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Questions tagged [orthography]

正書法. The standard way of writing the language.

67
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4answers
61k views

What are the differences between じ and ぢ, and ず and づ?

The Japanese hiragana and katakana syllabaries can mostly be described as phonetic. But there are two exceptions, the two pairs of syllables modified to be voiced with the dakuten diacritic which ...
36
votes
6answers
3k views

Arabic numbers: half-width or full-width?

Using my computer, I type a lot of numbers in Japanese text, and I am not sure when to use half-width or full-width. Are there rules? Right now I only use half-width, is it fine? Off-topic: Here is ...
34
votes
4answers
30k views

What does the little っ (tsu) signify when at the end of a word?

The small っ (tsu) is usually used before a consonant to indicate gemination, less technically known as doubled consonants, which is how they are transliterated in romaji. I have seen it at the end of ...
29
votes
1answer
3k views

Do Japanese writers use underline for emphasis?

Do Japanese writers use underline to emphasize a point, or other techniques? Wikipedia mentions the use of katakana in its article on Emphasis and in its article on Katakana, but I'm not sure whether ...
28
votes
4answers
10k views

Distinguishing certain characters in handwriting and print (Similar-looking Kana and Kanji)

Japanese has some sets of characters which look very similar or even identical. Obviously, context is usually more than enough to distinguish which character is intended, but I'm wondering if there ...
25
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5answers
3k views

Is there a reason why numbers in Japanese are delimited into blocks of four?

As I understand, Japanese numbers are divided into blocks of four, so while we would think of the number 89123889 as 89,123,889, in Japan they would think of it as 8912,3889 (八千九百十二万三千八百八十九). So ...
21
votes
2answers
3k views

What does the nakaguro (・) between these two words mean?

The first sentence on the Mac OS X article on the Japanese version of Wikipedia reads: Mac OS X(マック オーエス テン)は、アップルが[開発]{かいはつ}・[販売]{はんばい}する、Macintoshコンピュータ[用]{よう}の[現行]{げんこう}オペレーティングシステム (OS) である。 ...
18
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2answers
4k views

Which is the “official” kanji for さい, 歳 or 才?

Well if I'm not wrong, usually when a word has multiple kanjis one of them is selected as the "main" or more commonly used one. But is it true that 才 and 歳 are both the "main" kanji for さい?
18
votes
2answers
3k views

Are there general rules on when to use kanji vs. kana?

This post is inspired by Tokyo Nagoya's comment in 出来できる vs ~えます form for “can”, “able to” asking why everyone was writing 出来る in kanji in their responses. As I mentioned in my reply to his comment, ...
17
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8answers
11k views

Why are there 3 ways of writing in Japanese?

Why are there kanji, hiragana and katakana? Is there a logical reason behind this or just tradition?
17
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1answer
2k views

Use of the question mark and か

I was surpised to hear from a Japanese coworker that using a question mark "?" (gimonfu) after the か particle is correct Japanese. Which of these are NG? 何時に会いましょうか 何時に会いましょうか? 何時に会いましょう? In what ...
16
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7answers
4k views

Are there words which consist of katakana and hiragana letters together?

Obviously many Japanese words consist of kanji characters plus hiragana since the latter are used for okurigana: 食べる 水割り 鷹の爪 Recently I'v started to discover a few words that use kanji characters ...
16
votes
5answers
2k views

What is the learning curve for learning Japanese writing?

What is the learning curve like for learning Japanese writing? Are you able to use what you've learnt as you're progressing, or are you only realistically able to start reading real text once you've ...
16
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3answers
482 views

Why can some words be written with or without okurigana? How do the uses differ?

What is the difference for word compounds that can exist with 送り仮名 and without and still retain the same pronunciation? As an example: 巻き貝 と 巻貝 取り引き と 取引 If I'm correct, both of these are ...
15
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4answers
2k views

Is the “wa-particle” in katakana ワ or ハ?

Is the "wa-particle" in katakana ワ or ハ? (Just a quick question - I think I have seen both used, but if ワ is correct then I have just seen the results of a computer o/p automatically using ハ)
15
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2answers
465 views

Is there a logic for deciding when to employ furigana?

