Like any language, Japanese has punctuation and special characters called yakumono (約物). These punctuations include various marks, exclamation marks, question marks, commas and some special characters that do not exist in English. In this article, we'll briefly get to know some punctuation and special characters and how to use them.
In this article, we will not talk about the dakuten, because there is already a specific article about it, and it falls more into the accentuation category. We have also written an article talking about the space in the Japanese language.
Remember that on the keyboard, these punctuations tend to be spaced apart, and it is unnecessary to include a space after it to start writing. Punctuation began to be used in Japanese around the 19th century, being influenced by European languages.
Japanese language score
Virgula - tōten - 読点 - The comma in the Japanese language is inverted with (、) instead of (,). It is often used in many contexts to mark separate elements within a sentence.
Ellipsis - laugh - リーダー - The famous three dots (…) of the Japanese language are called ellipses or dotted line. It indicates an intentional omission or an abbreviation, a pause in speech or an unfinished thought. You rarely find other variations written with just 2 points or more than 3 with a similar meaning.
Ponto - kuten - 句点 - The period at the end of Japanese sentences is usually larger and has a hole in the middle (。). Unlike the western dot, it is often used to separate consecutive sentences instead of ending each sentence. It is also usually left out if the sentence is alone or if the text is ended with quotation marks.
Exclamation point - kantanfu - 感嘆符 - It is usually used after an interjection or exclamation to indicate strong feelings or loud volume, it usually marks the end of a sentence.
Question Mark - Gimonfu - 疑問符 - In normal Japanese, no symbol is used to mark interrogative sentences, it is usually understood that it is a question just by か. However, the question mark is usually used in casual, creative writing or in manga, especially in sentences that are questions, but do not end with か.
Dots and special characters
Colon - koron - コロン - In Japanese it is used to inform the reader that what follows proves, clarifies, explains or enumerates elements mentioned before (：).
Dash - Nakasen - 中線 -: The Japanese line (-) can put things on the side to give explanatory emphasis, expressing something like “from… to…”. It can also be used to add names and numbers to separate addresses. Be careful not to confuse it with the line used to extend the katakana sound.
Partial toggle mark - The brand (〽) is often used to indicate that the passage was taken from a song, or that the person in the text is singing. Also known by the names of ioriten 庵点 or utakigou 歌記号.
Musical note - ♪ - As the name says, it is used to indicate lyrics of a song, or that someone is singing the phrase.
Some important signs are often used to replicate or repeat a Japanese character.
- Dounojiten (々・仝): Used to fold a Kanji or composition;
- Ichinojiten (ヽ): Fold the previous Katakana;
- Katakanagaeshi (ヾ): Folds the previous Katakana plus dakuten;
- Hiraganagaeshi (ゝ): Fold the previous Hiragana;
- Hiraganagaeshi (ゞ): Folds the previous Hiragana plus dakuten;
Point of interposition - nakaguro - 中黒
It can be literally translated as a black center, it is represented by a black dot in the middle (・). It can be used to:
- Separate Japanese words where the intended meaning would not be clear if the characters were written side by side;
- Separate listed items instead of a comma;
- Separate foreign words and names written in katakana;
- Separate titles, names and positions;
- It has the function of a decimal point and a double hyphen;
- It is used in place of hyphens, dashes and colons when written vertically;
Trace of the wave - Nami dasshu - 波ダッシュ
Similar to the tilde accent, the difference is that it is in the middle (〜). It is often used to:
- To indicate bands, used in place of kara and made;
- To separate a title from a subtitle on the same line;
- To mark captions; To indicate origin フランス〜 (from france);
- To indicate a long or prolonged vowel with a comic or beautiful effect;
- To indicate or suggest that the song is playing;
Brackets and quotes - kakko - 括弧
In Japanese, there are several types of brackets. They are used in pairs to separate or interpose a text within another text. In vertical writing, these brackets are rotated 90º. See a list of square brackets below:
- ｛｝ - namikakko (波括弧);
- （） - marukakko (丸括弧);
- ［］ - kakukakko (角括弧);
- 【】 - sumitsukikakko (隅付き括弧);
Brackets or parentheses are also used to:
- Show readings and additional information;
- In mathematics or geometry;
- Show hidden information, close a mathematical interval 【 】［ ］;
- Delimit words or lines｛｝.
In addition to the square brackets, there are quotation marks that are represented by (「 」 and 『 』). It has the same function as the quotation marks in the English language, with few rules and different changes. Double quotes (『 』) must be used when one quote is inside another.
There are several other points and signs in the Japanese language, but, in this article, we will end here.