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is a Japanese
syllabary In the linguistic Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most langu ...
, one component of the
Japanese writing system The modern Japanese writing system uses a combination of logographic In a written language A written language is the representation of a spoken or gestural language A language is a structured system of communication used by huma ...
along with
hiragana is a Japanese Japanese may refer to: * Something from or related to Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , alt_flag = Centered deep red circle on a white rectangle , image_coat ...

hiragana
,
kanji are a set of logographic In a written language A written language is the representation of a spoken or gestural language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gest ...

kanji
and in some cases the
Latin script Latin script, also known as Roman script, is an alphabetic An alphabet is a standardized set of basic written symbols A symbol is a mark, sign, or word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequ ...

Latin script
(known as
rōmaji The romanization of Japanese is the use of 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 ...
). The word ''katakana'' means "fragmentary kana", as the katakana characters are derived from components or fragments of more complex kanji. Katakana and hiragana are both
kana The term may refer to a number of syllabaries 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. ...

kana
systems. With one or two minor exceptions, each syllable (strictly
mora Mora may refer to: Places * Doctor Mora, city in the Mexican state of Guanajuato * Mora (Cordillera), Bolivia * Mora, Cameroon, a town * Mora (canton), Costa Rica * Mora, Cyprus, a village * Mora, Maharashtra, India, a port near Mumbai * Mora, Port ...
) in the Japanese language is represented by one character or ''kana'', in each system. Each kana represents either a vowel such as "''a''" (katakana ); a consonant followed by a vowel such as "''ka''" (katakana ); or "''n''" (katakana ), a nasal
sonorant In phonetics Phonetics is a branch of linguistics that studies how humans produce and perceive sounds, or in the case of sign languages, the equivalent aspects of sign. Phoneticians—linguists who specialize in phonetics—study the physical pro ...
which, depending on the context, sounds either like English ''m'', ''n'' or ''ng'' () or like the
nasal vowel A nasal vowel is a vowel A vowel is a syllabicSyllabic may refer to: *Syllable, a unit of speech sound, considered the building block of words **Syllabic consonant, a consonant that forms the nucleus of a syllable *Syllabary, writing syste ...
s of
Portuguese Portuguese may refer to: * anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Portugal ** Portuguese cuisine, traditional foods ** Portuguese language, a Romance language *** Portuguese dialects, variants of the Portuguese language ** Portug ...

Portuguese
or
GalicianGalician may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to Galicia (Spain) ** Galician language ** Galician people ** Gallaeci, a large Celtic tribal federation who inhabited Gallaecia (currently Galicia (Spain) * Something of, from, or related to ...
. In contrast to the hiragana syllabary, which is used for Japanese words not covered by kanji and for grammatical inflections, the katakana syllabary usage is quite similar to
italics In typography Typography is the art and technique of arranging type to make written language A written language is the representation of a spoken or gestural language A language is a structured system of communication used by ...
in English; specifically, it is used for transcription of foreign-language words into
Japanese Japanese may refer to: * Something from or related to Japan Japan ( ja, 日本, or , and formally ) is an island country An island country or an island nation is a country A country is a distinct territory, territorial body or ...
and the writing of
loan word A loanword (also loan word or loan-word) is a word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practical meaning (linguis ...
s (collectively ''
gairaigo is Japanese Japanese may refer to: * Something from or related to Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , alt_flag = Centered deep red circle on a white rectangle , image_coat = Imp ...
''); for emphasis; to represent
onomatopoeia Onomatopoeia (also onomatopeia in American English American English (AmE, AE, AmEng, USEng, en-US), sometimes called United States English or U.S. English, is the set of varieties of the English language native to the United States. Cu ...

onomatopoeia
; for technical and scientific terms; and for names of plants, animals, minerals and often Japanese companies. Katakana are characterized by short, straight strokes and sharp corners. There are two main systems of ordering katakana: the old-fashioned
iroha The is a Japanese Japanese may refer to: * Something from or related to Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , alt_flag = Centered deep red circle on a white rectangle , image_coat ...
ordering and the more prevalent
gojūon In the Japanese language, the is a traditional system ordering kana The term may refer to a number of syllabaries In the linguistic Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every a ...
ordering.


