The "sound words" in Japanese take a while to learn because they're numerous and unique, and lately I've been focusing on them because they appear on the Japanese Proficiency Test.
They're called Giongo and Gitaigo: "Giongo are the words which express voice or sounds. Gitatigo are the words which express actions, states or human emotions."
Here are some examples, which describe laughing:
kusu kusu - to giggle
gera gera - to laugh loudly, to guffaw
niko niko - to smile
niya niya - to grin
nita nita - to smirk
ahaha, hahaha - the sound of loud laughter
Okay, that's not bad, but there are a lot more words that convey what seems to be every human emotion and more, which is why I got a very useful book called Giongo Gitaigo. It includes clear explanations in Japanese and English with written and illustrated examples. So now instead of trying to memorize all those phrases, I can identify the picture with the meaning. And when I try to recall the phrase, I can create a mental picture of what it means.
Even though the book is the best around on onomatopoeic phrases, there's something even more exciting: a Giongo Gitaigo website devoted to this topic! It is amazingly comprehensive and fun--imagine that. Here are a few features of that awesome site:
1) Mangas that help you understand the phrases.
2) A list of categories. When you click on a phrase, it gives you an example, and you can listen to it, too! Then below, it offers a basic explanation of each phrase, and if you want more details, you can click on the hyperlink to get a more detailed explanation. And what's more, they have sample dialogues that you can read and listen to!
3) An alphabetical list of the phrases in a hiragana chart. When you click on a character, it will give you a list of the phrases, and those lead you to all those goodies described above.
The only downside (not for me) is that you have to be able to read Japanese--there is no English or any other language there, not even in the About Page of the site. (Click on このサイトについて on the Index Page to get to the About Page.)
There used to be a link for the National Institute for Japanese Language that I originally posted, but became dead (as stated in the comments below). Now there's another link for the National Institute for Japanese Language and Linguistics (NINJAL) that seems to have different information.
You might be interested in this site (which I posted about here).
Cool--thanks for the link.
I just noticed that your "About page" link goes to the index page. Since I can't read Japanese, I can't figure out what to click to get to the About page!
The About Page links to the Index Page because the About Page is just a frame within the Index Page. I wish they didn't do that.
Click on このサイトについて on the Index Page to get to the About Page. (Translation: "About this site")
Yugi--thanks for letting me know--since this post is more than a few years old, I'm not surprised :D I'll fix the links later.
You haven't or, if you did, it expired again. May Yugi be referring to this? https://www.ninjal.ac.jp/
I couldn't find anything giongo-related but a PDF, though.
Thanks--I updated the post. It's amazing you found this post because it's over 10 years old...thanks Google!
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