Writing otherness: Ambivalence and hybridization in the Japanese Katakana

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Abstract

This paper presents an ethnographic approach to katakana, a syllabic script mainly used for adapting foreign words to Japanese. Katakana is also applied to Japanese and Sino-Japanese words with special purposes such as denoting emphasis, representing onomatopoeia, transcribing names or writing scientific and technical terms. What is common in all of these cases is the graphic expression of difference concerning the origin, intentionality or characteristics of the written word. Drawing on the analysis of the writing of loan words, the paper discusses katakana as a script that configures and articulates difference in the cultural production of sameness. This approach finds in the katakana script a revealing case for understanding the linguistic and cultural intersections entailing the circulation of words and meanings at a global scale. © Copyright Quaderns-e de l'ICA, 2014.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)122-139
JournalQuaderns de l'Institut Catala d'Antropologia
Volume19
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014

Keywords

  • Difference
  • Japan
  • Katakana
  • Loan word
  • Representation
  • Writing

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