Hiragana and Katakana

In the previous post, we learned that the Japanese writing system consists of three parts: hiragana, katakana, and kanji. Today we'll learn more about the first two of them.

General Information

Both hiragana and katakana came from kanji. They are just simplified versions of kanji. Hiragana and katakana are Japanese syllabaries. Each of them has 46 characters that have a parallel in another syllabary. In other words, we have two characters (one is from hiragana, and another one is from katakana) for each mora in Japanese. Let's consider mora A. It’s あ in hiragana and ア in katakana.

But what is mora?

Mora is the smallest unit of the language. It's similar to syllables but has some differences. I would say that mora is even smaller than a syllable :)

For example, in Japanese sound" n" is a stand-alone mora. Long vowels like" aa" are two moras:" a" and "a." It will be more apparent after you read the whole article and get familiar with the table of all characters.

What are the purpose and the difference between these two types of alphabets?

Hiragana is mainly used to mark the grammar endings of words. Function words, including particles, are also written in hiragana. Also, many words don't have a kanji written variant, so they use hiragana.

Katakana is used to write loanwords (they are called gairaigo) and foreign names.

One more difference in usage is related to kanji, but let's mention it here too. Maybe you already know it, but kanji have two types of readings: on and kun. In dictionaries, the first one is written in katakana, and the second one is written in hiragana. Later we will consider the difference between those types of readings.

Now it's time to learn these syllabaries.

Gojuuon

All hiragana and katakana characters are presented in the table called gojuuon. They are grouped by vowels and consonants that moras have. On the left is a hiragana character, and on the right is a katakana character. Romaji is beneath them. Romaji is just a Latin representation of the mora.

 
Column あ Column い Column う Column え Column お
Row あ あ ア
a
い イ
i
う ウ
u
え エ
e
お オ
o
Row か か カ
ka
き キ
ki
く ク
ku
け ケ
ke
こ コ
ko
Row さ さ サ
sa
し シ
shi
す ス
su
せ セ
se
そ ソ
so
Row た た タ
ta
ち チ
chi
つ ツ
tsu
て テ
te
と ト
to
Row な な ナ
na
に ニ
ni
ぬ ヌ
nu
ね ネ
ne
の ノ
no
Row は は ハ
ha
ひ ヒ
hi
ふ フ
fu
へ ヘ
he
ほ ホ
ho
Row ま ま マ
ma
み ミ
mi
む ム
mu
め メ
me
も モ
mo
Row や や ヤ
ya

ゆ ユ
yu

よ ヨ
yo
Row ら ら ラ
ra
り リ
ri
る ル
ru
れ レ
re
ろ ロ
ro
Row わ わ ワ
wa



を ヲ
o

ん ン
n





Additional sounds

The Japanese language has some additional sounds. So there are other tables for these characters. The first table has voiced and voiceless sounds.

Row が が ガ
ga
ぎ ギ
gi
ぐ グ
gu
げ ゲ
ge
ご ゴ
go
Row ざ ざ ザ
za
じ ジ
ji
ず ズ
zu
ぜ ゼ
ze
ぞ ゾ
zo
Row だ だ ダ
da
ぢ ヂ
ji
づ ヅ
zu
で デ
de
ど ド
do
Row ば ば バ
ba
び ビ
bi
ぶ ブ
bu
べ ベ
be
ぼ ボ
bo
Row ぱ ぱ パ
pa
ぴ ピ
pi
ぷ プ
pu
ぺ ペ
pe
ぽ ポ
po

You might notice that voiced sounds have a character called dakuten (looks like two dashes). Voiceless sounds have another character named handakuten (which looks like a circle).

Another group of sounds is soft consonants. The rule for such characters is to take a character from the" i" column and add half-height" ya"," yu" or" yo," respectively.

きゃ キャ
kya
きゅ キュ
kyu
きょ キョ
kyo
しゃ シャ
sha
しゅ シュ
shu
しょ ショ
sho
ちゃ チャ
cha
ちゅ チュ
chu
ちょ チョ
cho
にゃ ニャ
nya
にゅ ニュ
nyu
にょ ニョ
nyo
ひゃ ヒャ
hya
ひゅ ヒュ
hyu
ひょ ヒョ
hyo
みゃ ミャ
mya
みゅ ミュ
myu
みょ ミョ
myo
りゃ リャ
rya
りゅ リュ
ryu
りょ リョ
ryo
ぎゃ ギャ
gya
ぎゅ ギュ
gyu
ぎょ ギョ
gyo
じゃ ジャ
ja
じゅ ジュ
ju
じょ ジョ
jo
びゃ ビャ
bya
びゅ ビュ
byu
びょ ビョ
byo
ぴゃ ピャ
pya
ぴゅ ピュ
pyu
ぴょ ピョ
pyo


Additional materials

In the next post, we'll learn how to write characters with long syllables. Please remember that learning kana is the first step in mastering Japanese. So try to memorize it before going forward.

We can offer you our free online course Japanese Alphabet, which helps you to review all the information from this post.

Try to memorize hiragana and katakana writing it. For example, you can use this copybook to practice.

If you want to master hiragana and katakana, look at our free mobile application, Simple Kana. It has excellent tools to help you learn from scratch or improve your knowledge. Or you can try our free online trainer that has similar functionality that the app has but is limited (we recommend the app) :)

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10/23/2022 18:00

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