Kana are the syllabic scripts used as part of the Japanese writing system. Two modern scripts are used in modern Japanese: hiragana and katakana. Each character represents a single syllable composed of either a consonant followed by a vowel or just a vowel (with the exception of /n/).
Hiragana[edit | edit source]
Hiragana (ひらがな) is the most common syllabary in Japanese. It is used for okurigana, particles, and words without kanji. Words written with kanji can also be written in hiragana. Below are the hiragana with the consonant in the row and the following vowel in the column.
The characters ゐ and ゑ can be used to represent wi and we respectively, but they are nearly obsolete.
Katakana[edit | edit source]
Katakana (カタカナ) is far less common than either hiragana or kanji. It is most frequently used to transcribe words from other languages. Katakana can also used for emphasis, onomatopoeia, some scientific terms, and some names. Below are the katakana with the consonant in the row and the following vowel in the column.
The characters ヰ and ヱ can be used to represent wi and we respectively, but they are nearly obsolete.
Youon and Sokuon[edit | edit source]
Youon are contractions formed by attaching a smaller kana representing a syllable beginning with y to a kana ending with i (i.e. ゃ to き to produce きゃ). This creates a single syllable with the i sound omitted (i.e. きゃ is kya, which is distinct from きや (kiya)).
The sokuon is a smaller version of the tsu character (っ or ッ). It is placed before a consonant to increase the length of the consonant (i.e. まって is matte). It cannot be placed at the beginning of a word. The sokuon can also be placed at the end of a sentence to represent a glottal stop and represent speech that is angry or surprised.
Dakuten and Handakuten[edit | edit source]
The dakuten is a symbol (◌゙) resembling quotation marks that is attached to kana to make the consonant sound voiced. They can only be attached to kana if their consonant sound is unvoiced. For instance, か (ka) with a dakuten becomes が (ga). However, h becomes b when dakuten are attached. For example, ha (は) becomes ba (ば).
The handakuten is a symbol (◌゚) resembling a degree sign that is attached to the h kana to change the h to a p. For example, ha (は) becomes pa (ぱ).
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