Writing system


Overview

The complete katakana script consists of 48 characters, not counting functional and diacritic marks: * 5 ''
nucleus ''Nucleus'' (plural nuclei) is a Latin word for the seed inside a fruit. It most often refers to: *Atomic nucleus, the very dense central region of an atom *Cell nucleus, a central organelle of a eukaryotic cell, containing most of the cell's DNA ...
'' vowels * 42 ''core'' or ''body'' (
onsetOnset may refer to: * Onset (audio), the beginning of a musical note or sound * Onset, Massachusetts, village in the United States **Onset Island (Massachusetts), a small island located at the western end of the Cape Cod Canal *Interonset interval, ...
-nucleus) syllabograms, consisting of nine consonants in combination with each of the five vowels, of which three possible combinations (''yi'', ''ye'', ''wu'') are not canonical * 1 ''
coda Coda or CODA may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Films * ''Coda'' (1987 film), an Australian horror film about a serial killer, made for television * ''Coda'' (2019 film), a Canadian drama film starring Patrick Stewart, Katie Holmes, a ...
'' consonant These are conceived as a 5×10 grid (''gojūon'', 五十音, literally "fifty sounds"), as shown in the adjacent table, read , , , , , , , , , and so on. The ''gojūon'' inherits its vowel and consonant order from
Sanskrit Sanskrit (; attributively , ; nominalization, nominally , , ) is a classical language of South Asia that belongs to the Indo-Aryan languages, Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European languages. It arose in South Asia after its predecessor langua ...

Sanskrit
practice. In vertical text contexts, which used to be the default case, the grid is usually presented as 10 columns by 5 rows, with vowels on the right hand side and ア (''a'') on top. Katakana
glyph The term glyph is used in typography Typography is the art and technique of arranging type to make written language A written language is the representation of a spoken or gestural language A language is a structured system o ...
s in the same row or column do not share common graphic characteristics. Three of the
syllabogramSyllabograms are sign A sign is an object, quality, event, or entity whose presence or occurrence indicates the probable presence or occurrence of something else. A natural sign bears a causal relation to its object—for instance, thunder i ...

syllabogram
s to be expected, ''yi'', ''ye'' and ''wu'', may have been used idiosyncratically with varying
glyph The term glyph is used in typography Typography is the art and technique of arranging type to make written language A written language is the representation of a spoken or gestural language A language is a structured system o ...
s, but never became conventional in any language and are not present at all in modern Japanese. The 50-sound table is often amended with an extra character, the nasal ン (''n''). This can appear in several positions, most often next to the ''N'' signs or, because it developed from one of many ''mu''
hentaigana In the system, are variant forms of . History Today, with few exceptions, there is only one hiragana for each of the forty-five that are written without diacritics or digraphs. However, traditionally there were generally several more- ...

hentaigana
, below the ''u'' column. It may also be appended to the vowel row or the ''a'' column. Here, it is shown in a table of its own. The script includes two diacritic marks placed at the upper right of the base character that change the initial sound of a syllabogram. A double dot, called ''
dakuten The , colloquially , is a diacritic A diacritic (also diacritical mark, diacritical point, diacritical sign, or accent) is a glyph added to a letter Letter, letters, or literature may refer to: Characters typeface * Letter (alphabet) ...
'', indicates a primary alteration; most often it voices the consonant: ''k''→''g'', ''s''→''z'', ''t''→''d'' and ''h''→''b''; for example, becomes . Secondary alteration, where possible, is shown by a circular ''
handakuten The , colloquially , is a diacritic sign most often used in the Japanese language, Japanese kana syllabaries to indicate that the consonant of a syllable should be pronounced Voice (phonetics), voiced, for instance, on sounds that have undergon ...
'': ''h''→''p''; For example; becomes . Diacritics, though used for over a thousand years, only became mandatory in the Japanese writing system in the second half of the 20th century. Their application is strictly limited in proper writing systems, but may be more extensive in academic transcriptions. Furthermore, some characters may have special semantics when used in smaller sizes after a normal one (see below), but this does not make the script truly
bicameral Bicameralism is the practice of having a legislature A legislature is an assembly Assembly may refer to: Organisations and meetings * Deliberative assembly A deliberative assembly is a gathering of members (of any kind of collective) ...
. The layout of the ''gojūon'' table promotes a systematic view of kana syllabograms as being always pronounced with the same single consonant followed by a vowel, but this is not exactly the case (and never has been). Existing schemes for the
romanization of Japanese The romanization of Japanese is the use of Latin script to write the Japanese language. This method of writing is sometimes referred to in Japanese as . There are several different romanization systems. The three main ones are Hepburn romanizati ...
either are based on the systematic nature of the script, e.g.
nihon-siki Nihon-shiki ( ja, 日本式ローマ字, "Japan-style," romanized as ''Nihon-siki'' in the system itself), is a romanization system for transliterating the Japanese language into the Latin alphabet. Among the major romanization systems for Japa ...
チ ''ti'', or they apply some Western graphotactics, usually the English one, to the common Japanese pronunciation of the kana signs, e.g.
Hepburn-shiki Hepburn romanization (Japanese Japanese may refer to: * Something from or related to Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , alt_flag = Centered deep red circle on a white rectangle , image_coat ...
チ ''chi''. Both approaches conceal the fact, though, that many consonant-based katakana signs, especially those canonically ending in ''u'', can be used in coda position, too, where the vowel is
unvoiced In linguistics, voicelessness is the property of sounds being pronounced without the larynx vibrating. Phonologically, it is a type of phonation, which contrasts with other states of the larynx, but some object that the word phonation implies voic ...
and therefore barely perceptible.