I'm vaguely aware that the usage of furigana is based on the intended target audience. The younger or less likely literate the target audience the more furigana are employed. But is there a system to ...
14
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3answers
8k views

About writing numbers using Japanese numerals vs using Arabic numerals

I noticed that even though Japanese language has kanji characters for numbers (e.g. 十、百、千、万 etc), there are many places where Arabic numerals are used instead, for example, prices for shop items are ...
14
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2answers
1k views

Haphazard usage of katakana and hiragana for particles and okurigana

I'm looking at this picture of the 日米和親条約 (Kanagawa convention) from the late Edo period and it seems rather strange: It looks like the non-kanji parts are rather haphazardly written in katakana and ...
13
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1answer
922 views

Can I insert hiragana in words I only know partially how to write?

This is a problem I encountered today. I had no idea how to decide what was the best course of action, and I only got the advice of a classmate (You're doing it WRONG) to confirm. As I am still ...
13
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1answer
1k views

How often do single dots stick to the top of kanji?

In Chinese, characters with a single dot on top stay separated from the rest of the character. (Eg. Chinese 宝) In kanji, this is frequently not the case - virtually all 宀 characters I see have dots ...
13
votes
3answers
440 views

Why is this katakana not reversed?

Just saw this image about Nintendo on Kotaku: Clearly the company name, description, and location are written in traditional right-to-left orientation. Even かるた is right-to-left. So why is トランプ ...
13
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3answers
2k views

Is Japanese that lacks proofreading likely to contain bad spelling or grammar?

Regarding written English that isn't proofread ... it's quality definately leaves alot to be desired. I would advise people against treating written English that wasn't professionally written (for ...
13
votes
4answers
1k views

What determines whether a word gets a kanji compound or katakana?

I read electronics/computing articles, and I find an incredible amount of terms are written either in kanji (almost similar to Chinese) or katakana. There are times when it's confusing as to know why. ...
12
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3answers
3k views

Is it possible to tell whether a word is kanji or hiragana without reading it?

Is it possible to tell whether a word would be written in kanji or if it would be written in hiragana without actually reading it, like it is reasonably easy to tell if a word is likely to be written ...
12
votes
3answers
875 views

Spaces in children's books

Written Japanese ordinarily doesn't use any spaces to separate words. But Japanese children's books do. For example, the opening of Tomi Ungerer's The Three Robbers (すてきな 三にんぐみ) あらわれでたのは、 ...
12
votes
1answer
2k views

Is there a standard for where to put spaces in kana-only Japanese?

I've noticed that when Japanese is written mostly or entirely in kana, it's often written with spaces. For example, a lot of old video games had spaces. I've also seen this in children's books: Is ...
12
votes
1answer
1k views

Why do TV subtitles use spaces (instead of commas)?

It looks like Japanese text don't use spaces between words, not even in informal messages (yes perhaps in textbooks, but I digress). This page claims that a sentence with spaces inbetween just looks ...
12
votes
1answer
2k views

Use of kana iteration marks (ゝ, ゞ, ヽ, ヾ)

Kana iteration marks are are rarely used today, and hence there is not much online information on it besides this Wikipedia article, which leaves me with a couple questions. Is there any kana that ...
11
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3answers
9k views

Can I write Japanese name “Midori” this way - 緑?

There is female Japanese name "Midori," and I want to know the ways I can write it. I know it means "green," but maybe the name and "green" are different words sometimes. I used google-translator to ...
11
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1answer
1k views

Are foreign personal names usually written in katakana rather than Romaji?

Are foreign personal names usually written in katakana, or is this dependent on the type or writing, and the target audience? For example, this Japanese Wikipedia entry on Steven Bradbury uses ...
11
votes
2answers
2k views

Is it acceptable to use kanji and hiragana in the same word if a kanji character is unknown?

I have come across this issue a number of times. I am studying Japanese at High School, so I only know about 200 kanji. When I write words that consist of more than two kanji characters, I am unsure ...
11
votes
1answer
252 views

Why are equal signs used to substitute an English hyphen?

I was reading an article about Idlib and the groups that were there on Wikipedia, and hovered to the language setting to gloss at the title translations. For Japanese, I saw something unusual in its ...
11
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2answers
4k views

Did any writing systems exist before kanji was imported?

Did any writing systems, or even failed attempts at them, exist for Japanese before kanji was imported from China?
11
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1answer
280 views

Why using です in katakana?

This question might sound stupid but it got me thinking for some hours. A friend bought me this gel pen from a Japanese store in my country, and it is written in the pen: かわいいデス instead of かわいいです ...
10
votes
2answers
1k views

Why is ローマ字 spelt without an ン?

