Neologisms in the Japanese Language

Since I am still a bit of a newbie when it comes to Japanese, I wanted to confirm something I have discovered since I started using WaniKani:
These words are only tagged as “common word” on jisho.org, and a thing I noticed was that these words are often made up out of kanji that are commonly taught.

So I wanted to ask: Does this apply to commonly used words in general, especially with those scary kanji monsters with 4 to 7 characters? If so, when forming new words, do Japanese people focus on the meaning of the kanji and derive the readings from there, or do they start from readings and retrofit kanji to their reading needs?

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My guess is that meanings come first and then the readings are derived from the onyomi readings of the individual kanji like in your example or 飛行機. But one exception is ateji since there the meaning of the kanji is irrelevant: https://www.kanshudo.com/grammar/ateji

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Jisho takes it’s data from JM Dict, which has this to say about its commonness markers:

The ke_pri and equivalent re_pri fields in the JMdict file are provided to record information about the relative commonness or priority of the entry, and consist of codes indicating the word appears in various references which can be taken as an indication of the frequency with which the word is used. This field is intended for use either by applications which want to concentrate on entries of a particular priority, or to generate subset files. The current values in this field are:

  1. news1/2: appears in the “wordfreq” file compiled by Alexandre Girardi from the Mainichi Shimbun. (See the Monash ftp archive for a copy.) Words in the first 12,000 in that file are marked “news1” and words in the second 12,000 are marked “news2”.
  2. ichi1/2: appears in the “Ichimango goi bunruishuu”, Senmon Kyouiku Publishing, Tokyo, 1998. (The entries marked “ichi2” were demoted from ichi1 because they were observed to have low frequencies in the WWW and newspapers.)
  3. spec1 and spec2: a small number of words use this marker when they are detected as being common, but are not included in other lists.
  4. gai1/2: common loanwords, also based on the wordfreq file.
  5. nfxx: this is an indicator of frequency-of-use ranking in the wordfreq file. “xx” is the number of the set of 500 words in which the entry can be found, with “01” assigned to the first 500, “02” to the second, and so on.

Entries with news1, ichi1, spec1/2 and gai1 values are marked with a “§” in the EDICT and EDICT2 files.

While the priority markings accurately reflect the status of entries with regard to the various sources, they must be seen as only providing a crude indication of how common a word or expression actually is in Japanese. The “§” markings in the EDICT and EDICT2 files appear to identify a useful subset of “common” words, but there are clearly some marked entries which are not very common, and there are clearly unmarked entries which are in common use, particularly in the spoken language.

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The scary kanji monsters are usually multiple separate words glued together.

For example, 東北地方太平洋沖地震 (the Great East Japan Earthquake) is just 東北地方 (Tohoku Region) + 太平洋沖 (Pacific coastline) + 地震 (earthquake).

You can also coin new verbs by changing the last vowel sound to a う. For example, ググる = to google something.

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This also works with 漢語, for example 事故る = to have an accident.

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This works exactly the same way in Swedish. Add an “a” at the end of a noun = voila! you’ve created a verb! ^>^

ググる = googla ( in Swedish)

For example, 東北地方太平洋沖地震 (the Great East Japan Earthquake) is just 東北地方 (Tohoku Region) + 太平洋沖 (Pacific coastline) + 地震 (earthquake).

This is a good reminder of not being overwhelmed by some Japanese words. I mean, we can, like the Germans, make super-long words in Swedish as well. So, it’s really just the kanji that makes the long Japanese words more scary! :sweat_smile:

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One example, in Finnish, of a compound word is lentokonesuihkuturbiinimoottoriapumekaanikkoaliupseerioppilas, which translates to aircraft jet turbine engine auxiliary mechanic non-commissioned student. Similar to Finnish, Japanese pastes together lines of script that seem undecipherable, yet are relatively simple if you comprehend the constituent parts.

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did you leave out all the ää’s and öö’s or is this a rare word that doesn’t have those? That’s my first point of recognition for Finnish :wink:

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No. This compound word has no ä or ö. To add to the humor, there is a word—not a compound word— in Finnish that has nearly the same length, epäjärjestelmällistyttämättömyydelläänsäkäänköhän; our conjugation system is marvelous.

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It is truly a work of art!

I heard まずる on TV a little while ago. From まずい.

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I would actually love to learn Finnish at some point as well! I find the language so frickin cute!

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That reminds me of Esperanto where you do not even need adjectives anymore, only verbs.

可愛る should be a thing that exists.

I’m not sure what you are imagining to be the meaning of it, so maybe this doesn’t meet your expectations, but it’s more of a traditionally-formed verb-adjective relationship.

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I mean the がる suffix-verb-thingie conveys a third person’s feelings. And actually I looked it up but it is not quite what I meant :smiley:

To add to this, Finnish has the concept of vowel harmony. If a word has ‘a’, ‘o’ or ‘u’, it cannot include the vowels ‘ä’, ‘ö’, or ‘y’, and vice versa. Exceptions are foreign loan words. This is why words like ‘parfyymi’ (you can probably guess what this means) feel so weird for us to pronounce :smiley:. Of course this doesn’t apply over compound words, like ‘häämatka’ (where ‘hää’ is wedding and ‘matka’ a trip).

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Well, Estonian doesn’t have ANY vowel harmony…

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Jisho used to have オバむ (being the verb form of オバマ), with the listed definition being "many things, including shouting “yes we can! yes we can!” ", which amused me to no end, but was probably fake, especially since it’s gone now.

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皆さんオバんでください!

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To answer this part, they start with a word and come up with kanji that can be used to write that word. When making a word out of other words that already exist and are written with kanji, typically those kanji will be copied over for the new word as well. In your example, I think it’s made up of 地方 (area) and 公務員 (public official), with the latter also divisible into 公務 (public business) and the suffix 員 (member).

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