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日本語ドメイン Discussion for Japan IDN Domain names. Japanese IDNs are available in .com .net & .jp

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Old 16th January 2010, 09:25 AM
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The Japanese Writing System

In one of the other threads a new member mentioned Japanese 'Symbols' and that got me thinking of what I have learned about Japanese and how that has helped me with regards to domains. Please keep in mind that I am not a native speaker. A little bit of knowledge can go a long way. You don't have to speak Japanese to figure out what makes an excellent Japanese domain.

An excellent in depth article can be found here: Wikipedia - Japanese writing system. But I will give you my summary as follows.

Japanese can be a bit confusing and a bit daunting at the start because they use 3 different scripts (4 if you include their use of Latin as Romaji). It should be noted that in Japan everyone studies English in school. That doesn't mean they are anywhere near fluent however. They still prefer to use Japanese 99.9% of the time. They speak Japanese, They search in Japanese, They type in Japanese. What this does mean is that they are familiar with Latin characters and many common Latin terms including .com .jp and .net. Just like you probably understand that the word 'bonjour' means 'hello' in French even if you don't speak French.

The 3 Japanese scripts:

Kanji:
Japanese Kanji have been derived directly from Chinese. These are the characters that tend to be rather complex such as 漢字. Individual Kanji often have several meanings so complete words usually require 2 or more characters. Over time many words have developed different meaning from the Chinese so they are not usually interchangeable. When you do get a good word that does mean the same thing in Chinese as it does in Japanese it is a wonderful thing from a domainers point of view. It increases the potential audience tremendously. A good example of this would be '流行' which means Pop as in Popular Fashion in Japanese, Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese.

Kanji are used for:
nouns
stems of adjectives and verbs
Japanese names.

Katakana:
The word katakana (カタカナ) "fragmentary kana", as the katakana scripts are derived from components of more complex kanji. Katakana are characterized by short, straight strokes and angular corners, and are the simplest of the Japanese scripts. Unlike Kanji where each character represents at least one meaning, Katakana characters each represent a sound or mora.

Katakana are used to write:
foreign words and names
commonly used animals, plants or objects whose kanji are rare, such as "tokage" (lizard), "bara" (rose), "rōsoku" (candle)
onomatopoeia
emphasis, much like italicisation in European languages
technical and scientific terms, such as plant, animal, and mineral names.

From a domainers point of view Katakana is important because it is used for foreign words and names. What this means is that modern words like TV are often written in Katakana テレビ. It is also important to remember that Japan has been influenced by nations other than English speaking ones so it is not uncommon to find popular words in Katakana that were derived from other languages, for example モード translates as 'mode' which means 'fashion' in French. Also バイト translates as 'byte' and means work as it comes from the German word 'arbeiter'. Many excellent domains are in Katakana or Kanji and Katakana combined.

Hiragana:
Hiragana is easy to recognize as being much more cursive than Katakana. (ひらがな)
Hiragana and katakana are both kana systems, in which each character represents one mora. Each kana is either a vowel such as "a" (あ); a consonant followed by a vowel such as "ka" (か); or "n" (ん), a nasal sonorant which, depending on the context, sounds either like English m, n, or ng (IPA: [ŋ]), or like the nasal vowels of French.

Hiragana are used for words for which there are no kanji, including particles such as kara から "from", and suffixes such as ~san さん "Mr., Mrs., Miss, Ms." Hiragana are also used in words for which the kanji form is not known to the writer or readers, or is too formal for the writing purpose. Verb and adjective inflections, as, for example, be-ma-shi-ta (べました) in tabemashita (食べました?, "ate"), are written in hiragana. In this case, part of the root is also written in kanji. Hiragana are also used to give the pronunciation of kanji in a reading aid called furigana.

From a domainers point of view I have found Hiragana to be less imortant than Katakana or Kanji and sometimes it even gets in the way. For example 'の' is a Hiragana particle that sometimes is used like we would use 'the' or 'of' in English. Sometimes in your search for domains, you will find it inserted into a term thus making it less desireable. Early on I was very confused by Hiragana because it is used to phonetically represent how words are pronounced. Therefore you will often find it used in dictionaries like Jim Breen's. Just because the word is in the dictionary (in brackets) doesn't mean it is an acceptable spelling for the word. It is just a guide to proper pronounciation.

Hiragana are used to write:
inflectional endings for adjectives and verbs (okurigana 送り仮名)
grammatical particles (joshi 助詞)
words that lack a kanji, where the kanji is obscure, difficult to typeset, is considered too difficult (as in children's books)
phonetic renderings of kanji pronuncation (furigana 振り仮名). Furigana may aid children or nonnative speakers or clarify nonstandard, rare, or ambiguous readings.

Romaji:
The best way to describe Romaji is that it is a modern kludge. Wikipedia has this to say:
Romaji is the use of the Latin alphabet to write the Japanese language. Japanese is normally written in logographic characters borrowed from Chinese (kanji) and syllabic scripts (kana). The romanization of Japanese is done in any context where Japanese text is targeted at those who do not know the language, such as for names on street signs and passports, and in dictionaries and textbooks for foreign learners of the language. The word "rōmaji" is sometimes incorrectly transliterated as romanji or rōmanji. There are several different romanization systems. The three main ones are Hepburn romanization, Kunrei-shiki Rōmaji (ISO 3602), and Nihon-shiki Rōmaji (ISO 3602 Strict). Variants of the Hepburn system are the most widely used.
All Japanese who have attended elementary school since World War II have been taught to read and write romanized Japanese. Romanization is also the most common way to input Japanese into word processors and computers. Therefore, almost all Japanese are able to read and write Japanese using rōmaji. The primary usage of rōmaji is on computers and other electronic devices that do not support the display or input of Japanese characters, in educational materials for foreigners, and in academic papers in English (or other Western languages) written on Japanese linguistics, literature, history, and culture.

