On page 33 of the Lonely planet phrasebook for Japanese, 5th edition (ISBN 978-1-74104-231-3), the phrase given is

What does 'deguchi' mean?


The pronunciation guide has

de-gu-chi wa dō yū i-mi des ka

I thought the いう should be 言う, because neither jisho.org nor the English edition of Wiktionary mention that kana should be used.

However, when I searched for "はどう意味ですか" (without いう or 言う to bias the search), I found most of the matches were for "いう".

Should I use "言う" or "いう"? Also, is use of "言う" or "いう" specific to this phrase, or is it normally written that way?


This is really a matter of style rather than any concrete language rule, but the prevalent style is that generally kanji should be used for 'content' words, and kana should be used for 'function' words (though some words, as you've seen, are kana no matter what, even if kanji for them does exist).

So, in this case, is いう a function word or a content word? It's a function word, right? It doesn't add any meaning to the sentence; it just holds the sentence together. So kana would be the better choice under the most common style.

言う can be a content word, of course - for example, when reporting what someone else has said - and in that case it's better to use kanji. But in this case it is not a content word.

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どういうmeans what 'sort' not the meaning 言う

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