Kanji Story - How Japan Overloaded Chinese Characters



~ For the reader in you ~

Hiragana, katakana and kanji are the three basic scripts in the Japanese writing system. Everyone plays up the last one, the kanji. Turns out, they weren't kidding. For me, kanji were even harder than I expected. They were actually multiple, embedded systems:

On'yomi ("sound readings") of a character come from the Japanese way of pronouncing the Chinese word for that character when it arrived in Old Japan.

Since there were multiple waves of characters reaching Japan, there are multiple on'yomi! Go-on, kan-on, tou-on (tousou-on) and kan'you-on are the four basic "Sino-Japanese" pronunciations.

Kun'yomi ("meaning readings") come from tying a native Japanese word to the character as yet another way of reading it. Yes, one character can have multiple kun'yomi, too.

There's more! Nanori are Japanese name readings for a character, and I find that they're often drastically different from the other two pronunciations.

Even after you master pronunciation, characters still behave in odd ways. I highlight some of my favorites:

- Ateji are ripped from context and used like syllable "letters", just ignoring their meaning and focusing on their sound. "Sushi" is a common example.

- Kokuji characters were created in Japan following the logic of Chinese characters.

- Shinjitai and Kyuujitai are new and old character forms. A single character can have both. Many old character forms are still well known in Japan. (This isn't the same as Simplified versus Traditional characters in China.)

- Ryakuji are abbreviations. Some are extremely common. Some of them look nothing like their full counterparts.

Whew!


~ Credits ~
Art and animation by Josh from NativLang. Some of the music, too.

Music:
- Our Story Begins, Finding Movement, Sneaky Snooper and Path of the Goblin King v2 by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
- Namaste by Jason Shaw (audionautix.com)
- Inspiraparty and Thoth's Pill soundtrack by Josh (soundcloud.com/Botmasher)

Images, fonts and sfx credits:
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1T...">
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4 out of 5 students agree: Kanji = Evil. But learning Chinese characters was worse than I expected. It's systems within systems!

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~ Corrections / Additions ~

User JH points out that "long strings of On'yomi" don't have to be unintelligible! Akuma from Street Fighter and the teen fantasy novel Firegirl are two examples. See my sources for this objection.


~ For the reader in you ~

Hiragana, katakana and kanji are the three basic scripts in the Japanese writing system. Everyone plays up the last one, the kanji. Turns out, they weren't kidding. For me, kanji were even harder than I expected. They were actually multiple, embedded systems:

On'yomi ("sound readings") of a character come from the Japanese way of pronouncing the Chinese word for that character when it arrived in Old Japan.

Since there were multiple waves of characters reaching Japan, there are multiple on'yomi! Go-on, kan-on, tou-on (tousou-on) and kan'you-on are the four basic "Sino-Japanese" pronunciations.

Kun'yomi ("meaning readings") come from tying a native Japanese word to the character as yet another way of reading it. Yes, one character can have multiple kun'yomi, too.

There's more! Nanori are Japanese name readings for a character, and I find that they're often drastically different from the other two pronunciations.

Even after you master pronunciation, characters still behave in odd ways. I highlight some of my favorites:

- Ateji are ripped from context and used like syllable "letters", just ignoring their meaning and focusing on their sound. "Sushi" is a common example.

- Kokuji characters were created in Japan following the logic of Chinese characters.

- Shinjitai and Kyuujitai are new and old character forms. A single character can have both. Many old character forms are still well known in Japan. (This isn't the same as Simplified versus Traditional characters in China.)

- Ryakuji are abbreviations. Some are extremely common. Some of them look nothing like their full counterparts.

Whew!


~ Credits ~
Art and animation by Josh from NativLang. Some of the music, too.

Music:
- Our Story Begins, Finding Movement, Sneaky Snooper and Path of the Goblin King v2 by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
- Namaste by Jason Shaw (audionautix.com)
- Inspiraparty and Thoth's Pill soundtrack by Josh (soundcloud.com/Botmasher)

Images, fonts and sfx credits:
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1T...
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