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I’m a bit new to Japanese and I’m a little confused about what they are used for.

marked as duplicate by Earthliŋ Aug 31 '18 at 9:50

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The latter are quotation marks, equivalent to " " in English. For example, the sentence:

Mr Tanaka said "Good morning".

could be written as something like:

たなかさんは「おはよう」といいました。

The former may be a little different in different contexts, but one way it's used is to lengthen vowels when you write words in katakana. So, for example, the word for Australia, "Oosutoraria", is written as

オーストラリア

Note that when you write text vertically (as is traditional in Japanese), the vowel lengthening symbol is also written vertically (|).

You can find more about these symbols in the Wikipedia articles on Japanese punctuation and the List of Japanese typographic symbols.

  • Is the vowel lengthening thing only used with katakana? – Wilson Mar 16 '18 at 9:58
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    @Wilson native Japanese word written in hiragana will repeat the vowel to lengthen though after the "o" sound 「う」 is often used instead of 「お」 – ratchet freak Mar 16 '18 at 11:50
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    @Wilson In proper and formal Japanese "ー" would rarely be used with anything besides katakana. But real people (i.e. not artificial textbook people) may use it it with hiragana, or whatever, even latin letters if it happens to look good. – Matti Virkkunen Mar 16 '18 at 13:38

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