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Multiple questions in one thread


15 May 2003
Question 1:
I am learning the hiragana characters right now and I am curious about one that doesn't seem to have any usage. I don't know how to insert kana into these messages, so I will describe it as looking like the front half of a person on a bicycle. The tables I have say the sound is "o," "(w)o," or "uu" (?!). It is in the "o" column and the "w" row. One Internet source says that it is an archaic character that stands for a one-kana word. What word is that?

Question 2:
When you convert a word from romaji to kana, how do you know which "ji" character to use?

Question 3:
What difference does it make in how well people understand what you are saying if you don't use kanji in your sentences?

Question 4 (semi-technical):
How do you display both Roman and Japanese characters in the same page? (Question 1 would have been shorter if could have done that ;-)

Thank you for reading this!
Question 1 :
Is this the hiragana you described ? :

This picture is from kanachart.com . But it isn't in the W row... it is in the A row.
It is written wo but pronounced o.
It is very used because it stands for the "object" particle.
When you're speaking about what you've seen or eaten or found, etc... you use this hiragana after the noun but before the werb.
Example :
- terebi wo mita = I watched the television
mita is the past of miru (to see)

- biiru wo nonde iru = I'm drinking a beer
nonde iru is the progressive tense of nomu (to drink)

There is also a katakana with the same writting wo. But it is not very used because the pronounciation is o and there is already a katana for o.

Question 2 :
I don't understand... "which ji character to use"
If you want to write "romaji" for example, you write it with these katakana : ro-ma-ji
Maybe you meant, how to make the choice between hiragana and katakana ?

Question 3
"what you are saying" or "what you are writing" ?
- when you're writing, it's better to use kanji because many words have the same pronounciation, and then the same writing in hiragana. But maybe you can be understood if the meaning is comprehensible thanks to the context.

- when you're speaking that's the same problem but you can't resort to kanji. So, the context becomes very important, but it seems that there is also a subtle difference in the pronounciation, using accents.

Question 4 :
Can you read the characters when other people write in hiragana/katakana/kanji ?
- If you're using Windows you should install IME Japanese (input method editor), and look for some informations about using IME

- If you're using a Linux based OS, it is probably already installed, but you must use a text editor like Emacs to write in japanese and after copy/paste in your web browser

- If you're using a Mac, I don't know but I've read that an installation have to be done with a CD which contains international languages pack.

I hope this will help you. ;)
Thanks for your reply; it was very helpful.

I still can't find find "wo" in the stupid dictionary (it's probably me :p), but I haven't gotten to grammar yet, so ce n'est pas un dテゥsastre .
Regarding the position of "wo," now I am confused... The chart I am going by is this:

where the character in question is marked by a red dot. Is this chart out of date?

For question 2, I meant deciding between the two characters (taken from kanachart.com as well):

I have seen the "shi" one used a lot, but not the "chi" one. I understand that the latter is old-fashioned, but I just wondered how it was used.

As far as my little display issue, it seems to depend on the web page, so it looks like I will have to go on a downloading rampage.
Yes, wo belongs in the W row, not the A row. kanachart is only showing it in the A row because it sounds the same as o.
You won't see it in the dictionary because it's not used in words. That's like saying why isn't the @ symbol in the dictionary. It is however used very frequently as a particle and you will see it often.

Re "ji" -- usually you would assume that it's the "shi"one. If you have any doubt you should use a dictionary. Since most of the time people go from Japanese to Roma-ji and not the other way around this is usually not a big issue.

re not using kanji. Notusingkanjiislikewritingasentencewithout spaces. Not impossible but somewhat difficult to read.

To display web pages containing both Japanese and roman letters, you would tell your browser to interpret the page as Japanese by setting the encoding selection appropriately. You may need to download the Japanese fonts to make the Japanese appear properly.
Originally posted by GaijinGirl
Thanks for your reply; it was very helpful.
For question 2, I meant deciding between the two characters (taken from kanachart.com as well):

I have seen the "shi" one used a lot, but not the "chi" one. I understand that the latter is old-fashioned, but I just wondered how it was used.
This issue of overlapping kana pronouncations exists with "zu" as well, which can be taken from both "tsu" (the old fashioned way) and "su." I don't think you can tell much going by English-friendly romanization charts, though, since there obviously may well be subtle distinctions to a native speaker in both cases that have fallen out or come into more natural use over time.

If you look instead at something like the the Nihon-shiki romanisation scheme, for instance, which maps a one-to-one correspondence between kana and romaji, you will see that "tsu" and "ji" actually come out more like "du" and "di" in English. Under this system all kana are translated exactly according to the row and column in which they are found. 窶堙? becomes ツ"Diツ" because it is in the ツ"Dツ" column, and the ツ"Iツ" row, etc.

I don't know if that helps answer your question, but it is an interesting one. I've sometimes wondered about about "zu" from "tsu," which you do still see on occasion but never much bothered with it until now.

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