93 CommentsThis discussion is locked.
Both katakana and hiragana are historically derived from the kanji. Today, hiragana is used for grammatical particles and endings, and also some instead of uncommon/rare/hard-to-write kanji. While katakana usually is used for emphasis or foreign words. But previously they were used almost in the opposite way.
I have a couple of Chinese friends who write their names in katakana (when writing in Japanese) for that exact reason. After all, to a Japanese person, a Chinese name is a foreign name.
Also, despite Japanese kanji having common roots with Chinese characters, the two are largely unintelligible to each other nowadays, especially the more modern simplified forms of Chinese. While they still look similar, my partner, a native Japanese speaker, can immediately tell when she's looking at a piece of Chinese text, because she has no idea what it says. There are some overlaps where characters look identical, but overall, I wouldn't call them the same alphabet.
Hanzi is a logography, not an alphabet. And yes, Japanese borrowed hanzi and developed it into kanji, but many meanings have changed, as happens with language over time. A monolingual Japanese speaker will have a very difficult time reading a Chinese newspaper.
Kana is a syllabary, not an alphabet.
That's an overgeneralization. You'll see katakana used for all sorts of things, though it is also used for foreign-borrowed words of western origin. Also, I think you meant "and so on," which is used to express that the list given is unexhaustive. "So and so," is used for when you can't be bothered to remember/tell something (whether it's in insult (which is an older usage) or someone's name.)
I think you mean "in American English" ;)
American pronunciation of あ and お is quite well known in Japan, and often when parodying someone's poor Japanese for comedic effect. For me, it's easy to understand thay most American accents in English lend themselves to mixing up the pronunciation of あ and お, whereas my Australia accent makes it quite easy to pronounce them the same way Japanese people do. Unfortunately, most Japanese people don't have much exposure to other kinds of English besides American English (through school and media), thus propagating the foreigners speak "poor" American Japanese stereotype.
Joshua, thank you for your comment, and please accept my apologies in advance for the absurdly long response you are about to read. I spent way too much time writing this because this is actually something about Japanese that has itched my curiosity for years, and I have never received a satisfactory answer!
To begin with, please allow me to clarify that I personally have no issue with distinguishing vowel sounds in Japanese, as they are virtually identical to those in Spanish, a language in which I am fluent. You are right, Americans often butcher their vowels in other languages, but the possible mistake I am seeing in this case is with the Japanese spelling & pronunciation, not the English.
First, to respond to your comment, I would like to establish that in both American English as well as Australian English, the name "John" is definitely pronounced not with an お (IPA "o"), but closer to an あ (IPA "a"), as is demonstrated nicely here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X-zl_QL3Qbo
Second, regardless of any possible differences between American English and other varieties, you yourself state that "most Japanese people don't have exposure to other kinds of English besides American English"; furthermore, much of the initial exposure that Japan had to the English language was from Americans. Thus, one can reasonably conclude that English words and names that made their way into Japanese would be based primarily on American English.
With those two things in mind then, i.e. that 1) in American English, the name "John" is pronounced closer to an あ (IPA "a"), and not an お (IPA "o"), and that 2) Japan's primary exposure to the English language (and thus also its names, like John) came and comes through America and its variety of English, here is the question that I was trying to state (and what I think abuchbinder was trying to say as well):
Why in Japanese is the English name "John" written as "ジョン" (with the vowel sound "o") and not as "ジャン" (with the vowel sound "a")?
It baffles me why the first people to transliterate this name did not choose to spell it as "ジャン", and why, after all these years, this different pronunciation still sticks. As stated, the English pronunciation is distinctly closer to an "a" sound, and the Japanese language obviously has an analogous vowel to that sound!
I will admit that, despite my experience with other languages, I am most definitely a novice with Japanese, so perhaps there is an obvious cultural or linguistic explanation that I am missing. Still, there it is. That is all I am trying to ask. If you or anyone else can shed some light on this mystery, it is certainly appreciated! (And thank you, in any case, for the tidbit about Japanese comedy and American vowels; I did not know that!)
