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Also , is a
Japanese
Japanese
syllabary In the linguistic Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis includ ...
, one component of the
Japanese writing system The modern Japanese writing system uses a combination of Logogram, logographic kanji, which are adopted Chinese characters, and Syllabary, syllabic kana. Kana itself consists of a pair of syllabary, syllabaries: hiragana, used primarily for nat ...
, along with ''
katakana is a Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , alt_flag = Centered deep red circle on a white rectangle , image_coat = Imperial Seal of Japan.svg , alt_coat = Golde ...
'', ''
kanji are the adopted logographic Chinese characters that are used in the Japanese writing system. They are used alongside the Japanese language, Japanese syllabic scripts ''hiragana'' and ''katakana''. The Japanese term ''kanji'' for the Chinese ch ...
'' and in some cases
Latin script Latin script, also known as Roman script, is a set of graphic signs (Writing system#General properties, script) based on the letters of the classical Latin alphabet. This is derived from a form of the Cumae alphabet, Cumaean Greek version of the ...
. It is a phonetic lettering system. The word ''hiragana'' literally means "ordinary" or "simple"
kana The are syllabaries used to write Japanese phonological units, morae A mora (plural ''morae'' or ''moras''; often symbolized μ) is a unit in phonology Phonology is a branch of linguistics that studies how languages or dialects systemat ...

kana
("simple" originally as contrasted with kanji). Hiragana and katakana are both
kana The are syllabaries used to write Japanese phonological units, morae A mora (plural ''morae'' or ''moras''; often symbolized μ) is a unit in phonology Phonology is a branch of linguistics that studies how languages or dialects systemat ...

kana
systems. With one or two minor exceptions, each syllable in the
Japanese language
Japanese language
(strictly, each mora) is represented by one character (or one digraph) in each system. This may be either a vowel such as ''"a"'' (hiragana ); a consonant followed by a vowel such as ''"ka"'' ( ); or ''"n"'' ( ), a nasal
sonorant In phonetics and phonology, a sonorant or resonant is a speech sound that is manner of articulation, produced with continuous, non-turbulent airflow in the vocal tract; these are the manners of articulation that are most often voice (phonetics), voi ...
which, depending on the context, sounds either like English ''m'', ''n'' or ''ng'' () when syllable-final or like the
nasal vowel A nasal vowel is a vowel A vowel is a Syllable, syllabic speech sound pronounced without any stricture in the vocal tract. Vowels are one of the two principal classes of speech sounds, the other being the consonant. Vowels vary in quality, in ...
s of French, Portuguese or Polish. Because the characters of the kana do not represent single consonants (except in the case of ん "n"), the kana are referred to as syllabic symbols and not alphabetic letters. Hiragana is used to write ''
okurigana are kana The are syllabaries used to write Japanese phonological units, morae A mora (plural ''morae'' or ''moras''; often symbolized μ) is a unit in phonology Phonology is a branch of linguistics that studies how languages or diale ...
'' (kana suffixes following a kanji root, for example to inflect verbs and adjectives), various grammatical and function words including Japanese particles, particles, as well as miscellaneous other native words for which there are no
kanji are the adopted logographic Chinese characters that are used in the Japanese writing system. They are used alongside the Japanese language, Japanese syllabic scripts ''hiragana'' and ''katakana''. The Japanese term ''kanji'' for the Chinese ch ...
or whose kanji form is obscure or too formal for the writing purpose. Words that do have common kanji renditions may also sometimes be written instead in hiragana, according to an individual author's preference, for example to impart an informal feel. Hiragana is also used to write ''furigana'', a reading aid that shows the pronunciation of kanji characters. There are two main systems of Kana#Collation, ordering hiragana: the old-fashioned iroha ordering and the more prevalent gojūon ordering.


