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Very beginner question. I often see this spelled in hiragana with a dash. I thought the dash was used to indicate long sounds in katakana, where hiragana should have been spelled やっほう. Why isn't it?

  • Actually I don't think is a trivial question. I would rephrase it as "What's the difference in using ー instead of う to prolong a sound?". Or something like that. – Tommy Nov 6 '18 at 6:05
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To put things into context, let's start by saying that the dash sign "ー", is called [長音符]{ちょうおんぷ}. It is also called Katakana-Hiragana Prolonged Sound Mark by the Unicode Consortium.

As you correctly pointed out, it indicates a long vowel.

I linked to the English Wikipedia for your convenience, but if you look to the more complete Japanese article, there is a better explanation of why it is not used in hiragana, generally:

ひらがなでは通常、長音符は使われず、現代仮名遣いに基づいた別の方法で長音を表す(例:かあさん、にいさん、すうじ、ねえさん、けいさん、とうさん、そのとおり)。

Based on the 現代仮名遣い{げんだいかなづかい} (modern kana usage as laid out by government in 1946), a different method (than the dash) is used to express a 長音{ちょうおん} (long vowel) for hiragana. That is, usually another vowel is added such as in the examples:

さん、にさん、すじ、ねさん、けさん、とさん、そのと

However, going on reading Wikipedia, you can see that:

ただし俗な用法として感動詞(例:「ああ」の代わりに「あー」、ありゃー)、擬音・擬態語(例:どすーん、そーっ、あーん)や方言・俗語(例:てめー、あぶねーっ!、あちー)、語調の強調による長呼(例:ながーい、よーく、たかーい)の表記などにひらがなでも長音符が使われることがあり、特に漫画の書き文字に多用される。

Which basically says that for interjections, onomatopoeic sounds, slang, to mark the tone of the voice, etc, sometimes the dash is used (especially in manga, according to the same source). The reported examples are:

「ああ」 becoming 「あー」 (interjection), どすん、そっ、あん (onomatopoeia), てめ、あぶねっ!、あち (dialect/colloquial language), ... etc

I think やっほー belongs to the last group, hence I think this explains why you can see it spelled with the dash.

  • ねー、おめー、やべー、ばかやろー – Vun-Hugh Vaw Nov 6 '18 at 7:01

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