Violet, no need to apologize :) I'm glad I'm not the only one posting stupidly long comments to a simple katakana recognition exercise :v
To respond to your points in order, I have to say that's an interesting clip. Like I said, I'm Australian and in my head, my "John" sounds a lot like it uses the IPA "o", but perhaps it does end up coming out sounding like the IPA "a" ┐('～`;)┌
Your question actually makes a really good point, which, embarrassingly, I have never really thought about. I'm afraid I don't have a good answer for you, but a few thoughts do spring to mind.
・The most unsatisfying possibility is that Japanese was just really inconsistent when adopting words from English. That is to say, there's no rule for deciding whether one follows the English pronunciation or the English spelling. But I realized as I was trying to come up with examples that that's not the case. The general rule seems to be to follow the pronunciation; it's even done for other English names like マイク maiku for Mike, and ジェイソン jeison for Jason.
The only case I could think of where Japanese follows the spelling over the pronunciation is ビタミン bitamin for vitamin, which actually just makes things more confusing. If Japanese predominantly follows US pronunciation, it would sound like バイタミン baitamin, but it follows the UK pronunciation instead?
・I'm not sure how these next two ideas hold up historically, but here goes. The first being the relative popularity of the name John in the US vs the UK at the time when Japan started getting familiar with English, with British "Johns" being more prevalent, thereby cementing the IPA "o" pronunciation.
Again, I'm completely uninformed when it comes to historical usage, but could it also be possible that the American accent did use the IPA "o" during that period, but now no longer does? I have no idea.
・When you mentioned if it was a possible cultural explanation, this idea immediately came to mind, but I honestly doubt it's accuracy: in Japanese, じゃん is a very casual contraction of 「じゃないですか」which roughly translates to "don't you think so?" An example would be 「あの子、チョーキレイじゃん」 ano ko, chou kirei jyan, which would be along the lines of "that chick is super hot, hey?" (disclaimer: this is extremely casual and will be considered extremely crass and offensive if said to basically anyone who isn't your best friend). But it's funny to imagine the first John that any Japanese came across introducing himself わたし、じゃん "hey, it's me, don't you agree?"
Alternatively, and arguably more hilariously, じゃん is also an onomatopoeic word in Japanese used when revealing something, kind of like "tah-dah!" in English. So the first John in Japan would be like "hey, it's me tah-dah∽∽" (I'm imagining his exasperated gestures when they keep laughing at his name must have looked like jazz hands :P)
In either case, the only logical conclusion is that the Japanese who met the first John decided it was rude to keep laughing at his name, and upon seeing him write it, found a solution to their problem :v
As a non-native English speaker, comparing the Japanese and English of "John", in my opinion, the English name "John" sounds more like ジョン then ジャン. ジャン being used for the name "Jean" (in the Euopean/French pronounciation). "John" seems to be "dʒɒn" and Jean "ʒɑ̃". Of course, bot are pronounced different than the counterparts but that's to be expected given the sounds used in Japanese.
Okay to clarify, Hiragana is used for native Japanese words. Katakana is used for words that are borrowed from other languages that are not Japanese. Or used to emphasize or stress a natural Japanese word.
みかん "tangerine" (typically seen in hiragana and not kanji)
パン "bread" (borrowed from the French word from pan)
アニメ "animation" (not only for animation from Japan but for any animated feature from anywhere in the world)
I hope this helps.
In Japanese many loanwords from other languages are used in an abbreviated form most of the times. While it's easy to see where some of the short forms came from, some of the original forms are not that easy to deduct (since they e.g. use the first part of the first word and the first part of the second word for one short form). Anime is one example of a shortened loanword. アニメ(anime) is the abbreviation of the loanword アニメーション (animēshon = animation). So, contrary to popular belief, anime is not an original japanese word but a loan word in itself. However, the shortened form might be something uniquely Japanese. It refers to all form of animations, though, and not only Japanese.
シ shi - two dash lower
ツ tsu - two dash upwards
ン n - dash upwards
セ se - little stick
ヒ hi - no stick
マma - facing left
ム mu - facing right
These were the katakana I would always get confused with.
When writing the characters by hand, the stroke order/direction for シ and ツ is also reflective of the corresponding hiragana.
For シ, the two (mostly) horizontal lines are written first (top, then bottom), and then the curved diagonal line is written from bottom left to top right - kind of like the arc you follow as you write し.