Writing system

The modern hiragana syllabary consists of 46 base characters: * 5 singular vowels * 40 consonant–vowel unions * 1 singular consonant These are conceived as a 5×10 grid (''gojūon'', , "Fifty Sounds"), as illustrated in the adjacent table, read and so forth, with the singular consonant appended to the end. Of the 50 theoretically possible combinations, ''yi'' and ''wu'' do not exist in the language and ''ye'', ''wi'' and ''we'' are obsolete (or virtually obsolete) in modern Japanese. ''wo'' (を) is usually pronounced as a vowel (''o'') in modern Japanese and is preserved in only one use, as a grammatical particle, particle. These basic characters can be modified in various ways. By adding a ''dakuten'' marker ( ゛), a Obstruent, voiceless consonant is turned into a sonorant, voiced consonant: ''k''→''g'', ''ts/s''→''z'', ''t''→''d'', ''h''→''b'' and ''ch''/''sh''→''j''. For example, か (''ka'') becomes が (''ga''). Hiragana beginning with an ''h'' sound can also add a ''handakuten'' marker ( ゜) changing the ''h'' to a ''p''. For example, は (''ha'') becomes ぱ (''pa''). A small version of the hiragana for ''ya'', ''yu'', or ''yo'' (ゃ, ゅ or ょ respectively) may be added to hiragana ending in ''i''. This changes the ''i'' vowel sound to a glide (Palatalization (phonetics), palatalization) to ''a'', ''u'' or ''o''. For example, き (''ki'') plus ゃ (small ''ya'') becomes (''kya''). Addition of the small ''y'' kana is called ''yōon''. A small ''tsu'' っ, called a ''sokuon'', indicates that the following consonant is geminated (doubled). In Japanese this is an important distinction in pronunciation; for example, compare , ''saka'', "hill" with , ''sakka'', "author". The ''sokuon'' also sometimes appears at the end of utterances, where it denotes a glottal stop, as in (, Ouch!). However, it cannot be used to double the ''na'', ''ni'', ''nu'', ''ne'', ''no'' syllables' consonants – to double these, the singular ''n'' (ん) is added in front of the syllable, as in みんな (''minna'', "all"). Hiragana usually spells long vowels with the addition of a second vowel kana; for example, おかあさん (''o-ka-a-sa-n'', "mother"). The ''chōonpu'' (long vowel mark) (ー) used in katakana is rarely used with hiragana, for example in the word , ''rāmen'', but this usage is considered non-standard in Japanese. However, the Okinawan language uses chōonpu with hiragana. In informal writing, small versions of the five vowel kana are sometimes used to represent trailing off sounds (, ''haa'', , ''nee''). Standard and voiced Iteration mark#Japanese, iteration marks are written in hiragana as ゝ and ゞ respectively.


Table of hiragana

The following table shows the complete hiragana together with the Hepburn romanization and International Phonetic Alphabet, IPA transcription in the ''gojūon'' order. Hiragana with ''dakuten'' or ''handakuten'' follow the ''gojūon'' kana without them, with the ''yōon'' kana following. Obsolete and normally unused kana are shown in brackets and . Those in bold do not use the initial sound for that row. For all syllables besides ん, the pronunciation indicated is for word-initial syllables, for mid-word pronunciations see below.


Spelling–phonology correspondence

In the middle of words, the ''g'' sound (normally ) may turn into a velar nasal or voiced velar fricative, velar fricative . An exception to this is numerals; 15 ''jūgo'' is considered to be one word, but is pronounced as if it was ''jū'' and ''go'' stacked end to end: . In many accents, the ''j'' and ''z'' sounds are pronounced as affricates ( and , respectively) at the beginning of utterances and fricatives in the middle of words. For example, ''sūji'' 'number', ''zasshi'' 'magazine'. In archaic forms of Japanese, there existed the ''kwa'' ( ) and ''gwa'' ( ) digraphs. In modern Japanese, these phonemes have been phased out of usage and only exist in the extended
katakana is a Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , alt_flag = Centered deep red circle on a white rectangle , image_coat = Imperial Seal of Japan.svg , alt_coat = Golde ...
digraphs for approximating foreign language words. The singular ''n'' is pronounced before ''t'', ''ch'', ''ts'', ''n'', ''r'', ''z'', ''j'' and ''d'', before ''m'', ''b'' and ''p'', before ''k'' and ''g'', at the end of utterances, and some kind of Close vowel, high
nasal vowel A nasal vowel is a vowel A vowel is a Syllable, syllabic speech sound pronounced without any stricture in the vocal tract. Vowels are one of the two principal classes of speech sounds, the other being the consonant. Vowels vary in quality, in ...
before vowels, palatal approximants (''y''), and fricative consonants (''s'', ''sh'', ''h'', ''f'' and ''w''). In kanji readings, the diphthongs ''ou'' and ''ei'' are today usually pronounced (long o) and (long e) respectively. For example, (lit. ''toukyou'') is pronounced 'Tokyo', and ''sensei'' is 'teacher'. However, ''tou'' is pronounced 'to inquire', because the ''o'' and ''u'' are considered distinct, ''u'' being the verb ending in the dictionary form. Similarly, ''shite iru'' is pronounced 'is doing'. For a more thorough discussion on the sounds of Japanese, please refer to Japanese phonology.


