Japanese Language and Culture

Kana

Undergoing Reconstruction!

Read the tables from top to bottom, and from right to left. You can remember the proper order for the basic kana characters with the saying:

"Kana Signs, Take Note How Much You Read and Write them."

Just remember that vowels are first and stand-alone 'n' is last.


Hiragana

Hiragana is used along with kanji to write all native Japanese words (including words of Chinese origin). Hiragana is used for verb and adjective endings (okurigana), particles, words that have no kanji, words which are commonly written only in kana, words for which the writer does not know the kanji, and as furigana (hints provided by the writer to the reading of an unfamiliar kanji).

Basic Characters


n

wa

ra

ya

ma

ha

na

ta

sa

ka

a

wi*

ri

mi

hi

ni

chi (ti)

shi (si)

ki

i

ru

yu

mu

fu (hu)

nu

tsu (tu)

su

ku

u

we*

re

me

he

ne

te

se

ke

e

wo

ro

yo

mo

ho

no

to

so

ko

o

* These syllables are not used in modern Japanese.



Voiced sounds


ba

pa

da

za

ga

bi

pi

ji (di)

ji (zi)

gi

bu

pu

zu (du)

zu

gu

be

pe

de

ze

ge

bo

po

do

zo

go


Glides

りゃ
rya
みゃ
mya
ぴゃ
pya
びゃ
bya
ひゃ
hya
にゃ
nya
ちゃ
cha (tya)
じゃ
ja (zya)
しゃ
sha (sya)
ぎゃ
gya
きゃ
kya
りゅ
ryu
みゅ
myu
ぴゅ
pyu
びゅ
byu
ひゅ
hyu
にゅ
nyu
ちゅ
chu (tyu)
じゅ
ju (zyu)
しゅ
shu (syu)
ぎゅ
gyu
きゅ
kyu
りょ
ryo
みょ
myo
ぴょ
pyo
びょ
byo
ひょ
hyo
にょ
nyo
ちょ
cho (tyo)
じょ
jo (zyo)
しょ
sho (syo)
ぎょ
gyo
きょ
kyo


Notes

In hiragana, long "o" or "u" vowels are indicated by following an "o" or "u" syllable with う. There are occasions where a word contains a syllable that was originally written as "wo", where the lengthening is represented by hiragana "o" instead. There are relatively few of these, and so they may be learned on a case-by-case basis. One example is "ookii" which is written out in hiragana as おおきい (although, usually you use the kanji:大きい)

Long "i" or "e" vowels are indicated by following an "i" or "e" syllable with い. There has been some argument on the topic, but in general えい is read as a doubled length of え and does not have any glide to an "i" sound.

Long "a" is written by following a syllable with あ.


Katakana

Katakana is used for loan words from western languages, including foreign names. It is used for emphasis similar to the way that italics are used in English. It is also used to replace the many unfamiliar kanji of things like fish or produce at a market or restaurant.

Basic Characters


n

wa

ra

ya

ma

ha

na

ta

sa

ka

a

wi*

ri

mi

hi

ni

chi (ti)

shi (si)

ki

i

ru

yu

mu

fu (hu)

nu

tsu (tu)

su

ku

u

we*

re

me

he

ne

te

se

ke

e

wo

ro

yo

mo

ho

no

to

so

ko

o

* These syllables are not used in modern Japanese.



Voiced sounds


ba

pa

da

za

ga

bi

pi

ji (di)

ji (zi)

gi

bu

pu

zu (du)

zu

gu

be

pe

de

ze

ge

bo

po

do

zo

go


Glides

リャ
rya
ミャ
mya
ピャ
pya
ビャ
bya
ヒャ
hya
ニャ
nya
チャ
cha (tya)
ジャ
ja (zya)
シャ
sha (sya)
ギャ
gya
キャ
kya
リュ
ryu
ミュ
myu
ピュ
pyu
ビュ
byu
ヒュ
hyu
ニュ
nyu
チュ
chu (tyu)
ジュ
ju (zyu)
シュ
shu (syu)
ギュ
gyu
キュ
kyu
リョ
ryo
ミョ
myo
ピョ
pyo
ビョ
byo
ヒョ
hyo
ニョ
nyo
チョ
cho (tyo)
ジョ
jo (zyo)
ショ
sho (syo)
ギョ
gyo
キョ
kyo


Additional Combinations

In katakana a number of combinations are possible to represent sounds in foreign words that do not occur in Japanese. Most of these are very rare. Different Japanese input method editors will require different combinations of letters to represent these kana combinations, or may not provide any, requiring a user to enter each character of the combination separately.

Where the romanizations do not look pronounceable, it is possible that they represent an input scheme for the combination rather than the actual sound.

ヴァ
va
ファ
fa
ヂャ
dya
ツァ
tsa
グァ
gwa
クァ
kwa
ヴィ
vi
フィ
fi
ディ
dji
ティ
ti
ツィ
tsi
グィ
gwi
クィ
kwi
ウィ
WI

vu
ヂュ
dyu
ドゥ
dwu
トゥ
twu
ヴェ
ve
フェ
fe
チェ
tye
ツェ
tse
ジェ
zye
シェ
sye
グェ
gwe
クェ
kwe
ウェ
WE
イェ
ye
ヴォ
vo
フォ
fo
ヂョ
dyo
ツォ
tso
グォ
gwo
クォ
kwo
ウォ
WO
ヴュ
vyu
フュ
fyu
デュ
dju
テュ
tju
グョ
gyo
クョ
kyo


Notes

All long vowels in katakana are indicated by the vowel elongation mark (see below), rather than by additional characters as in hiragana.

Word boundaries may be indicated by the word separation mark (see below).


Additional Symbols and Punctuation

Vowel Elongation Mark
Indicates that the vowel of of the preceeding syllable is held for a second mora (beat). There may be a tonal change in between the first and second morae. This mark is almost exclusively used in katakana, which does not use additional characters to indicate long vowels.
Word Separation Mark
Indicates a word boundary. This is most often used in katakana to indicate the word boundary in a string of (possibly) unfamiliar words, or to prevent two words from being together as one.
Full Stop
Used similarly to a period in English.
Comma
Used similarly to a comma in English.
Open Quote Mark
Opens a quotation.
Close Quote Mark
Closes a quotation.
Maru / Ideographic Zero
A zero. Used in other ways.
Kanji Repetition Mark
Indicates repetition of the previous kanji.
Hiragana Repetition Mark
Indicates repetition of the previous hiragana character. This and the other kana repetition marks are not often used. The kana is simply repeated instead. In vertical writing however there are other repetion marks which are more common.
Hiragana Voiced Repetition Mark
Indicates repetition of the previous hiragana character with a voiced reading (e.g. "ku" becomes "gu", etc.). Not often used.
Katakana Repetition Mark
Indicates repetition of the previous katakana character. Not often used.
Katakana Voiced Repetition Mark
Indicates repetition of the previous katakana character with a voiced reading (e.g. "ku" becomes "gu", etc.). Not often used.

Copyright © 2010-2011 Collin McCulley. All Rights Reserved.

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