This is a bit of an ad hoc question, but still should be well within the scope of JLU, so here goes:

While trying to come up with ideas for our new logo in the meta group (subliminal message: go and participate!), the idea of an inkan-like 2x2 kanji logo was bounced around:

用 日
法 語

(read vertically)

The design Derek made looks quite spiffy, but I am having some light doubt about the use of "日語" as a stand-in for "日本語" (for balance and style, using the full 3-kanji compound is not really an option). While the meaning is quite obvious, I wonder how accepted this "abbreviation" is, and whether it would look natural to a native.

My question is: has anybody ever encountered 日語 used to mean 日本語 in a similar context? Do you have any example to point me to that could put my worries to rest?

Alternatively: can you think of any good two-kanji compound to say the same thing? (I did think of 和語, but my dictionaries say it has a specific meaning, different from just "Japanese language").

  • Can the three characters be aligned in one line either vertically or horizontally? I think that is okay.
    – user458
    Sep 20, 2011 at 5:46

3 Answers 3


I do not think that I have ever seen 日語 for 日本語 in Japanese. Both Daijirin and Daijisen list the word 日語 with the meaning “the Japanese language,” but Daijirin notes that the word is used in Chinese, Korean and so on. Indeed 日語 sounds like a Chinese word to me.

There are a few words which mean almost the same thing as 日本語:

  • 国語 (こくご): Literally means “national language,” but it means the Japanese language. For example, classes on the Japanese language at school are called 国語, and the study of the Japanese language is called either 国語学 or 日本語学 at universities.
  • 邦語 (ほうご): The same as 国語.
  • 和文 (わぶん): Means “text written in Japanese.” For example, Japanese fonts are often called 和文フォント.
  • 邦文 (ほうぶん): Literally means “national text,” but it is used synonymously to 和文.

However, note that it is usually called 日本語, and if you use another word, it can imply something.

Probably I should write my opinion about the logo on meta, but I will continue here. As far as the logo is concerned, honestly, I do not think that any of these replacements works. 日語 sounds like a Chinese word, and I get a contradictory impression. I feel that 国語 and 邦語 (and 邦文) have an unnecessary focus on “the national” language which does not really make sense on an international website. 和文 and 邦文 are slightly off because they mean not the language itself but the text written in Japanese. Does 日本語 with the lower left corner left blank really look bad?

  • @Tsuyoshi: Thanks a lot for your native take on this! For once, I really think native-perception is one of the most essential aspect, as I think a logo that projects a weird "almost-but-not-quite" vibe would be a turn off for many users... You should definitely come share your thoughts on the logo in meta!
    – Dave
    Jun 22, 2011 at 15:08
  • I concur with @Tsuyoshi that "日語" is totally new to me (I'm 80% native if you count by the years).
    – ento
    Jun 22, 2011 at 16:17
  • @Dave: I am not sure if native perception is the “most essential,” but I hope that it is useful to know what native speakers think about the choice of these words. Of course, what I wrote here is not even “what native speakers think.” What I wrote is just my personal impression, but it is the best I can provide. Jun 22, 2011 at 16:34
  • 2
    日語 is definitely Chinese, as is the use of 日 (instead of 和) as an abbreviation for "Japanese". For instance, you'd easily see 日中词典 in Chinese, but in Japanese it would be called (I think, since I never saw one :)): 和漢辞典.
    – Boaz Yaniv
    Jun 22, 2011 at 17:08
  • 1
    @Boaz: That is a good point, but actually Japanese-Chinese dictionaries (for Japanese speakers) are called 日中辞典. More commonly seen are Chinese-Japanese dictionaries: 中日辞典 (which is different from 漢和辞典 which explains kanji in Japanese). I think that this is exceptional, because for example Japanese-German dictionaries are usually called 和独辞典 rather than 日独辞典. Jun 22, 2011 at 17:13

I personally think 日語 is more look like chinese word for 日本語 to me. But as a two letter word, I still think it is a good one. Japanese use 国語 but that's a kind of meaning national language, which does not specifically saying about Japanese Language.


I have at least four ideas, sorted by incremental order of preference: 国語、邦字、邦語、邦文.
However, the average learner is unlikely to recognize them.

  • I think even without a full-on understanding, some amount of familiarity to even casual students would be nice (hence the use of 日, 語 or 和...). I guess 国語 could be nice, but is it really appropriate in this context? (it rings more as something you could use only domestically, not on an international site that puts Japanese side-by-side with other languages...) | Do I take it you think 日語 is incorrect then?
    – Dave
    Jun 22, 2011 at 6:04
  • As far as correctness is concerned, you'll have to ask native speakers. As far as taste and feelings are concerned, I do not like "日語" very much. Even though some other countries use similar characters, do they use the word "国語" too? If not, then it implies it's written in Japanese and that it describes the Japanese language. Still, I think that the "邦" variations are nice, and, well, it's also about learning!
    – Axioplase
    Jun 22, 2011 at 7:08
  • 1
    Agree with Dave. You should not use 国語. First, it only means the 'coutry (internal) language' as apposed to forign languages, and only makes sense with "Japanese" meaning under the presupposition that you are a Japanese. Second, this is one of the words that is often discussed as politically incorrect. It is based on the prejudice that a country matches one-by-one to a language. This is not true. There are Ryukuan and Ainu languages. There are also minority living in Japan who are a foreign origin and do not speak Japanese.
    – user458
    Jul 26, 2011 at 14:01

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