Chinese "kanji"

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Thu Oct 6 06:30:30 UTC 2005

>Isn't katakana used only for writing foreign words, somewhat as
>though, in English, we used italics only to write words like "angst,"
>and "a la carte"?

I think the relationship of katakana to hiragana is very similar to the
relationship of italicized letters to plain letters in English. Of course
the analogy is not exact, but one can say for example:

(1) katakana/italics are used for emphasis sometimes;

(2) katakana/italics are sometimes used to reproduce pure sounds, including
animal utterances;

(3) katakana/italics are used for words perceived as "foreign";

(4) katakana/italics are used to indicate a special or unusual sense of a
word sometimes;

(5) katakana/italics can be used to distinguish words of a certain
arbitrary class [e.g., my Nelson kanji dictionary italicizes the kun-yomi
(native Japanese pronunciations) in the index to distinguish them from the
on-yomi (Chinese-ish pronunciations), while my Japanese kanji dictionary
uses katakana for on-yomi, hiragana for kun-yomi];

(6) katakana/italics can be used for a whole block of text for an esthetic
purpose or at the whim of the author or publisher.

-- Doug Wilson

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