Obsolete Kana


Ye

An early, now obsolete, hiragana-esque form of ''ye'' may have existed (𛀁, 𛀁 ) in pre-Classical Japanese (prior to the advent of
kana The are syllabaries used to write Japanese phonological units, morae A mora (plural ''morae'' or ''moras''; often symbolized μ) is a unit in phonology Phonology is a branch of linguistics that studies how languages or dialects systemat ...

kana
), but is generally represented for purposes of reconstruction by the kanji 江, and its hiragana form is not present in any known orthography. In modern orthography, ''ye'' can also be written as いぇ (イェ in
katakana is a Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , alt_flag = Centered deep red circle on a white rectangle , image_coat = Imperial Seal of Japan.svg , alt_coat = Golde ...
). It is true that in early periods of kana, hiragana and katakana letters for "ye" were used, but soon after the distinction between /ye/ and /e/ went away, and letters and glyphs were not established.


Yi

Though ''ye'' did appear in some textbooks during the Meiji period along with another kana for ''yi'' in the form of cursive 以. Today it is considered a Hentaigana by scholars and is encoded in Unicode 10 () Walter & Walter 1998. This kana could have a colloquial use, to convert the combo yui (ゆい) into yii (い), but it is not a widely used combination.


Hiragana also appeared in different Meiji-era textbooks (). Although there are several possible source kanji, it is likely to have been derived from a cursive form of the , although a related variant sometimes listed () is from a cursive form of .Iannacone, Jake (2020)
"Reply to The Origin of Hiragana /wu/ 平仮名のわ行うの字源に対する新たな発見"
/ref> However, it was never commonly used. In the future, this character will be encoded into Unicode as HIRAGANA LETTER ARCHAIC WU.


