Monday, March 5, 2012

Katakana Analysis

During this project, I have learned many different uses of katakana that I didn't know previously existed. It can be used for emphasis, loan words, onomatopoeia, foreign concepts, and even accents. The two instances of katakana I have looked at are キレイand ヒップ.

ヒップ- (foreign concept) Katakana is used instead of kanji for hip measurement(腰囲). Hip measurement is a Western concept, just as stockings are a western creation.  Long ago, when Japanese people wore kimonos everyday, the was no need for a hip measurement. The only relevant measurement was height, which was written in kanji on the stocking package. It could also be because of stockings being a trendier clothing item that is mostly worn by young people. If this is the case, then many younger people wouldn’t recognize the kanji for hip measurement (腰囲). This makes it reasonable to write ヒップ、 which can mean the body part hip, or the fact that the product itself is “hip” and trendy.

キレイ- (for emphasis) This was on the back of Pantene Pro-V hair product. In this manner, katakana is used for emphasis. When I first looked at the back of the bottle, this is one of the first words I noticed, which means the fact about the product being emphasized was done so successfully. If キレイ were written in hiragana or kanji, I would have just read over it. Words normally written in hiragana that are instead written in katakana draw people’s attention. It makes the word(or idea) stand out, especially surrounded by a sea of hiragana and kanji. It is like the makes of the product are giving you the main points by using katakana.

This project gave me a better understanding of why certain textbooks explain the usage of katakana the way they do. Because katakana is used for loan words, onomatopoeia, foreign names, emphasis, scientific terms, and accents, many textbooks only mention the more common uses(loan words, onomatopoeia, and emphasis). Also, because only beginner level textbooks discuss katakana, the writers do not expect that students will need to use katakana for purposes other than onomatopoeia, loan words, and maybe emphasis. I believe they chose such  light explanations so as not to overwhelm learners of Japanese while learning an entirely new system of writing.

No comments:

Post a Comment