I am looking for a one-word, or maybe a two-word comparable word Sprachgefühl/Sprachgefuhl in Japanese.

According to this:

Meaning: an intuitive feeling for the natural idiom of a language

From what I researched I found: 語感, 語感覚
Can I use 語感{ごかん} or 語感覚{ごかんかく} ? ~ Are these Kanji conveying the natural feeling of Japanese properly?
Or is it better with a longer explanation: 言語に感じ

Anyway, can I just use Katakana to convey this word? スプラゲーフー

Thanks in advance!

noun, German.
1.a sensitivity to language, especially for what is grammatically or idiomatically acceptable in a given language.


  • Could you provide us with a definition of Sprachgefuhl in English so that we may help you more efficiently? – user11589 Jun 6 '16 at 0:10
  • @user11589 Hello, thanks for dropping by. By [link]dictionary.com/browse/sprachgefuhl?)this definition[/link] it means a sensitivity to language, especially for what is grammatically or idiomatically acceptable in a given language. – Flonne Jun 6 '16 at 0:11
  • 2
    スプラゲーフー >> Sprachgefühl をカタカナにする場合、通常は「シュプラッハゲフュール」と書かれると思います – Chocolate Jun 6 '16 at 4:30
  • @chocolate Ah, I see. I just want to confirm, katakana is formed using how we pronounce the word, right? Why add the ル on the last part? Is it the 'orthoepy' ? And why change ス into シュ ? However, I understand that フー should be フュー. Maybe, should I make a new question regarding the 'Katakanizing' a foreign word? – Flonne Jun 8 '16 at 3:03
  • ドイツ語で Sprach(e) の S の発音は s じゃなくて ʃ なので、「ス」より「シュ」に近いので「シュ」と書きました。 ch は、 a の次に来るときは普通「ハ」と書くのでそう書きました(Bach が「バッ 」と書かれるのと同じ感じです)。Gefühl ‎の最後の l は、普通「ル」と書くのでそう書きました(Apfel が「アプフェ 」と書かれるのと同じ感じです)。 – Chocolate Jun 8 '16 at 8:43

Answers will differ depending on one's Sprachgefühl (no joke intended), but I would personally opt to use 「[言語感覚]{げんごかんかく}」 over 「[語感]{ごかん}」 anytime.

The reason is that while only people can have 「言語感覚」 while both people and words can have 「語感」. In fact, 「語感」 is far more often used to refer to the feeling of a word than a person's sense for a word. Thus, I feel like one could get rid of that ambiguity, at least a little, by using 「言語感覚」.

(My assumption here is that only people, and not words, can have Sprachgefühl. German is my worst language, I admit openly. I am only an average native Japanese-speaker.)

Anyway, can I just use Katakana to convey this word? スプラゲーフー

No, definitely not. If you did, you would still need to explain what it means.

If you just said 「スプラゲーフー」, I myself would probably think you mispronounced 「ストロガノフ」.

  • I looked it up in a dictionary and also asked my Japanese friend, she didn't understand 「スプラゲーフー 」, perhaps you're right, I might be deemed mispronouncing 「ストロガノフ」 (a beef stroganoff) lol. – Flonne Jun 8 '16 at 2:54
  • the second meaning of Sprachgefühl is the character of a language see [link]merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sprachgef%C3%BChl]this[/link], so I think it can mean the character of a language. It doesn't restrict only people. – Flonne Jun 8 '16 at 3:33

My ballot for 「絶対語感{ぜったいごかん}」. It's not a translation of "Sprachgefühl" but a variation on the Japanese word 「絶対音感{ぜったいおんかん} (absolute pitch) 」, which names the ability to intuitively recognize and reproduce a given musical note.

So 「絶対語感」 and "Sprachgefühl" may not line up directly, but, I think they are pretty much doppelgängers of each other, at least in terms of meaning. Plus the word 「絶対語感」has a neat look, ring and feel (its 語感, if you will) and that never-heard-of-it-but-can-guess-what-it-means quality to it (for speakers of Japanese, anyway), which may be just as well in this case.

But what does 「絶対語感」 mean, exactly? The ability to intuit whether a given word or string of words are grammatically or idiomatically felicitous?

While I think it's synonymous with the dictionary definition of "Sprachgefühl", it's not a widely-used term, and its definition is nowhere near as well-established as that of 「絶対音感」 or presumably of "Sprachgefühl". And unlike the pitch of sound, grammar and usage and idiom and pronunciation are not strictly language-wide, universally agreed-upon phenomena. They may vary from region to region, from generation to generation, even from one person to another.

It seems 「絶対語感」 owes what currency it has at the moment to the linguist Shigehiko Toyama, who boasts a rather impressive oeuvre, among which is "わが子に伝える「絶対語感」 頭の良い子に育てる日本語の話し方".

Unfortunately I don't have any of his books, but as luck would have it I've found a blog post that purports to quote him as explaining what he intends the word to mean, in one of his books "大人の言葉づかい". Here's my partial TL of it (Expect and pardon mistranslations, though I try to keep them as few and forgivable as possible.):

What "絶対語感" is, it is the linguistic fabric of a given person. Grammar is part of it; when one hears such an utterance as 「あの人はりっぱな本に持っている」, immediately they judge it as incorrect. However, under normal circumstances, the judging person themselves does not have a clear consciousness of what their version of grammar is like, nor can they write it down on paper.

Rhythm and pitch too are encompassed within the scope of 絶対語感. When people from the Kansai region feel Tokyoites' speech to be "foreign", it is due to the difference in their 絶対語感.

The 絶対語感 of people who speak of 「食べられる」「着られる」「寝られる」 is distinct from that of those in the habit of saying 「食べれる」「着れる」「寝れる」(*TN: the much maligned 「ら抜きことば」). Though they deem the usage improper, they find it hard to say that aloud. In some dialects the 「ら抜きことば」 has long been part of correct usage.

  • Your comprehensive answer really inspires me! Unfortunately, l'électeur answered first. Your grasp of sprachgefuhl really nailed the meaning of its Japanese counterpart! Well, unfortunately, Japanese people are known for its "conservatism" which may hinder the meaning being conveyed and that never-heard-of-it-but-can-guess-what-it-means quality may be interpreted as pompous or álien'. – Flonne Dec 29 '17 at 5:15

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