Spelling rules

With a few exceptions for sentence particles は, を, and へ (normally ''ha'', ''wo'', and ''he'', but instead pronounced as ''wa'', ''o'', and ''e'', respectively), and a few other arbitrary rules, Japanese, when written in kana, is Phonemic principle, phonemically orthographic, i.e. there is a one-to-one correspondence between kana characters and sounds, leaving only words' Japanese pitch accent, pitch accent unrepresented. This has not always been the case: a previous system of spelling, now referred to as historical kana usage, differed substantially from pronunciation; the three above-mentioned exceptions in modern usage are the legacy of that system. There are two hiragana pronounced ''ji'' (じ and ぢ) and two hiragana pronounced ''zu'' (ず and づ), but to distinguish them, particularly when Wāpuro rōmaji, typing Japanese, sometimes ''ぢ'' is written as ''di'' and ''づ'' is written as ''du''. These pairs are not interchangeable. Usually, ''ji'' is written as じ and ''zu'' is written as ず. There are some exceptions. If the first two syllables of a word consist of one syllable without a ''dakuten'' and the same syllable with a ''dakuten'', the same hiragana is used to write the sounds. For example, ''chijimeru'' ('to boil down' or 'to shrink') is spelled ちぢめる and ''tsuzuku'' ('to continue') is . For compound words where the dakuten reflects ''rendaku'' voicing, the original hiragana is used. For example, ''chi'' ( 'blood') is spelled ち in plain hiragana. When ''hana'' ('nose') and ''chi'' ('blood') combine to make ''hanaji'' ( 'nose bleed'), the sound of changes from ''chi'' to ''ji''. So ''hanaji'' is spelled according to ち: the basic hiragana used to transcribe . Similarly, ''tsukau'' (; 'to use') is spelled in hiragana, so ''kanazukai'' (; 'kana use', or 'kana orthography') is spelled in hiragana. However, this does not apply when kanji are used phonetically to write words that do not relate directly to the meaning of the kanji (see also ateji). The Japanese word for 'lightning', for example, is ''inazuma'' (). The component means 'rice plant', is written in hiragana and is pronounced: ''ina''. The component means 'wife' and is pronounced ''tsuma'' (つま) when written in isolation—or frequently as ''zuma'' when it features after another syllable. Neither of these components have anything to do with 'lightning', but together they do when they compose the word for 'lightning'. In this case, the default spelling in hiragana rather than is used. Officially, ぢ and づ do not occur word-initially pursuant to modern spelling rules. There were words such as ''jiban'' 'ground' in the historical kana usage, but they were unified under じ in the modern kana usage in 1946, so today it is spelled exclusively . However, ''zura'' 'wig' (from ''katsura'') and ''zuke'' (a sushi term for lean tuna soaked in soy sauce) are examples of word-initial づ today. Some people write the word for hemorrhoids as ぢ (normally じ) for emphasis. No standard Japanese words begin with the kana ん (''n''). This is the basis of the word game shiritori. ん ''n'' is normally treated as its own syllable and is separate from the other ''n''-based kana (''na'', ''ni'' etc.). ん is sometimes directly followed by a vowel (''a'', ''i'', ''u'', ''e'' or ''o'') or a palatal approximant (''ya'', ''yu'' or ''yo''). These are clearly distinct from the ''na'', ''ni'' etc. syllables, and there are minimal pairs such as ''kin'en'' 'smoking forbidden', ''kinen'' 'commemoration', ''kinnen'' 'recent years'. In Hepburn romanization, they are distinguished with an apostrophe, but not all romanization methods make the distinction. For example, past prime minister Junichiro Koizumi's first name is actually ''Jun'ichirō'' pronounced There are a few hiragana that are rarely used. ゐ ''wi'' and ゑ ''we'' are obsolete outside of Okinawan orthography. 𛀁 ''e'' was an alternate version of え ''e'' before spelling reform, and was briefly reused for ''ye'' during initial spelling reforms, but is now completely obsolete. ゔ ''vu'' is a modern addition used to represent the /v/ sound in foreign languages such as English, but since Japanese from a phonological standpoint does not have a /v/ sound, it is pronounced as /b/ and mostly serves as a more accurate indicator of a word's pronunciation in its original language. However, it is rarely seen because loanwords and Transliteration, transliterated words are usually written in
katakana is a Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , alt_flag = Centered deep red circle on a white rectangle , image_coat = Imperial Seal of Japan.svg , alt_coat = Golde ...
, where the corresponding character would be written as ヴ. , , for ''ja''/''ju''/''jo'' are theoretically possible in rendaku, but are practically never used. For example, 'throughout Japan' could be written , but is practically always The ''myu'' kana is extremely rare in originally Japanese words; linguist Haruhiko Kindaichi raises the example of the Japanese family name Omamyūda and claims it is the only occurrence amongst pure Japanese words. Its
katakana is a Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , alt_flag = Centered deep red circle on a white rectangle , image_coat = Imperial Seal of Japan.svg , alt_coat = Golde ...
counterpart is used in many loanwords, however.


History

Hiragana developed from ''man'yōgana'', Chinese language, Chinese characters used for their pronunciations, a practice that started in the 5th century. The oldest examples of Man'yōgana include the Inariyama Sword, an iron sword excavated at the Inariyama Kofun in 1968. This sword is thought to be made in the year (most commonly taken to be A.D. 471). The forms of the hiragana originate from the cursive script (East Asia), cursive script style of Chinese calligraphy. The figure below shows the derivation of hiragana from manyōgana via cursive script. The upper part shows the character in the regular script form, the center character in red shows the cursive script form of the character, and the bottom shows the equivalent hiragana. The cursive script forms are not strictly confined to those in the illustration. When it was first developed, hiragana was not accepted by everyone. The educated or elites preferred to use only the kanji system. Historically, in Japan, the regular script (''kaisho'') form of the characters was used by men and called , "men's writing", while the cursive script (''sōsho'') form of the kanji was used by women. Hence hiragana first gained popularity among women, who were generally not allowed access to the same levels of education as men. And thus hiragana was first widely used among court women in the writing of personal communications and literature. From this comes the alternative name of "women's writing". For example, ''The Tale of Genji'' and other early novels by female authors used hiragana extensively or exclusively. Even today, hiragana is felt to have a feminine quality.p. 108. Kataoka, Kuniyoshi. 1997. Affect and letter writing: unconventional conventions in casual writing by young Japanese women. Language in Society 26:103-136. Male authors came to write literature using hiragana. Hiragana was used for unofficial writing such as personal letters, while katakana and Chinese were used for official documents. In modern times, the usage of hiragana has become mixed with
katakana is a Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , alt_flag = Centered deep red circle on a white rectangle , image_coat = Imperial Seal of Japan.svg , alt_coat = Golde ...
writing. Katakana is now relegated to special uses such as recently borrowed words (i.e., since the 19th century), names in transliteration, the names of animals, in telegrams, and for emphasis. Originally, for all syllables there was more than one possible hiragana. In 1900, the system was simplified so each syllable had only one hiragana. The deprecated hiragana are now known as . The pangram poem ''Iroha-uta'' ("ABC song/poem"), which dates to the 10th century, uses every hiragana once (except ''n'' ん, which was just a variant of む before the Muromachi era).


