Visual depiction of vowel elongation in Japanese

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From Alex R:

Transcription, translation, and explanation from Nathan Hopson:

tsutsumi no naka mo zenbu
everything / all in the package / wrapping, too

Except, with the elongated kanji this is probably more like:

tsutsumi no naka mo ze~nbu

Elongating with the wave dash "〜" or a dash, hyphen, etc., is pretty common practice in informal written Japanese, but almost exclusively with hiragana and katakana. In fact, I've never seen it with kanji that I can remember offhand. All of those forms are variations on the long vowel mark in katakana (ー). Occasionally, the wave dash elongation and emphasis effect is also created with the kana small forms — and this can even be doubled for overspeakification, i.e., ありがとう→ありがと〜→ありがとぉ~

But the point here is that the elongation of a kanji is unusual, as pointed out by the caption for the original Twitter post:

nanda kono kanshin na hyōgen wa?
What is this novel [mode of] expression?

Whether it's creative glosses to create multiple simultaneous meanings (永遠 as とき = eternity + a single moment, etc.) or choosing a different script for a different connotation or emphasis (日本 vs. ニッポン, etc.), or just the playfully pastiche mixing of diverse writing system elements, orthographic flexibility is one of the things I like most about Japanese, and this is another great example of that tendency.

We could also render that line as:

"Tsutsumi no naka mo zeeeeenbu."

Alllllll (emphasized) of them (the stuff) inside the package as well.

Lengthened kanji and kana are certainly seen in cursive handwriting, but not generally tied to pronunciation.

Further down in the thread:

"Minasan, shinigam (incomplete み)…tsu (small sizeつ=double consonant)…. = shinigam….m)

Everyone, the Grim Reaper…r… OR Everyone is the Grim Reaper..r…

Since there is no context, I am not sure if "Minasan" is the subject of the sentence or an address like "Hi, everyone".

This is an interesting visual way of showing a double consonant.

The Japanese script consists of the following elements:  kanji, katakana, hiragana, romaji, which afford it great flexibility — and complexity.

[Thanks to Frank Chance and Hiroko Sherry]


  1. Alice said,

    October 9, 2018 @ 8:09 pm

    As a fan of Death Note (the source of the bottom image), I can offer some context. "Minasan" is intended to be addressing "everyone". L (the name of the character in the image) is warning the other people in the room about the Shinigami, and getting cut off in the middle of the word. Perhaps the lack of a double-n in "minasan" is intended to convey a sense of urgency, like he's hurrying to get his warning out before it's too late?

  2. Alice said,

    October 9, 2018 @ 8:12 pm

    And I just realized I misread; the double-consonant in the post is referring to the small "tsu" at the end of "shinigam-", not the lack of a double-n in "minasan". Please disregard my comment, since I can't seem to delete it!

  3. unekdoud said,

    October 9, 2018 @ 9:40 pm

    (As a non-native speaker) I interpret that single sokuon っ as an utterance by itself unconnected to the previous line, perhaps a glottal stop of some kind. Is this a reasonable assumption, and can the sound I'm thinking of (a very small Uh!) be transcribed some other way in Japanese?

    Off-topic: For the top image, I recognized that artist from his earlier manga Nichijou, whose anime is known on the internet for having some absolutely ridiculous special effects.

  4. said,

    October 10, 2018 @ 4:43 am

    @unekdoud As a non native speaker (but I do know a little Japanese) I believe the sokuon っ at the end of sentence is some kind of glottal stop. I think here it just means that the person can't finish his sentence (that his utterance stops before what he intended to express since there is a incomplete み)…maybe similar to em dash — in English? (sorry I'm not a native speaker of English either)
    By the way, I never thought characters in Japanese can be displayed in this way… very funny to me because my language also use characters.

  5. MB said,

    October 10, 2018 @ 12:06 am

    @unekdoud yes, although it’s ambiguous here, っ is often used in manga and informal contexts as a reactive utterance by itself, unconnected (i.e. not a double consonant) to a previous word.

