What is the meaning of the "long hyphen," --, a DASH really, for grammar, translation, and punctuation? For example : シャワーヘッド (Shawaheddo)? Thank you


This 'long hyphen' is the elongation mark. It makes the vowel before it long. In English what we call 'long vowels' are qualitatively different from 'short vowels', but in Japanese the sole difference between long and short vowels is their actual length. Long vowels are held for about twice as long as short.

('er' sounds tend to become アー in translation, by the way)

  • Maybe this should be s separate question, but I wonder if there is any rule / reason for the two "hiragana-ways" to elongate お. I mean like おおさか(大阪) vs. おうさま(王様) as to me they both sound the same, and both long おs make up one character (大vs王). So what defines おお vs おう. p.s. Of course, in the case of e.g. 大岡山 (a place in Tokyo), it is clear that, given that 大 is written with おお, 大岡山 is therefore おおおかやま as the "3rd o" is the short one of 岡 and if there was a place called 王岡山 that would similarly have to be おうおかやま.
    – Tuomo
    Jul 2 '19 at 0:43
  • @Tuomo Yes, that should be a separate question.
    – user1478
    Jul 2 '19 at 0:59
  • @snailboat I guess you are right. I also found there was a question (sorry I don't know how to nicely make short neat links, so omit for time being, will try to rectify later) with an answer that to some part was relevant... BTW I like your whatever-you-call-it "snailboat"... I guess seaworthy, masthead rig, rudder directly extending from the long keel.
    – Tuomo
    Jul 2 '19 at 13:55

In addition to Aeon Akechi's answer, notice too that the long-vowel mark is written as a horizontal stroke when the text is horizontal, and as a vertical stroke | when the text is vertical.

(Typography geeks: the vertical stroke above is the U+01C0 pipe character rather than a proper U+30FC long vowel mark displayed vertically, since I can't figure out how to get the Stack Overflow platform to show real vertically aligned text.)

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