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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Japanese Compound Words


Japanese compound words are the most important element of Japanese vocabulary.

Common examples are hana+mi 花見 = "flower looking," i.e. cherry blossom viewing, gai+shoku 外食 = "out eating," i.e. eating out, bi+jo 美女 = "beautiful woman," or, a beauty, furu+hon 古本 = "old book," i.e. second-hand book.

Learning a few of the most common mostly two-kanji compounds is a good way to expand your Japanese word power.

The compounds can be formed by combining:

noun+noun such as kawa+zakana 川魚 = river fish. Notice the pronunciation of zakana as the first consonant of the second part of the compound is voiced, which is known as rendaku 連濁 in Japanese, hito+bito 人々 = "person person," i.e. people, is another common example of this sequential voicing.

adjective+noun kuro+fune 黒船 = black ship, as in Admiral Perry's Black Ships.

adjective+adjective usu+gurai 薄暗い = "lightly dark," i.e. dim.

noun+adjective kokoro+zuyoi 心強い = "heart strong,' i.e. encouraging, reassuring, secure

noun+verb hiru+ne 昼寝 = "noon sleep," i.e. siesta,

verb+noun de+guchi 出口 = "going-out mouth," i.e. exit

verb+verb iki+kaeri 行き帰り = "go + return home," i.e. to and from home.

Okay, that's all for this week (kon+shuu) 今週 ("now + week") see you next week (rai+shuu) 来週 ("coming week").

Last week's Japanese lesson

Japanese Compound Words: An Easy Way to Expand Your Japanese Vocabulary

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