SAME WORD, DIFFERENT MEANING? An Analysis of Sino-Japanese Homographs found in Chinese Subtitles for Japanese TV Dramas

University essay from Göteborgs universitet/Institutionen för språk och litteraturer

Abstract: In this essay I studied the variety of differences in meaning and usage between Sino-Japanese homographs. The purpose of the essay was to shed some light on what different types of Sino-Japanese homographs there are, as well as to figure out which one of these is the most common and which one seems the most difficult to understand for Japanese or Chinese native speakers. To achieve this goal, I studied the Chinese subtitles for two Japanese TV dramas and compared them with the Japanese subtitles, to find concrete examples of homographs used differently in various contexts. I then selected among the homographs I found a few for each of my pre-determined categories, based on previous works, and analysed them further using dictionaries as well as sentences extracted from the TV drama subtitles. I compared my findings with those of previous studies and found that I largely came to similar conclusions, for example that homographs that hardly share any common meaning in Japanese and Chinese seem the most difficult to learn, or that many homographs seem to have a broader scope of meaning in Chinese than they do in Japanese. The reason why this subject is an important one is because a higher awareness of homographs can be very conducive to properly learn Chinese as a Japanese speaker, or Japanese as a Chinese speaker. It is in many cases wishful thinking to believe that you can simply use kanji words in the same way in Chinese and in Japanese just because they are written the same. In reality they can be different in various ways, such as not being of the same word class in Japanese and Chinese, or being part of colloquial vocabulary in Chinese whereas in Japanese they would only be used in a formal context.

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