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There was no peculiar character in Japan originally. Based on the Kanji
imported from China, predecessors took pains and adapted the Chinese character
to Japanese in the Nara period(710-794). The Chinese character used thus
is called "Manyogana". ("Manyogana" were used for old
books, such as "Manyoshu", "Kojiki", and "Nihonshoki".
However, it is too difficult for general people to read "Manyogana"
now.) The Japanese notation of the Kana character (Hiragana, Katakana)
was produced based on this "Manyogana." Then, the character culture
peculiar to Japan different from China progressed.
Japanese consists of three different character sets. Many persons say, "Japanese language is difficult". One of the reason might be the kanji. However, the Kanji can be written in Kana characters. And, the Kanji is unnecessary when talking. "Japanese language education" of Japan starts from the study of Kana characters. All Kanji are not mastered even if it is a Japanese. In short, if you mastered the "Kana character" which is the alphabet of the Japanese language and know the words, you can do communication to some extent.
Kanamoji is a generic name for the character of Hiragana and Katakana.
It is equivalent to the English alphabet and the kana character has the
46 standard phonetic characters. Kanamoji is the first step of Japanese
Hiragana was devised as what is replaced with difficult "Manyogana" at the Heian period (794-1192). Hiragana was formed into the simple style from Chinese character. That is, Hiragana is Ultimate Sosho (fully cursive style). Their shape is rounded and rather simple. For example, the character "" was changed as follows.
*If you want to learn about "Kaisho, Gyosho, and Sosho", please see about the style of handwriting.
Katakana was devised to write characters easily at the Heian period (794-1192). Katakana was formed using a part of Chinese character. Their shape is angular and simple. For example, the character "" was formed from the left part of the following Kanji.
Kanamoji has 46 standard phonetic characters. These are called "Seion".
There are "Dakuon", "Handakuon", "Yoon",
"Sokuon" and "Chouon" besides Seion. And, "Tokushuon"
was added in order to write borrowed words. If you want to listen to the
basic pronunciation of kana characters with a sound, please see page of
Listen to Basic Pronunciation Voice.
It is possible to write a sentence by only Kanamoji. However, the sentence of only Kana characters will have pauses of words difficult to understand, and will turn into a sentence which is very hard to read. Therefore, Japanese is usually written by using both Kanamoji and Kanji. Each Kana character does not have a meaning. The use of Kanamoji is as follows.
Japan is a country with many borrowed words. Katakana is used when writing
borrowed words, foreign names and place-names. The borrowed word is the
word established with the original meaning. "Japanized English"
was constructed by combining English words. Although they sound like English,
they are the words of expression which is not in original English. As a
matter of course, only Japanese people can understand "Japanized English".
And, in order that they have flooded too much, we are confused to the difference
with original English.
|The word borrowed from German "Arbeit". A meaning is "work". In Japan, it means short-term labor contracts, such as a side job and temporary employment.|
|The word borrowed from Portuguese "Castella". This is the baked confectionery imported from Portugal to Nagasaki at the Muromachi period (1338-1573).|
|The word borrowed from French "Croissant". The word about cooking and dress has much borrowing from French.|
|The word borrowed from English "Radio".|
|The word borrowed from Spanish "Medias" or Portuguese "Meias". A meaning is stretchy cloth.|
|"Salary" and "man" were combined. People who are working for a company by getting salary. It is used in the same meaning as "Office worker" of English.|
|"Personal computer" was abridged.|
|"Back" and "mirror" were combined. It is used in the same meaning as "Rear-view mirror" of English.|
|"Pair" and "look" were combined. It is used in the same meaning as "same outfit, matching outfits" of English.|
|"Paper" and "driver" were combined. It is used in the same meaning as "Sunday driver" of English.|
<Note>The symbol of " " is used when lengthening a vowel sound.
The Chinese character was imported from China. However, the Chinese character
of Japan has improved so that a Chinese character can be written briefly.
For example, the basis of the Kanji "" was "". There are many kanjis which Japanese character culture produced.
(The kanji of 10,000 or more are in the "Chinese-Japanese dictionary"
of Japan. There is a kanji of 6000 or more which can be used with a personal
computer. There are about 2000 also with the "Chinese characters in
common use" used usually now.) Please see Japanese Kanji Dictionary with Pronunciation and Japanese Kanji Dictionary help page, if you want to learn in detail about each Kanji.
The Kanji can be written using Kana characters. If so, why does we use the Kanji purposely? The Kanji has the advantage that we can understand a meaning on the shape. For example, it is "" when Kanji is written in Hiragana. There are some words pronounced "" as follows. (Chinese character), (organizer), (inspector), (feeling), a name of a person called Kanji. If it is written as "" in hiragana, we have to interpret the meaning in the context. However, if it has written with the Chinese character, we can understand the meaning only by seeing the word. Of course, if we do not know the Kanji, it is not meaningful. So, it is significant to study the kanji.
Kanji has two kinds of readings "On-yomi" and "Kun-yomi".
"On-yomi" is Chinese pronunciation. "Kun-yomi" is the
original pronunciation of Japan. At the time of "Kun-yomi", "Okurigana(a
declensional kana ending)" is added to a Kanji in almost cases. The
inside of the parenthesis of the following example is "Okurigana".
Kanji has a meaning in each and is equivalent to a word. They can combine
and can make idioms indicating various meanings. The number of idioms has
tens of thousands.
Apart from the usual idioms, there are 1000 or more "Four character
Kanji compound words" used as a proverb. These features are that there
is much amount of information compared with the number of characters.
|A partner's thought is understood without using words. To have a tacit understanding.|
|Clouds are drifting in the sky, and water is flowing. That is, the free heart without tenacity of purpose is expressed.|
*If you want to learn more about "Yoji-jyukugo", please see Four character Kanji compound word list.
A radical is one of the component which compose a Chinese character. They
were defined as a standard for classifying Chinese characters. The dictionary
of the Chinese character is arranged for each radical. When looking for
Kanji which pronunciation does not understand in a dictionary, you can
search by the radical. There are many radicals which are one of Kanji originally.
The Kanji with the same radical often has a common point in a meaning.
The punctuation marks used in Japanese are Kuten "" and Touten "". As for the Touten in lateral writing, "" or "" is used. Kuten is equivalent to an English period. It is always used in the end of a sentence. Touten is used in order to make a sentence easy to read and to understand. However, there is no regular rule in this.
Japanese does not have a grammatical plural form per se like English. However,
some Kanji can indicate plurality by iterating. The iteration mark of Kanji