Thread: 日本語
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Old 2022-07-31, 09:49   #3
Nick
 
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Dec 2012
The Netherlands

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Let's take a first look at the Japanese writing system.
In English, we just have 2 versions of a 26-character alphabet, lowercase and uppercase
(along with spaces and various punctuation marks).
In Japanese, we have 2 versions of a 46-character syllbary, called hiragana and katakana
(together referred to as kana) and also the kanji characters, each representing an entire noun,
verb or adjective, of which 2136 are officially recognized.


Batalov's respectful version of "thank you" above is an example of hiragana.
His joke about Go shows an advantage of using kanji: the board game Go sounds the same
as the Japanese for "word", but is written in kanji as 碁 instead of 語.
In practice, kanji, hiragana and katakana are all used together. As a first approximation,
hiragana is used for grammar (e.g. endings in verb conjugation) and katakana used for
loan/foreign words or for emphasis.

Japanese can be written vertically, in which case we read each column from top to bottom
starting on the right, or it can be written horizontally, in which case we read each
row from left to right starting at the top (as in English). Words are not separated by spaces.
In horizontal writing, our Arabic numerals may be used instead of the corresponding kanji.

Calligraphy is an old Japanese art and, even today, when writing with a pen instead of on a keyboard,
there is a correct way to form each character, giving the order of drawing the strokes and, for each one,
which end to start at. For hiragana, for example, these are given here:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hiraga..._and_direction
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