もじ【文字】


■ /moji/, also pronounced もんじ /monji/. Also called 字 /ji/, though this often refers to kanji. (The pronunciation もんじ /monji/ is rarely used in speech and sounds old-fashioned.)

Characters (graphs), kana, letters, hieroglyphics.

Japanese is often quoted as being the hardest language to become literate in. Not only do the 2000-plus standard kanji require long study, but the kanji are mixed with the hiragana and katakana scripts along with letters from the alphabet.

Together, the hiragana and katakana are referred to as kana. Excluding perhaps number 5 below, the hiragana and katakana have a one-to-one correspondence. The kana have been broken down for the learner into groups:

1) 五十音図 - these tables have the basic kana
2) 濁音・半濁音 - these are kana with diacritical marks
3) 拗音 - these are the result of combining kana ending with /i/ with /ya/, /yu/ and /yo/, like kyo in Kyoto
4) 促音 - this is the use of /tsu/ to make consonant sounds longer, like the /kk/ in bookkeeper
5) 外来語用の特別かな - these are newer kana combinations used for foreign words and other effects

Other 文字 commonly used in Japanese are:

6) 漢字 - kanji; characters (or graphs) mainly from China. One special use of kanji is described in the entry on 当て字. 漢字 that were invented in Japan are explained in 国字.
7) ローマ字 - letters from the alphabet

文字 with special uses or applications:

8) ギリシャ文字 - Greek letters, used mainly in mathematics
9) 変体仮名 - hentaigana, alternate forms of hiragana
10) 万葉仮名 - man'yougana, kanji used phonetically in ancient times, most notably in the ancient poetry collection 万葉集 man'youshuu.

Names of other common types of 文字:

11) ロシア文字・キリル文字 - Russian/Cyrillic letters
12) 象形文字 - shoukei moji, hieroglyphics
13) ハングル文字 - hangul (Korean writing)
14) ヘブライ文字 - Hebrew letters
15) アラビア文字 - Arabic letters

In formation about the coding systems used to represent Japanese in computers can be found in the entry on 文字 コード.


This entry was created by Benjamin Barrett, with additional contributions by Jon Babcock, Tom Gally, and another contributor.


Created 2000-06-20. Link to 当て字 added by TG 2000-08-11. Comment on もんじ pronunciation added 2004-07-19.

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