Iteration marks are characters or punctuation marks that represent a duplicated character or word.
In Chinese, 二 (usually appearing as 〻) or 々 is used in casual writing to represent a doubled character, but it is never used in formal writing or printed matter. In a tabulated table or list, vertical repetition can be represented by a ditto mark (〃).
Iteration marks have been occasionally used for more than two thousand years in China. The bronze script on from the Zhou Dynasty, shown right, ends with “子二孫二寶用”, where the small 二 (“two”) is used as iteration marks in the phrase “子子孫孫寶用” ("descendants to use and to treasure").
Indonesian and Malay
In both Indonesian and Malay nouns that are repeated to form plurals can be shortened with the use of "2" e.g. kata (English word) becomes kata-kata (English words) which can be shortened to kata2. Its usage dates back to the time when the languages were written in Jawi, using the Arabic numeral "٢" (e.g. رام٢, butterfly). The usage of "2" can also replaced with superscript version of the same number "²" (e.g. kata² for kata2). Even though its usage is common in handwriting, it is considered to be slang and is not found in formal writing and documents. The use of "2" and "²" has increased in recent years and is no longer limited to pluralization. For example, the Malay word "harap²", shortened from "harap-harap" (literally hopefully), is the emphasized version of "harap" (literally hope). Some youths are misusing "2" and "²" for some changing sound words. e.g. "hingar²" for "hingar-bingar" (English loud), this is incorrect as the original use of this mark is to repeat a word that have the same sound only. Apart from the "2" and "²" marks, the ditto mark (〃) was also used in Malay and Indonesian to represent a word repeated from the equivalent position in the line above it.
In Japanese, iteration marks (Japanese: 踊り字 odoriji “dancing mark”, 重ね字 kasaneji, 繰り返し記号 kurikaeshikigō, or 反復記号 hanpukukigō, “repetition symbols”) are used to represent a duplicated character representing the same morpheme. For example, hito-bito, "people", is usually written 人々, using the kanji for 人 with an iteration mark, 々, rather than 人人, using the same kanji twice, though this latter is allowed, and in this simple case might be used because it is easier to write. By contrast, while 日々 hi-bi "daily, day after day" is written with the iteration mark, as the morpheme is duplicated, 日日 hi-nichi "number of days, date" is written with the character duplicated, because it represents different morphemes (hi versus nichi). Further, while hibi can in principle be written (confusingly) as 日日, hinichi cannot be written as ×日々, since that would imply repetition of the sound as well as the character. In potentially confusing examples such as this, readings can be disambiguated by writing words out in hiragana, so hinichi is often found as 日にち or even ひにち rather than 日日.
Note that sound changes can occur in duplication, which is not reflected in writing, such as 人 hito + 人 hito = 人々 hito-bito (rendaku) or 刻 koku + 刻 koku = 刻々 kok-koku (gemination), though this is also pronounced koku-koku.
The formal name of the kanji repetition symbol (々) is dōnojiten (同の字点) but is sometimes called noma (のま) because it looks like katakana no (ノ) and ma (マ). This symbol originates from a simplified form of the character 仝, a variant of 同 ("same") written in the Grass Script style.
Although Japanese kanji iteration marks are borrowed from Chinese, the grammatical function of duplication differs, as do the conventions on the use of these characters.
While Japanese does not have a grammatical plural form per se, some kanji can be reduplicated to indicate plurality (as a collective noun, not many individuals). This differs from Chinese, which normally repeats characters only for the purposes of adding emphasis, although there are some exceptions (e.g., 人 rén person, 人人 rénrén everybody).
- 人 hito—person; 人々 hitobito—people (not "persons")
- 山 yama—mountain; 山々 yamayama—many mountains
However, for some words duplication may alter the meaning:
- 個 ko—piece, object; 個々 koko—piece by piece, individually (also in Chinese)
- 時 toki—time; 時々 tokidoki—sometimes (meaning often in Chinese)
- 翌日 yokujitsu—next day; 翌々日 yokuyokujitsu—"next next day" (two days later)
Using 々 instead of repeating kanji is usually the preferred form, with two restrictions:
- the reading must be the same, possibly with sound change (as above), and
- the repetition must be within a single word.