  6. Crystal said,

    October 10, 2018 @ 12:39 am

    Alice, *minna-san is a common mistake made by non-native speakers. On its own it can be minna, but with -san or the like it's always mina.

  7. N0n5ense said,

    October 10, 2018 @ 3:05 am

    The "斬新" reading is "zanshin" instead of "kanshin"

  8. ~flow said,

    October 10, 2018 @ 4:42 am

    Since small tsu っ is not normally used to indicate a doubled nasal consonant, I didn't read it as such; I understand 'っ…' more as a notation for some kind of swallowed, unarticulated 'peri-linguistic' (is that even a word) utterance, like an 'uh', 'uh-oh', or barely audible panting. Given the artist's creative dexterity in dealing with the sound / script interface, if their intent was to transcribe a prolonged nasal sound, I could imagine a longish ん or a む without the dot.

  9. Chris Button said,

    October 10, 2018 @ 8:49 am

    Given the artist's creative dexterity in dealing with the sound / script interface, if their intent was to transcribe a prolonged nasal sound, I could imagine a longish ん or a む without the dot.

    This has me wondering how a native Japanese speaker would pronounce "shinigami" aloud with the incomplete み.

    The reason I ask is that while final /i/ can de-voice before a pause in an unaccented syllable after a voiceless consonant in natural speech, this does not apply here. As such, would a Japanese speaker be more comfortable making a /ɴ/ as in ん rather than any final bilabial /m/ sound?

  10. Ben Olson said,

    October 10, 2018 @ 1:17 pm

    What is the title of this manga? I'd like to know more about the context of this panel.

  11. dainichi said,

    October 11, 2018 @ 3:05 am

    I (a native speaker) agree with others that it's highly unlikely that っ is intended to denote an /m/. っ geminates the next consonant, not a previous one. And it never geminates /m/, ん does (cf. あまり→あんまり).

  12. Victor Mair said,

    October 11, 2018 @ 4:15 am

    @Ben Olson:

    "What is the title of this manga?"

    There might be a clue in this remark from unekdoud:

    "For the top image, I recognized that artist from his earlier manga Nichijou…".

    If you're talking about the second image, and if you're really determined to find out the context, you can probably track it down from information available through its original place in the thread and perhaps also from the "data" in the panel itself.

  13. Chris Button said,

    October 11, 2018 @ 6:10 am

    @ dainichi

    Reading aloud in Japanese, how would you pronounce "shingami" with the incomplete "mi" syllable as written to give the correct effect?

  14. Chris Button said,

    October 11, 2018 @ 6:12 am

    Sorry "shinigami" – excuse the typo

  15. A.M. said,

    October 12, 2018 @ 4:22 am

    Both manga have been already been identified, but for the sake of completeness:

    The top image is from [i]City[/i] by あらゐけいいち Arawi Keiichi. The surname uses the obsolete kana ゐ [i]wi[/i], perhaps to add visual interest up an otherwise unremarkable name. When not written in kanji, it would be customarily kanafied あらい [i]arai[/i], and is in any case pronounced this way.

    The bottom image is from [i]Death Note[/i] by 大場つぐみ Ohba Tsugumi and 小畑健 Obata Takeshi. It is worth pointing out that the titular "note" refers to a paper notebook, ノート [i]nōto[/i] being the widely used abbreviation of notebook (ノートブック [i]nōtobukku[/i]).

  16. A.M. said,

    October 12, 2018 @ 4:54 am

    Sorry for using the wrong markup on the previous comment. I seem to remember a since vanished preview feature.

    What I wanted to add is that this reply to the first tweet mentions this "[mode of] expression", presumably in reference to the elongated kanji, having already been used in Toriyama Akira's Dr. Slump. Meaning that there may be an example going back at least to the eighties.

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