単語: The Smallest Sentence Unit

In a Japanese sentence, the smallest unit a word can be split into without losing its meaning and function is called 単語(たんご).

The word (ねこ)のしっぽ consists of three 単語: 猫・の・しっぽ. When split this way, the overall meaning (“cat’s tail”) remains the same.

In contrast, (おんな)() only consists of one 単語. It would lose its meaning if it were split further. As a whole, it means “girl”, but if it were split as 女・の・子, its meaning would change to be “woman” and “child”.

Examples

ふらいんぐうぃっち » Volume 1 » Page 33

Chinatsu’s discovery that Makoto is a witch is followed by a broomstick ride through the air. As the two land, Makoto tells Chinatsu to put her feet on the ground slowly.

Makoto: 「ゆっくり(あし)()ろして」

This breaks down into 単語 as:

「ゆっくり・足・を・下ろし・て」

Broken at this level, there is no meaning lost in any of the words.

三ツ星カラーズ » Volume 1 » Page 90

During a visit to the zoo, Sacchan and her friends find they are closing in on their destination, the elephant enclosure.

Sacchan: 「()(ぐち)(ちか)く!」

This breaks down into 単語 as:

「入り口・の・近く・!」

These words cannot be split any further. Splitting 入り口 into 入り・口 would change the meaning from “entrance” to “to enter” and “mouth”.

Further Reading