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Jack Halpern




The Kodansha Kanji Synonyms Guide

Editor in Chief: Jack Halpern

Published February, 2018

The Kodansha Kanji Synonyms Guide is a new type of reference work that enables intermediate and advanced learners to deepen their understanding of how kanji synonyms are used in contemporary Japanese. Based on the author's world renowned The Kodansha Kanji Dictionary, this new work serves as the first ever bilingual kanji thesaurus, and offers complete guidance on the precise distinctions between characters of similar meaning, referred to as kanji synonyms.

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The Kodansha Kanji Synonyms Guide offers complete guidance on the precise distinctions between characters of similar meaning, referred to as kanji synonyms. Since a proper understanding of the meanings of each character is essential for the effective mastery of the Japanese vocabulary, this is of considerable benefit to the serious student. “Characters” here refers mostly to single characters (one kanji possibly followed by kana) that function mostly as word elements (components of compound words), rather than to independent words.

Based on a systematic approach and a firm theoretical foundation, this work enables users to quickly find characters from their meanings, then study those meanings in contrast to other characters that share the same basic concept but differ, often subtly, in meaning. It thus serves as a powerful learning aid because it clearly shows the differences and similarities between closely related kanji. This is achieved in four ways:

  1. The alphabetically-arranged group headwords, representing the shared concept for each synonym group, show how the group members resemble each other.
  2. The synonym keywords show at a glance how the group members differ from each other.
  3. The character meanings show in greater detail the distinctive features of each group member.
  4. The many compound words illustrate how each kanji functions (mostly) as a word element.

It is important to note that the core meanings and character meanings serve as a practical guide to kanji usage because they are based on actual occurrences, and because they are illustrated by many compound words. These are drawn from the author’s kanji dictionaries, such as The Kodansha Kanji Dictionary, while avoiding the historical and archaic meanings often found in traditional kanji dictionaries.

The new approach to the study of kanji presented here motivates the learner to explore the nuances of closely related characters by studying them together, rather than as isolated units. This helps the learner better understand their distinctive features, while stimulating a desire to learn. It also provides the educator and scholar with a valuable source of reference data for creating learning materials.

Kanji Integrated Tools

KKUG is the latest addition to Kanji Integrated Tools (KIT), a series of computer-edited dictionaries and software applications for the effective study of kanji. The use of the latest computational lexicography techniques ensures that all KIT dictionaries and applications are tightly integrated and of consistent quality. To date, the following dictionaries have been published:

1 NJECD Kenkyusha 1990 Japanese Domestic Edition
2 NJECD-NTC NTC 1993 International Edition
3 NJECD-EB Nichigai Associates 1995 Electronic Book Edition
4 KALD Kodansha International 1999 Learner's Edition
5 KALD-ED CASIO 2007 Electronic Dictionary Edition
6 KALD-RM POLIROM 2008 Romanian Edition
7 iKALD The CJK Dictionary Institute, Inc. 2012 iOS Edition
8 KKLD Kodansha USA


Revised Learner's Edition
9 KKD Kodansha USA 2013 revised and expanded
10 iKKLD The CJK Dictionary Institute, Inc. 2013 iOS Edition
11 aKKLD The CJK Dictionary Institute, Inc. 2014 Android edition of KKLD
The Kodansha Kanji Usage Guide
KKUG Kodansha USA 2015 First edition
13 iKKUG The CJK Dictionary Institute, Inc. 2015 iOS edition of KKUG
The Kodansha Kanji Synonyms Guide
KKSG Kodansha USA 2018 first edition
The Kodansha Kanji Synonyms Guide for iOS
iKKSG The CJK Dictionary Institute, Inc. 2018 iOS edition of KKSG
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