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Kanji, aka “why japanese language doesn’t rely on synonyms when writting” October 24, 2006

Posted by winden in japanese.

So when you are using a western language such as Spanish or English, you may sometimes find that the same word is used for different meanings… this is usually called as a good thing (aka “Spanish is such a rich language because most words have so many multiple meanings depending on context”)

Japanese language does rely on that for speaking, but not for writting so… even if the are spoken the same, different ideas have different symbols known as kanji (or somethimes groups of kanji). For example to say basement, you would pronounce “chika” (ちか) but would write 地下.

Going the reverse way, from pronunciation to writting (and thus meaning) gives for example the translation of “akira” (あきら) as “bright” (明), or “rise” (昂), or “wise” (慧) … which are more or less the options you get from the computer when trying to input the kanjis.

So in fact written Japanese is really much more precise than common western languages because the exact meaning you have in mind usually has it’s own kanji. The problem is, of course, that most people know only the “common kanjis”, just like in western languages that most people only use common words and only very knowledgeable people use (or even know) the more esoteric and specific ones.


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