Why is ローマ字 spelt without an ン? As far as I can tell, it's not because you can't have an ん sound before a じ sound, because 漢字 has an ん sound before 字. Did early Europeans' term for Roman letters not ...
10
votes
1answer
489 views

Orthography at the turn of the previous century

A couple of days ago I purchased an old book published in 1908. It uses a strange orthography I haven't encountered before. Everything that is not in kanji is written in katakana, including particles,...
10
votes
2answers
1k views

What is the difference in usage between a plural using (a) the kanji repetition character 々, (b) a plural using -たち, and (c) the singular?

I know that there are some noun that are made plural by the kanji repetition character, such as 人々 and 国々. My question is, how does this differ from using the non-plural form of the noun? And how does ...
10
votes
1answer
1k views

What special kana are used to write foreign words?

How does Japanese handle sounds outside the 五十音図【ごじゅうおんず】? Are there ways of distinguishing sounds such as V or L in katakana renderings of foreign words? How are the missing sounds in the ワ column ...
10
votes
1answer
807 views

Tally Marks in Japanese?

In English, if we're tallying something on a piece of paper, etc., we usually write a vertical line to count 1, and then when you reach four of them, you cross it with a horizontal line to mean 5, and ...
10
votes
1answer
353 views

How can one stop “去年【きょねん】教職【きょうしょく】” from looking like a weird 4 kanji compound?

In writing, sometimes you get the illusion of a 4-character compound: Xさんは去年教職を退【しりぞ】いた。 This bothers some non-natives. To correct the "problem", can I always just place a comma between the kanjis ...
9
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8answers
5k views

The many ways to write {かっこいい}

Apparently there are so many ways to write {かっこいい}. Hiragana/katakana only: かっこいい カッコいい カッコイイ EDICT: 格好いい かっこ好い Other possible variants: 格好良い かっこ良い カッコ良い 格好好い 恰好いい (notice ...
9
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3answers
2k views

What is the appropriate size of hiragana in proportion to kanji?

I remember being told that hiragana should be the same size as kanji when writing them by hand. However, there are times when I see handwritten kana that are much smaller than the kanji. Does this ...
9
votes
1answer
3k views

Difference between うーん and ううん

What is the difference between うーん and ううん? In a comment on Pronunciation of ううん, paullb said that he usually sees the negative interjection ううん written as うーん. This confused me, because I thought ...
9
votes
1answer
325 views

「はは」(母) and ハ行転呼

It occurred to me the other day that if ハ行転呼 had affected all applicable environments without exception, 母 /haha/ (or I guess properly it was /ɸaɸa/, right?)should have become /hawa/. The Japanese ...
9
votes
1answer
3k views

Writing キリン vs 麒麟 (Giraffe vs Qilin)

The word きりん appears to mean either a giraffe, or the Qilin. I've noticed that it is written 麒麟{きりん} when it means Qilin, and キリン when it means giraffe. Is it a mistake to write 麒麟 if I mean giraffe?...
9
votes
4answers
270 views

Is there a reason why some questions have question marks and other don't?

In many things I read question marks are used after what is obviously a question, but sometimes they are not used (even though it is the same person who wrote it). Is there a reason why, even stuff ...
8
votes
3answers
5k views

How would one emulate capitalized letters in Japanese?

Capitalized letters look like I'M SHOUTING AT YOU. How would you reproduce this effect in Japanese? I don't think any of the obvious choices, using カタカナ instead of 漢字 or ひらがな, using punctuation, e....
8
votes
1answer
225 views

Why is こおり spelt with an お rather than an う?

I thought that syllables with an "お" sound get lengthened by an "う" rather than another "お". I've seen this question asked on hinative, which mentions 遠い(とおい), 大きい (おおきい), 多い (おおい), 通り (とおり/どおり) and ...
8
votes
2answers
994 views

Encountered な with ten-ten

I am currently reading a manga for studying Japanese and encountered something strange. A girl exclaims「な゛?!」 The situation is that she has just had water squirted up her nose, so I am guessing it's ...
8
votes
3answers
525 views

Is top-to-bottom, left-to-right writing order common in Japanese calligraphy?

My understanding is that Japanese was traditionally written in a top-to-bottom, right-to-left order (縦書き{たてがき}), and that modern Japanese is sometimes written in a horizontal left-to-right, top-to-...