Japanese writing

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Japanese writing August 17, 2012

Japanese writing is considered one of the most intricate languages that are spread around us. Japanese first encountered the Chinese in the 1st century ad but they became literate with the Chinese character after the 4th ad. Literacy meant fluency in classical Chinese and it was quite later that Chinese characters were started to use to write Japanese which was called kanbun. Even today, some japanese schools teach kanbun in their syllabus. Due to this huge impact from china into japan, several Chinese words had no substitute for them in Japanese and they were adopted as they were, even their pronunciation was adopted. This derivation of words is known as sino-japanese in English. Like English, some Japanese words have diverse origins to them.

Japanese writing system consists of three main scripts, which are kanji, kana and o katakana. Japanese writing has adopted some Chinese characters these come under the script of kanji. Whereas kana consist of phonetic alphabets, which are necessary for pronunciation and hiragana is also part of it. Hiragana is actually the native and pure Japanese words. While katakana has words, which are specific technical, scientific words or are taken from foreign language who have no substitute for them in japanese. Sometimes kanji and hiragana are replaced by katakana for creating emphasis.
Most of the Japanese writing involves the kanji and hiragana scripts while they may also use katakana specifically academically speaking. Just because of hiragana, one can easily differentiate between Japanese and Chinese characters. Due to this mixing of one script with another, Japanese writing is considered the intricate languages. In recent days, foreign students of Japanese who have not mastered the three Japanese scripts used romanized Japanese called ‘romaji’. Romaji is also used by the native japanese but then it is only for computer records. In other words, romaji becomes the fourth script of japanese.
The issue with kanji words is that they have more than one or many pronunciation, which confuses the reader. However, there are substitute for some kanji words in hiragana, its usage depends on the writer’s choice. It should be kept in mind that some authors write furigana next to or under the kanji word. Furigana is the phonetic depiction of the kanji words. Furigana helps the children, foreign readers, and hazy readers.
Moreover, hentiagana are the japanese words that are considered to be archaic by the meiji reformation. They are still used but in few places and not often. Commonly kanji dictionaries are listed using radical system while other systems also exist.
Traditionally, Japanese is written format is called tategaki, which is similar to Chinese writing system. The columns are written from top to bottom and lines are written from right to left. While the modern japanese is written with format yokogaki which is horizontal and written from left to right, clearly, it is inspired from the japanese western counterparts. A book, which is published using the tategaki format, opens from what the english would call the back whereas if the book is written in yokogaki, it will open from what we call front.