When the reading is different, the second kanji is often simply written out to avoid confusion. Examples of such include:
- 日日 日にち hi-nichi
- 湯湯婆 湯たんぽ yu-tan-po
- 出出し 出だし de-dashi
The repetition mark is not used in every case where two identical characters appear side by side, but only where the repetition itself is etymologically significant—when the repetition is part of a single morpheme (discrete word). Where a character ends up appearing twice as part of a compound, it is usually written out in full:
- 民主主義 minshu-shugi—"democracy", from 民主 + 主義 ("democratic" + "rule"); the abbreviated 民主々義 is only occasionally seen
One notable exception is in signs for neighborhood associations (町内会 chōnaikai?) – the name of neighborhoods often end in "... neighborhood" (〜町 -chō?), which is then suffixed with 〜町内会 yielding "... neighborhood neighborhood association" (〜町町内会 -chō-chōnaikai?), which is then informally abbreviated to 〜町々内会, despite the word break.
Similarly, in certain Chinese borrowings, it is generally preferred to write out both characters, as in 九九 (ku-ku Chinese multiplication table) or 担担麺 (tan-tan-men dan dan noodles), though in practice 々 is often used.
Kana uses different iteration marks; one for hiragana, ゝ, and one for katakana, ヽ. The hiragana iteration mark is seen in some personal names like さゝき Sasaki or おゝの Ōno, and it forms part of the formal name of the car company Isuzu (いすゞ?).
Unlike the kanji iteration marks, which do not reflect sound changes, kana iteration marks closely reflect sound, and the kana iteration marks can be combined with the dakuten voicing mark to indicate that the repeated syllable should be voiced, for example みすゞ Misuzu. If the first syllable is already voiced, for example じじ jiji, the voiced repetition mark still needs to be used: じゞ rather than じゝ, which would be read as jishi.
While widespread in old Japanese texts, the kana iteration marks are generally not used in modern Japanese outside proper names, though they may appear in informal handwritten texts.
Repeating multiple characters
In addition to the single-character iteration marks, there are also two-character-sized repeat marks, which are used to repeat two or more characters. They are used in vertical writing only, and they are effectively obsolete in modern Japanese. The vertical kana repeat marks 〱 (unvoiced) and 〲 (voiced) resemble the hiragana character ku (く), giving them their name, kunojiten (くの字点?). They stretch to fill the space typically occupied by two characters, but may indicate a repetition of more than two characters—they indicate that the preceding word or phrase be repeated. For example, the duplicated phrase 何とした何とした may be repeated as 何とした〱—note that here it repeats four characters. If a dakuten (voiced mark) is added, it applies to the first sound of the repeated word; this is written as 〲. For example, tokorodokoro could be written horizontally as ところ〲; the voiced iteration mark only applies to the first sound と.
In addition to the single-character representations U+3031 VERTICAL KANA REPEAT MARK and U+3032 VERTICAL KANA REPEAT WITH VOICED SOUND MARK, Unicode provides the half-character versions U+3033 VERTICAL KANA REPEAT MARK UPPER HALF, U+3034 VERTICAL KANA REPEAT WITH VOICED SOUND MARK UPPER HALF and U+3035 VERTICAL KANA REPEAT MARK LOWER HALF, which can be stacked to render both voiced and unvoiced repeat marks:
As support for these is limited, the ordinary forward slash / and backward slash \ are occasionally used as substitutes.
Alternatively, multiple single-character iteration marks can be used, as in ところゞゝゝ tokorodokoro or 馬鹿々々しい bakabakashii. This practice is also uncommon in modern writing, though it is occasionally seen in horizontal writing as a substitute for the vertical repeat mark.
Unlike the single-kana iteration mark, if the first kana is voiced, the unvoiced version 〱 alone will repeat the voiced sound.
Further, if okurigana is present, then no iteration mark should be used, as in 休み休み. This is prescribed by the Japanese Ministry of Education in its 1981 Cabinet notification prescribes, rule #6—see okurigana article for elaboration.
In Egyptian hieroglyphs, the signs:
— sp sn “two times” repeat the previous sign.
In Thai, mai yamok (ๆ) represents a doubled word. This used to be written as Thai numeral two (๒) and the form changed over time. In Thai, a repeated word could be used either to emphasize or to soften the meaning of the original word.
- Dos kilos de lechuga
- Tres 〃 〃 tomate
- Cuatro 〃 〃 cebolla
- Un kilo 〃 zanahoria
This is common in handwriting but is not used in formal writing.
The convention in Polish and Czech, but also Austrian German is to use the ditto sign together with em-dashes, for example:
- Dwa kilogramy pomidorów
- Trzy —〃— cebuli
- Cztery —〃— ziemniaków
In Swiss-German the symbol » is used. In other Germanophone countries the symbol is „.
- 漢字文化資料館 漢字 Q&A コーナー Q0009 「々」はなんと読むのですか？ (Japanese)