Stroke order and direction

The following table shows the method for writing each hiragana character. The table is arranged in a traditional manner, beginning top right and reading columns down. The numbers and arrows indicate the stroke order and direction respectively.


Unicode

Hiragana was added to the Unicode Standard in October, 1991 with the release of version 1.0. The Unicode block for Hiragana is U+3040–U+309F: The Unicode hiragana block contains precomposed characters for all hiragana in the modern set, including small vowels and yōon kana for compound syllables, plus the archaic ゐ ''wi'' and ゑ ''we'' and the rare ゔ ''vu''; the archaic 𛀁 ''ye'' is included in plane (Unicode)#Supplementary Multilingual Plane, plane 1 at U+1B001 (see below). All combinations of hiragana with ''dakuten'' and ''handakuten'' used in modern Japanese are available as precomposed characters, and can also be produced by using a base hiragana followed by the combining dakuten and handakuten characters (U+3099 and U+309A, respectively). This method is used to add the diacritics to kana that are not normally used with them, for example applying the dakuten to a pure vowel or the handakuten to a kana not in the h-group. Characters U+3095 and U+3096 are small か (''ka'') and small け (''ke''), respectively. U+309F is a ligature of Yori (kana), より (''yori'') occasionally used in vertical text. U+309B and U+309C are spacing (non-combining) equivalents to the combining dakuten and handakuten characters, respectively. Historic and variant forms of Japanese kana characters were first added to the Unicode Standard in October, 2010 with the release of version 6.0, with significantly more added in 2017 as part of Unicode 10. The Unicode block for Kana Supplement is U+1B000–U+1B0FF, and is immediately followed by the Kana Extended-A block (U+1B100–U+1B12F). These blocks include mainly hentaigana (historic or variant hiragana): The Unicode block for Small Kana Extension is U+1B130–U+1B16F: In the following character sequences a kana from the /k/ row is modified by a ''handakuten'' combining mark to indicate that a syllable starts with an initial nasal, known as ''dakuten#Phonetic shifts, bidakuon''. As of Unicode 13.0, these character combinations are explicitly called out as Named Sequences:


See also

*
Japanese writing system The modern Japanese writing system uses a combination of Logogram, logographic kanji, which are adopted Chinese characters, and Syllabary, syllabic kana. Kana itself consists of a pair of syllabary, syllabaries: hiragana, used primarily for nat ...
*Bopomofo (Zhùyīn fúhào, "phonetic symbols"), the current official phonetic spelling system for Taiwanese Mandarin, also simplified from Chinese characters. *Iteration mark explains the iteration marks used with hiragana. *Japanese phonology explains Japanese pronunciation in detail. *Japanese typographic symbols gives other non-kana, non-kanji symbols. *Katakana *Nüshu, a syllabary writing system used by women in China's Hunan province *Shodō, Japanese calligraphy.


Notes


References

* "The Art of Japanese Calligraphy", Yujiro Nakata, , gives details of the development of ''onode'' and ''onnade''.


External links


Practice pronunciation and stroke order of Hiragana

Hiragana unicode chart

Hiragana trace sheets

Hiragana study tool
{{Authority control Japanese writing system terms Kana Japanese writing system sv:Kana (skriftsystem)#Hiragana Syllabary writing systems