Semiotics & The Days Of the Week!

Today, you are in for a treat… WE’RE GOING TO LEARN THE DAYS OF THE WEEK IN JAPANESE! What?! THAT HAS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH VISUAL DESIGN, YOU SAY?! On the contrary, it has everything to do with semiotics!

Alright, let’s start with a quick breakdown! In Japan, there are three writing systems:
1. Katakana – カタカナ(used in cases whre you are spelling words taken from English and spelling someone’s name for the most part)
(1.5 Romaji – This one doesn’t really count in my opinion, it is japanese words written with the latin script, so our alphabet)
2. Hiragana – ひらがな (The basic writing system that is primarily used)
3. Kanji – 日本 (Borrowed Chinese symbols used to differentiate Japanese homonyms in sentences)

Looks pretty cool, eh? Anyways, we’re going to focus on the kanji!

Now, as we learned from semiotics, you have the three categories: Iconic, indexical, and symbolic. Well, kanji is very much iconic because they are quite literally symbols that represent something, in some cases a direct representation of the object. Though, before I explain further, let’s look at them!
* 曜日 translates to ‘yobi’, which means ‘day of the week’

日曜日 (nichiyobi) – 日 – this is the kanji for Sunday, with the lone icon meaning ‘sun’, and while the sun is indeed not square, it is believed to come from a squared out circle.
月曜日 (getsuyobi) – 月 – Monday, and the lone icon means ‘moon’, nearly identical to the ‘sun’, but smaller and with extended roots to show what I believe to be it ‘rising’.
火曜日 (kayobi) – 火 – Tuesday, with the icon representing ‘fire’. This is a clearer kanji where you can see the origins with the shape of the flame and sparks flying out.
水曜日 (suiyobi)- 水 – Wednesday, or the day of the ‘water’. This kanji is said to represent a waterfall.
木曜日 (mokuyobi) – 木 – Thursday, ‘wood day’, with the kanji looking strikingly like a tree. In fact, putting three of those symbols together actually creates the kanji for forest.
金曜日 (kin’yobi) – 金 – Friday, ‘gold day’ and while I can’t readily remember the exact meaning behind the symbol, I always thought it looked like a home where one invests their wealth.
土曜日 (doyobi) – 土 – Satuday, ‘Earth day’, with the kanji showing a cross coming out of the ground, possibly a sprout.

As you can probably gather, they all derive from either elements or major parts of daily life! So, as you can see, these iconic symbols actually went so far from simple meanings to actually becoming part of day-to-day vocabulary.

So that is it for now! I hope you enjoyed the quick dive into Japanese as well as information as to how semiotics can actually be quite close to what they are meant to represent and how they can assimilate into major parts of vocabulary.

Stephen Andrews


One thought on “Semiotics & The Days Of the Week!

  1. Pingback: #AtoZChallenge: April 19, 2013: Q = 九 | Of Glass & Paper

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