpenters complain: 其時座主ハ大キナコスデオチヤリテ一度モ焼酎ヲ不被下候 'At that time, the high priest (stingy bugger!) gave us not even a drop of shochu to drink.' The form ...
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4answers
430 views

What determines whether a word gets a kanji compound or katakana?

I read electronics/computing articles, and I find an incredible amount of terms are written either in kanji (almost similar to Chinese) or katakana. There are times when it's confusing as to know why. ...
6
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1answer
268 views

Why is the affixal 子 treated specially when abbreviating people’s names?

Often, names are abbreviated using the initial letter in romanization, or some random letter, like "A". However, when the name has an affixal 子, that part is often left, like "A子". I have not seen any ...
9
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1answer
462 views

Why do TV subtitles use spaces (instead of commas)?

It looks like Japanese text don't use spaces between words, not even in informal messages (yes perhaps in textbooks, but I digress). This page claims that a sentence with spaces inbetween just looks ...
6
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3answers
534 views

What are the rules determining the use of the dash in katakana?

As explained in this question, a dash character is used in katakana as an extension of a sound. First, what exactly is this character called? A "nobasu mark"? Anyway, I saw this sign in Shibuya the ...
11
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1answer
376 views

Use of kana iteration marks (ゝ, ゞ, ヽ, ヾ)

Kana iteration marks are are rarely used today, and hence there is not much online information on it besides this Wikipedia article, which leaves me with a couple questions. Is there any kana that ...
3
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1answer
166 views

What is the proper term for the use of archaic kanji?

I noticed that in various works of Japanese art, the artists sign their work with a seal whose contents range from fairly regular kanji to very abstract variations of kanji. I have also seen it used ...
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6answers
2k views

Why are there 3 ways of writing in Japanese?

Why are there kanji, hiragana and katakana? Is there a logical reason behind this or just tradition?
6
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1answer
441 views

Are the names of some food items written in katakana?

Japanese for Busy People 1 (lesson 11) mentions when talking about [キス]{kisu} (whiting) at a [てんぷらや]{tempura-ya}: NOTE: Names of fish, fruits and vegetables etc. are sometimes written in katakana. ...
6
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2answers
341 views

What romanization scheme is used by programmers?

I noticed that in this book on bioinformatics with Ruby (the programming language!) (Rubyではじめるバイオインフォマティクス―生物系のためのプログラミング入門), the authors sometimes used romanized Japanese in code examples. For ...
11
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3answers
714 views

Is Japanese that lacks proofreading likely to contain bad spelling or grammar?

Regarding written English that isn't proofread ... it's quality definately leaves alot to be desired. I would advise people against treating written English that wasn't professionally written (for ...
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1answer
424 views

Why is マシ written using katakana?

Does マシ come from English? Or is it a semantic emphasis?
9
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1answer
496 views

Are foreign personal names usually written in katakana rather than Romaji?

Are foreign personal names usually written in katakana, or is this dependent on the type or writing, and the target audience? For example, this Japanese Wikipedia entry on Steven Bradbury uses ...
13
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4answers
1k views

Distinguishing certain characters in handwriting and print (Similar-looking Kana and Kanji)

Japanese has some sets of characters which look very similar or even identical. Obviously, context is usually more than enough to distinguish which character is intended, but I'm wondering if there ...
9
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3answers
832 views

Is it possible to tell whether a word is kanji or hiragana without reading it?

Is it possible to tell whether a word would be written in kanji or if it would be written in hiragana without actually reading it, like it is reasonably easy to tell if a word is likely to be written ...