Orthography is a standardized way of writing a language.

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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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320 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 ...
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1answer
89 views

How to know when I should use katakana form words referring to animals, lesser creatures, or other organisms?

I know many words for animals are usually written in katakana in contemporary Japanese, even though kanji exist: イルカ クマ And it seems some very common domestic animals I don't seem to notice ...
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215 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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243 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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1answer
191 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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1answer
179 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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833 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
288 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 ...
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1answer
133 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 ...
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167 views

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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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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93 views

穿る vs ほじる vs ほじくる

In wondering how to expressing the act of picking one's nose in Japanese I came across the following term or terms: 穿る / ほじる / ほじくる I got the feeling from WWWJDIC that the two hiragana are ...
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1answer
99 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 ...
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1answer
87 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 ...
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1answer
124 views

Intuitive or logical way to know when to use a kanji spelling vs hiragana spelling?

A recurring theme on this site is that foreign learners of Japanese use too much kanji. Often the reaction is puzzlement that we can't "just know the right way". Native speakers literally say they ...
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291 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? ...