It is important to note that there is no standard dictionary for Romaji terms. As a result there are often many ways to spell any word in Romaji. This is one of the reasons that Romaji was never the best answer for domain names in Japan. Romaji doesn't pass the radio test.

This pretty much sums up my understanding of the Japanese writing system from the point of view of a Non-native English based domainer. I hope you find this information helpful in your quest for quality Japanese domains. Without much practice at all you will be able to recognize the 3 scripts. This information coupled with the excellent tools or (this) that are available can lead you with confidence to an excellent portfolio of names. I highly reccomend research into the specifics of the Japanese culture as part of your education.

I am certain that parts of this could be improved or would benefit by clarification by a native speaker.

Any criticism or comment is welcome.

Last edited by Clotho; 16th January 2010 at 10:19 AM.. Reason: //tldr;
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Old 16th January 2010, 10:09 AM
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Re: The Japanese Writing System

"From a domainers point of view I have found Hiragana to be less imortant than Katakana or Kanji and sometimes it even gets in the way."

Totally disagree with this bit. It really matters not which writing system a domain is represented in, it all depends which system is used for a particular keyword.

My opinion is that Hirigana is generally more used than Katakana, and is the main Kana script but if Katakana is used to represent a certain word then that is the one you want.

Take a look at few Japanese web pages and see how the various scripts are represented. They will all be there.
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Old 16th January 2010, 10:27 AM
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Re: The Japanese Writing System

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rubber Duck View Post
"From a domainers point of view I have found Hiragana to be less imortant than Katakana or Kanji and sometimes it even gets in the way."

Totally disagree with this bit. It really matters not which writing system a domain is represented in, it all depends which system is used for a particular keyword.

My opinion is that Hirigana is generally more used than Katakana, and is the main Kana script but if Katakana is used to represent a certain word then that is the one you want.

Take a look at few Japanese web pages and see how the various scripts are represented. They will all be there.
All correct.

Wikipedia tells me that Hiragana is generally prefered to Katakana. If I look at my own portfolio I see a definite bias away from Hiragana which is where my comment comes from (My personal, domainers point of view). Perhaps I have a domain bias towards nouns. Not sure. The only thing I am certain of is that I have much to learn about Hiragana. Whois tells me that the native population understands Hiragana better than I do.

Last edited by Clotho; 16th January 2010 at 10:31 AM..
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Old 16th January 2010, 10:35 AM
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Re: The Japanese Writing System

Quote:
Originally Posted by Clotho View Post
All correct.

Wikipedia tells me that Hiragana is generally prefered to Katakana. If I look at my own portfolio I see a definite bias away from Hiragana which is where my comment comes from (My personal, domainers point of view). Perhaps I have a domain bias towards nouns. Not sure. The only thing I am certain of is that I have much to learn about Hiragana. Whois tells me that the native population understands Hiragana better than I do.
It might be useful to think of Katakana as the Mirror of Romaji. If you are Transliterating Japanese to English then you would use Romaji. If you are Transliterating English to Japanese you would use Katakana.

Another way of thinking of it might be to consider Katakana to be Hirigana in Capital Letters. Each has an exact equivalent in the other.
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Last edited by Rubber Duck; 16th January 2010 at 10:40 AM..
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Old 16th January 2010, 10:56 AM
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Re: The Japanese Writing System

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rubber Duck View Post
It might be useful to think of Katakana as the Mirror of Romaji. If you are Transliterating Japanese to English then you would use Romaji. If you are Transliterating English to Japanese you would use Katakana.

Another way of thinking of it might be to consider Katakana to be Hirigana in Capital Letters. Each has an exact equivalent in the other.
I wish I could have read these words 10 years ago, when I first searched Jim Breen's dictionary and was a bit confused by the Hiragana in brackets. You would have saved me a great deal of effort and wasted renewal fees.

Last edited by Clotho; 16th January 2010 at 10:58 AM..
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Old 16th January 2010, 11:01 AM
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Re: The Japanese Writing System

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Originally Posted by Clotho View Post
I wish I could have read these words 10 years ago, when I first searched Jim Breen's dictionary and was a bit confused by the Hiragana in brackets. You would have saved me a great deal of effort and wasted renewal fees.
Yes, and can you imagine the scenario, if I had got hold of Jim Breen's dictionary 10 years ago? If only!
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Old 16th January 2010, 11:09 AM
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Re: The Japanese Writing System

Quote:
Originally Posted by Clotho View Post
Wikipedia tells me that Hiragana is generally prefered to Katakana. If I look at my own portfolio I see a definite bias away from Hiragana which is where my comment comes from (My personal, domainers point of view).
I can relate to this, looking at my own portfolio, I too have very few Hiragana. I expect many non-native speakers are in this same position, as it is more difficult to assess Hiragana using the traditional methods.

It's further compounded by sites like Amazon.co.jp, where the majority of products are tagged as Katakana, and even if you use their search (in a different script), you are often presented with katakana terms in their alternative product suggestions.

great post clotho. rep added, and thread stickied.
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Old 16th January 2010, 11:27 AM
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Re: The Japanese Writing System

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rubber Duck View Post
Yes, and can you imagine the scenario, if I had got hold of Jim Breen's dictionary 10 years ago? If only!
Then your name wouldn't be RD. It would be TDC... or perhaps it is.

Quote:
Originally Posted by alpha View Post
great post clotho. rep added, and thread stickied.
Wow, Thank you.
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