For ツ, the two (mostly) vertical lines are written first (left, then right), and then the curved diagonal line is written from top right to bottom left - like the arc you follow as you write つ.
Katakana is also used for stylistic emphasis (similar to the use of CAPS or italics in English). Another possible explanation is that, although Japanese people commonly use hiragana to "spell" kanji, it's not unheard of to use katakana.
Also, historically katakana was considered the "male" script (1) and writing in hiragana was only widely done by women (2). I'm not sure whether the creators of Naruto were aiming for historical accuracy or not, but that could be another explanation.
Interestingly, your second link indicates that the "male" script was originally kanji, whereas the "female" script was hiragana: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hiragana#History
The educated or elites preferred to use only the kanji system. Historically, in Japan, the regular script (kaisho) form of the characters was used by men and called otokode (男手), "men's writing", while the cursive script (sōsho) form of the kanji was used by women. Hence hiragana first gained popularity among women, who were generally not allowed access to the same levels of education as men. And thus hiragana was first widely used among court women in the writing of personal communications and literature. From this comes the alternative name of onnade (女手) "women's writing".
Katakana came decades later, though it was initially primarily used by men for "official text" (I'm guessing simply by virtue of them being the ones allowed to the work associated with that material): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katakana#History
Katakana was developed in the 9th century (during the early Heian period) by Buddhist monks by taking parts of man'yōgana characters as a form of shorthand, hence this kana is so-called kata (片, "partial, fragmented").
Early on, katakana was almost exclusively used by men for official text and text imported from China.
Official documents of the Empire of Japan were written exclusively with kyūjitai [traditional/unsimplified forms of kanji] and katakana.
And back to the hiragana link, regarding modern usage of both:
Male authors came to write literature using hiragana. Hiragana was used for unofficial writing such as personal letters, while katakana and Chinese were used for official documents. In modern times, the usage of hiragana has become mixed with katakana writing. Katakana is now relegated to special uses such as recently borrowed words (i.e., since the 19th century), names in transliteration, the names of animals, in telegrams, and for emphasis.
Fair call; I didn't say that "male" script was katakana and "female" script was hiragana in the same period of time, but I can see how my phrasing was misleading. In my defence, that's why I linked two separate articles f(^_^;
Regarding their modern usage, also consider this quote from my hiragana history link:
Even today, hiragana is felt to have a feminine quality.
And none of the listed special uses of katakana don't really apply to OP's original question of Kakashi's name. For emphasis, maybe, but that's not necessarily the whole picture :)
There is no single character for "jo". That's why the combination with the half-size character is necessary.
The size of the character matters. Modifying characters are written half-size and are not pronounced in the usual manner. Here, the small ョ(which is pronounced "yo" in its full-size form) modifies "ji" to "jyo" (or as we render it with our English-language pronunciations, "jo").
Thank you for this information! First, I could not figure out why Duo kept saying that ジヨン was incorrect. Then, I couldn't figure out how to get the correct character with my IME keyboard. The linked charts had the answer: type jyonn (in romanji-katakana mode) instead if jiyonn. Voila, ジョン!
PS, if anyone else is having trouble with the Windows Japanese IME, Alt+
toggles between latin characters and kana. Once in kana mode, Alt+CapsLock switches to katakana, Ctrl+CapsLock switches to hiragana. (But if you're in latin mode, both of those keys just switch back to the most recent kana, same as Alt+ !)
Good question. Here are the different "j" sounds you can get by combining other kana with ジ -
- ジャ = "jah" as in "jar"
- ジョ = "joh" as in "john"
- ジュ = "ju" as in "june"
- ジェ = "jeh" as in "jelly"
As you can see, none of them match the "jay" sound you're after. You can get that sound by extending the ジェ sound. Depending on whether the vowel sound is monophthongal or diphthongal in your accent, you can use ジェー or ジェイ, respectively, though the difference is largely negligible in Japanese.
Oh my gosh I never knew that trick (that you're stroking in the same direction as the hiragana counterparts.) That's super-helpful! Sadly, I think that my hand-written so-n and shi-tsu are indistinguishable... Hopefully, with this trick, that will change. :) Thank you very much!