Japanese/Kana

From Wikibooks, open books for an open world
Jump to: navigation, search
See also: Japanese/Pronunciation.

There are two aspects to learning the Japanese characters. Recognising the shapes and learning to write them. These are further separated by the fact that the strokes that comprise a specific character have a certain order.

In addition to the base characters, there are special symbols to denote nuanced pronunciation, such as voiced and double consonants.

Stroke order[edit]

Hiragana: [ a ] [ ka ] [ sa ] [ ta ] [ na ] [ ha ] [ ma ] [ ya ] [ ra ] [ wa, wo, n ] [ ゐ and ゑ (ancient hiragana in disuse) ]
Katakana: [ a ] [ ka ] [ sa ] [ ta ] [ na ] [ ha ] [ ma ] [ ya ] [ ra ] [ wa, wo, n ] [ ヰ and ヱ (ancient katakana in disuse) ]

In the pages linked to from the tables below, you will find stroke order diagrams for each of the hiragana and katakana characters. The voiced and plosive variants of the same row/group are listed on the same page.

Hiragana[edit]

Clear   Voiced   Plosive
  a i u e o   a i u e o   a i u e o
 
k g
s z
t d
n  
h b p
m    
y
r
w
 

Katakana[edit]

Clear   Voiced   Plosive
  a i u e o   a i u e o   a i u e o
   
k g
s z
t d
n  
h b p
m    
y    
r
w
 

Long vowels[edit]

A long vowel is written in hiragana with an extra "あ", "い" or "う" depending on the vowel. In most cases あ follows あ; い follows い or え and う follows う or お.

There are rare exceptions where an え vowel is extended by adding え. Much less rare is an お vowel extended by お. Some examples of this include:

  • "おねえさん", "おおい", and "おおきい".

In katakana, it's written with a chōonpu: "ー".

Voiced and plosive sounds[edit]

The turbid sound symbol, dakuten (濁点(だくてん)) which looks like two slash marks from the left to right ( ゛) just at the top-right-hand corner of a character indicate that the preceding consonant is voiced. This symbol is also known as tenten 点々(てんてん), meaning "two marks."

The half turbid sound symbol, handakuten (半濁点(はんだくてん)) which looks like a circle ( ゜) located to the top-right-hand corner of a syllabary indicates the preceding consonant is plosive.

Double consonants[edit]

The double consonant is written by adding a small "tsu" ("っ" or "ッ") in front of the doubled consonant syllable. This is called the sokuon (促音(そくおん)).

The sokuon cannot be at the beginning of a word. In hiragana, the sokuon can only appear before the "か", "さ", "た" and "ば" groups/rows.

Examples:

Yōon[edit]

In addition to those represented by the syllables in the kana, Japanese has sounds with a palatal or labio-velar semivowel between the consonant and the vowel. The sound is somewhat like that of the "j" between the "f and the "o" in "fjord". This is written by appending smaller versions of "ya", "yu" and "yo" to the syllables from the "i" columns ("ki", "shi", "chi", "ni", "hi", "mi", "ri" and their variations). In this case, the two kana are not pronounced individually, but rather as one sound. These are called yōon (拗音(ようおん)).

Clear compounds    Voiced compounds    Plosive compounds
(ゃ ya ャ) (ゅ yu ュ) (ょ yo ョ) (ゃ ya ャ) (ゅ yu ュ) (ょ yo ョ) (ゃ ya ャ) (ゅ yu ュ) (ょ yo ョ)
きゃ kya キャ きゅ kyu キュ きょ kyo キョ ぎゃ gya ギャ ぎゅ gyu ギュ ぎょ gyo ギョ
しゃ sha シャ しゅ shu シュ しょ sho ショ じゃ ja ジャ じゅ ju ジュ じょ jo ジョ
ちゃ cha チャ ちゅ chu チュ ちょ cho チョ ぢゃ ja ヂャ ぢゅ ju ヂュ ぢょ jo ヂョ
にゃ nya ニャ にゅ nyu ニュ にょ nyo ニョ
ひゃ hya ヒャ ひゅ hyu ヒュ ひょ hyo ヒョ びゃ bya ビャ びゅ byu ビュ びょ byo ビョ ぴゃ pya ピャ ぴゅ pyu ピュ ぴょ pyo ピョ
みゃ mya ミャ みゅ myu ミュ みょ myo ミョ
りゃ rya リャ りゅ ryu リュ りょ ryo リョ
Note: The grayed compound characters are rarely used.

Compounds with "yu" and "yo" are often followed by an "u", making it a long vowel.

Special yōon for transliteration[edit]

There are certain kinds of special yōon which primarily represent pronunciations imported from foreign languages. They commonly appear as parts of names of foreign people or foreign places. Although they were originally considered to be unauthorized, they are nowadays widely accepted even by conservative media such as newspapers. See the table below for commonly used ones among such compounds.

Compounds used for transliteration
(ぁ a ァ) (ぃ i ィ) (ぅ u ゥ) (ぇ e ェ) (ぉ o ォ)
うぃ wi ウィ うぇ we ウェ うぉ wo ウォ
ゔぁ va ヴァ ゔぃ vi ヴィ ゔぇ ve ヴェ ゔぉ vo ヴォ
てぃ ti ティ
とぅ tu トゥ
でぃ di ディ
ふぁ fa ファ ふぃ fi フィ ふぉ fo フォ

Practice[edit]

Learning the kana takes some work and is best done by memorisation and drilling. Practice by writing up the table, speaking out the characters and drill yourself on the readings.

There are several online resources that can help you with these:

GNU/Linux users may also download the Kanatest software, and Anki.