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Getting Started With Japanese Onomatopoeia!
By:Peter Galante

Learn Japanese easily! You might not be familiar with the word "onomatopoeia," but it describes a type of word you probably use all the time. Do you say things such as, "bang," "smack," or "woof?" If so, you are using onomatopoeia, which is simply a word that sounds like the things or action it's describing. Onomatopoeia is incredibly common in English, and it also has an incredible number of uses in Japanese. This Japanese article is here to provide an in-depth introduction to the world of Japanese onomatopoeia. You'll learn about the two types of Japanese onomatopoeia and how they are used. You'll also find some excellent examples and plenty of information about working onomatopoeia into your Japanese vocabulary.

Vocabulary: In this article, you'll learn the following words and phrases:

ibiku o kaku - "to snore" (verb 1)

nemuru - "to sleep"

doa - "door"

shimaru - "to close, to be shut" (verb 1)

ashita or asu - "tomorrow"

deeto - "date" (romantic)

kinoo - "yesterday"

kyoo - "today"

akeru - "to open" (verb 2)

okiru - "to wake up, to get up" (verb 2)

Grammar: In this article, you'll learn the following words and phrases:


What is Onomatopoeia?


According to the dictionary, "onomatopoeia" is the formation of a word from a sound associated with its name. Examples in English include words such as "crash" and "splash." The sounds of the words imitate the meaning. Also, many animal sounds such as "bow-wow" and "neigh" are examples of onomatopoeia.

------------------------------------------------------------------------Japanese Onomatopoeia


There are two types of Japanese onomatopoeia:

This is because some Japanese onomatopoeia do not actually mimic sounds, but they do follow the same form.

Giongo are the true onomatopoeia. That is, they mimic sounds just as our English onomatopoeia.
Gitaigo, on the other hand, attempt to use similar sound patterns as giongo, even though they do not mimic actual sounds.
To confuse the matter even more, there are some words that have both Giongo and Gitaigo attributes. For example, there is guuguu.

Giongo: "snoring sound, to snore"Tomu-san wa guuguu to ibiki o kaite iru. "Tom is snoring."
Gitaigo: "to sleep well, to sleep soundly"Tomu-san wa guuguu nemutte iru. "Tom is sleeping well."


In the first example, the onomatopoeia guuguu refers to the sound of snoring. In the second example, guuguu expresses the concept of sound sleep, even though sound sleep is usually without any sound.

------------------------------------------------------------------------Sample Sentences


Giongo:Doa ga batan to shimatta. "The door closed with a bang."
Gitaigo:Ashita wa deeto da. Ukiuki suru. "I'm going on a date tomorrow. I'm excited."
------------------------------------------------------------------------Some Additional Notes


Many Japanese onomatopoeia are repetitive. That is, the syllable, or pair of syllables, is repeated.
We can use Japanese onomatopoeia as adverbs, adjective-like words, parts of adjectival phrases, and as verbs when combined with "and." In this lesson, you will see how to use each onomatopoeia correctly.
Since most of these words are Japanese in origin, they are not often written in kanji. However, they are often written in katakana and occasionally in hiragana.

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