Teach Yourself Japanese
Subject: The counter prefix ka
From: TAKASUGI Shinji (tssf.airnet.ne.jp)
Date: Mon, 25 Sep 2000 01:10:23 GMT
Several nouns are directly counted with a counter prefix 箇 (ka), which came from Ancient Chinese. It is the same as the inanimate counter 個 (ko), but they use different characters in Japanese. For example, countries are counted with 箇国 (kakoku), months are counted with 箇月 (kagetsu). 箇 (ka) is often contracted to ヶ, which is the upper left part of 箇 and has nothing to do with the katakana ケ. Some people use ヶ for the inanimate counter 個 (ko). Since ヶ looks like the katakana ケ, some Japanese people feel uncomfortable when they pronounce it "ka", and they use ヵ instead. I don't use this small カ, though, because it's a mistake. I think using hiragana is best - か国 (kakoku) and か月 (kagetsu).
ヶ is also used for the ancient genitive marker が in place names, which is also a mistake, such as 関ヶ原 (Sekigahara) and 洞ヶ峠 (Horagatôge).
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