Orthography is a standardized way of writing a language.

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29
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6answers
2k views

Arabic numbers: half-width or full-width?

Using my computer, I type a lot of numbers in Japanese text, and I am not sure when to use half-width or full-width. Are there rules? Right now I only use half-width, is it fine? Off-topic: Here is ...
29
votes
3answers
7k views

What are the differences between じ and ぢ, and ず and づ?

The Japanese hiragana and katakana syllabaries can mostly be described as phonetic. But there are two exceptions, the two pairs of syllables modified to be voiced with the dakuten diacritic which ...
19
votes
1answer
850 views

Do Japanese writers use underline for emphasis?

Do Japanese writers use underline to emphasize a point, or other techniques? Wikipedia mentions the use of katakana in its article on Emphasis and in its article on Katakana, but I'm not sure whether ...
18
votes
4answers
2k 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 ...
16
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2answers
4k views

What does the little っ (tsu) signify when at the end of a word?

The small っ (tsu) is usually used before a consonant to indicate gemination, less technically known as doubled consonants, which is how they are transliterated in romaji. I have seen it at the end of ...
14
votes
3answers
282 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 ...
13
votes
5answers
1k views

What is the learning curve for learning Japanese writing?

What is the learning curve like for learning Japanese writing? Are you able to use what you've learnt as you're progressing, or are you only realistically able to start reading real text once you've ...
13
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5answers
2k views

Is there a reason why numbers in Japanese are delimited into blocks of four?

As I understand, Japanese numbers are divided into blocks of four, so while we would think of the number 89123889 as 89,123,889, in Japan they would think of it as 8912,3889 (八千九百十二万三千八百八十九). So ...
13
votes
2answers
309 views

Is there a logic for deciding when to employ furigana?

I'm vaguely aware that the usage of furigana is based on the intended target audience. The younger or less likely literate the target audience the more furigana are employed. But is there a system to ...
12
votes
2answers
988 views

Which is the “official” kanji for さい, 歳 or 才?

Well if I'm not wrong, usually when a word has multiple kanjis one of them is selected as the "main" or more commonly used one. But is it true that 才 and 歳 are both the "main" kanji for さい?
12
votes
4answers
497 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. ...
12
votes
3answers
925 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 ...
12
votes
1answer
1k views

Use of the question mark and か

I was surpised to hear from a Japanese coworker that using a question mark "?" (gimonfu) after the か particle is correct Japanese. Which of these are NG? 何時に会いましょうか 何時に会いましょうか? 何時に会いましょう? In what ...
12
votes
1answer
537 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 ...
11
votes
3answers
2k views

About writing numbers using Japanese numerals vs using Arabic numerals

I noticed that even though Japanese language has kanji characters for numbers (e.g. 十、百、千、万 etc), there are many places where Arabic numerals are used instead, for example, prices for shop items are ...
11
votes
2answers
576 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, ...
10
votes
3answers
989 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 ...
10
votes
2answers
446 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 ...
9
votes
7answers
3k 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?
9
votes
1answer
661 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 ...
9
votes
1answer
186 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 ...
9
votes
1answer
539 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 ...
9
votes
1answer
567 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 ...
8
votes
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 ...
8
votes
3answers
3k views

Can I write Japanese name “Midori” this way - 緑?

There is female Japanese name "Midori," and I want to know the ways I can write it. I know it means "green," but maybe the name and "green" are different words sometimes. I used google-translator to ...
8
votes
4answers
516 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)
8
votes
1answer
599 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 ...
8
votes
2answers
951 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?
7
votes
8answers
844 views

The many ways to write {かっこいい}

Apparently there are so many ways to write {かっこいい}. Hiragana/katakana only: かっこいい カッコいい カッコイイ EDICT: 格好いい かっこ好い Other possible variants: 格好良い かっこ良い カッコ良い 格好好い 恰好いい ...
7
votes
2answers
419 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 ...
7
votes
3answers
906 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 ...
7
votes
1answer
286 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 ...
7
votes
1answer
306 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: ...
7
votes
1answer
564 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 ...
7
votes
2answers
185 views

When was 歴史的仮名遣い standardized?

Enno Shioji's answer to my question about 直音表記 says (emphasis added) that: Historically there were multiple way to write a word, and this wasn't standardized. For example, some very old documents ...
7
votes
1answer
438 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 ...
6
votes
2answers
391 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 ...
6
votes
1answer
235 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 ...
6
votes
1answer
138 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 ...
6
votes
1answer
172 views

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 ...
6
votes
1answer
286 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 ...
6
votes
1answer
544 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. ...
5
votes
3answers
321 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
votes
1answer
486 views

Why is マシ written using katakana?

Does マシ come from English? Or is it a semantic emphasis?
5
votes
1answer
291 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 ...
5
votes
1answer
297 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 ...
5
votes
1answer
150 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 ...
5
votes
2answers
260 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} ...
4
votes
1answer
641 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 ...
4
votes
1answer
985 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 ...