Japanese has a lot of onomatopoeic words that not only describe sound but also physical and mental states. Unlike English, they are more numerous and found in all sorts of speech for reasons you will learn in this lesson. These words are often hard to translate, but don't let this be a problem for you.
The Japanese word for onomatopoeia is typically 擬声語, although オノマト（ぺ・ぺ－・ぺア・ピーア) exist, which are various attempts at transcribing the English word. However, as you will learn, English and Japanese 'onomatopoeia' are quite different. So, we will say that the foreign term refers to onomatopoeia in an English-sense: the imitation of sounds.
In Japanese, 擬声語 is a blanket term for three types of onomatopoeic words. This lesson will be about the first kind, but the three types are 擬音語 (imitate sound), 擬態語 (imitate states), and 擬情語 (imitate emotion).
Spelling is a tricky matter. These words are typically written in かな. However, it is the writer's choice which one you choose. Some can be written in 漢字. These spellings are mainly あて字.
The definition of a 擬音語 is directly tied to what it's used with. Most onomatopoeic expressions in Japanese have several usages, and not all might fall into the same category. Because we are only dealing with 擬音語 in this lesson, we will not see usages of any word introduced that fall out of this category.
|どきどき（と）||Heart beating||しくしく（と）|| Silently (weeping)|
|ぺらぺら（と）||Fluently||ざーざー（と）||Raining very hard|
Part of Speech Note: Some verbs are based off of onomatopoeia. Ex. はためく (to flutter)
Voicing Note: Voiced onomatopoeia often have a more serious or dramatic tone to them versus their very similar non-voiced counterparts. They are often antonymous. For instance, からから can refer to clattering, but がらがら can refer to something solid crashing or really loud clattering (at the least).
Let's say that a common property of onomatopoeic expressions is that there is a root. This root can be doubled and result in something like しくしく. Now, not all onomatopoeia will have as many possible forms as others. So, you should learn onomatopoeia one at a time, but you can always look to see if a certain form exists.
To look at the wide variety of things that can happen, we will use コロ (sound of something rolling) as an example.
|コロッ(と)||Insertion of ッ after root||Looks like it's going to roll|
|コロン||Insertion of ン after root||Bounces back and rolls|
|コロリ||Insertion of リ after root||Rolls once and stops|
|コロコロ||Duplication of root||Rolls in succession|
|コロンコロン||Duplication of root + ン||Rebounds with more momentum while rolling|
|コロリコロリ||Duplication of root + リ||Intermittent rolling|
Derivation Note: There are cases when a ッ may be inserted inside the root, but this can't happen here because the consonant inside the root is r.
Of course, there can always be other words derived from onomatopoeia. Please note that you always have your irregularities. Sometimes different forms have different nuances, although always related. This does not include non-onomatopoeic words with repeating elements. This is really just something you have to mess around with and test the limits of.
You speak Japanese very fluently, don't you?
The wheels turned around.
To feel through the refrigerator.
I am very hungry!
Thunder is rumbling.
A large tree thudded down.
To shut with a bang.
A silent forest
The drops were plopping down.
The rain was pattering on the roof.
Beetles are rustling through the grass thickets.
Beetles are buzzing through the air.
It was a cold day with the wind really blowing.
Grammar Note: The last example shows how a verbal expression can be used as an attribute when another attribute is used at the same time. Notice the use of the comma.
|To harp|| くだくだ（と）いう|
|To nag||がみがみ（と）する||To be fluent||ぺらぺら（と）|
|To murmur||ぶつぶつ（と）いう||To buzz||がやがや||To be outspoken||ぽんぽん（と）いう|
|To chatter|| ぺちゃくちゃ（と）しゃべる|
|To scold||がんがん（と）いう||To swallow||ぼそぼそ（と）いう|
|To whisper||ひそひそ（と）いう||To grunt||ぶうぶう（と）いう||Noisily||わいわい（と）|
Eating & Drinking
|To gulp|| ごくごく（と）飲む|
|Crunchy||こりこり（と）する||Scraping; hard to the teeth||ごりごり（と）|
|To gobble||ぱくぱく（と）食べる||To suck||ちゅうちゅう（と）吸う|
|To swallow|| ごくり（と）飲む|
| To gnaw||がりがり（と）かじる|
| To sneer||せせら笑う|| To chuckle||くすくす（と）笑う|| Laughing |
| あはは: いひひ|
|To cackle|| けらけら（と）笑う|| To guffaw|| げらげら笑う|
With onomatopoeia and と, 来る shows some sort of reaction. This may be a physical or an emotional reaction. Whatever the case may be, the verb still keeps its sense of "to come".
Wasabi got in my nose big time.
For static electricity to shock you.
It doesn't fit well with me.
To get angry.