Japanese


Syllabary and orthography

Of the 48 katakana syllabograms described above, only 46 are used in modern Japanese, and one of these is preserved for only a single use: * ''wi'' and ''we'' are pronounced as vowels in modern Japanese and are therefore obsolete, having been supplanted by ''i'' and ''e'', respectively. * ''wo'' is now used only as a
particle In the Outline of physical science, physical sciences, a particle (or corpuscule in older texts) is a small wikt:local, localized physical body, object to which can be ascribed several physical property, physical or chemical property, chemical p ...
, and is normally pronounced the same as vowel オ ''o''. As a particle, it is usually written in hiragana (を) and the katakana form, ヲ, is almost obsolete. A small version of the katakana for ''ya'', ''yu'' or ''yo'' (ャ, ュ or ョ, respectively) may be added to katakana ending in ''i''. This changes the ''i'' vowel sound to a glide ( palatalization) to ''a'', ''u'' or ''o'', e.g. キャ (''ki + ya'') /kja/. Addition of the small ''y'' kana is called
yōon The , also written as ''yōon'', is a feature of the Japanese language in which a mora is formed with an added sound, i.e., palatalized. ''Yōon'' are represented in hiragana using a kana ending in ''i'', such as き (''ki''), plus a smaller v ...
. A character called a ''
sokuon The is a Japanese symbol in the form of a small hiragana is a Japanese Japanese may refer to: * Something from or related to Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , alt_flag = Centered dee ...
'', which is visually identical to a small ''tsu'' ッ, indicates that the following consonant is
geminated In phonetics and phonology, gemination (), or consonant lengthening (from Latin ''geminatio'' "doubling", itself from ''Gemini (constellation), gemini'' "twins"), is an articulation of a consonant for a longer period of time than that of a singlet ...

geminated
(doubled). This is represented in rōmaji by doubling the consonant that follows the ''sokuon''. In Japanese this is an important distinction in pronunciation; for example, compare サカ ''saka'' "hill" with サッカ ''sakka'' "author". Geminated consonants are common in transliterations of foreign loanwords; for example, English "bed" is represented as ベッド (''beddo''). The sokuon also sometimes appears at the end of utterances, where it denotes a
glottal stop
glottal stop
. However, it cannot be used to double the ''na'', ''ni'', ''nu'', ''ne'', ''no'' syllables' consonants; to double these, the singular ''n'' (ン) is added in front of the syllable. The ''sokuon'' may also be used to approximate a non-native sound: Bach is written (''Bahha''); Mach as (''Mahha''). Both katakana and hiragana usually spell native
long vowel In linguistics 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 include ...
s with the addition of a second vowel kana. However, in foreign loanwords, katakana instead uses a vowel extender mark, called a '' chōonpu'' ("long vowel mark"). This is a short line (ー) following the direction of the text, horizontal for ''yokogaki'' (horizontal text), and vertical for ''tategaki'' (vertical text). For example, メール ''mēru'' is the ''gairaigo'' for e-mail taken from the English word "mail"; the ー lengthens the ''e''. There are some exceptions, such as () or (), where Japanese words written in katakana use the elongation mark, too. Standard and voiced
iteration marks
iteration marks
are written in katakana as ヽ and ヾ, respectively.


= Extended Katakana

= Small versions of the five vowel kana are sometimes used to represent trailing off sounds (ハァ ''haa'', ネェ ''nee''), but in katakana they are more often used in yōon-like extended digraphs designed to represent
phoneme In phonology and linguistics, a phoneme is a unit of sound that distinguishes one word from another in a particular language. For example, in most List of dialects of English, dialects of English, with the notable exception of the West Midlan ...
s not present in Japanese; examples include チェ (''che'') in チェンジ ''chenji'' ("change"), ファ (''fa'') in ファミリー ''famirī'' ("family") and ウィ (''wi'') and ディ (''di'') in ウィキペディア ''Wikipedia''. Many of these digraphs have been used, mainly to represent the sounds in words of other languages. Digraphs with orange backgrounds are the general ones used for loanwords or foreign places or names, and those with blue backgrounds are used for more accurate transliterations of foreign sounds, both suggested by the
Cabinet of Japan The is the executive branch of the government of Japan. It consists of the Prime Minister of Japan, Prime Minister, who is Imperial Investiture, appointed by the Emperor of Japan, Emperor after being designated by the National Diet, and up to ...
's
Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology The , also known as MEXT or Monka-shō, is one of the eleven Ministries of Japan The ministries of Japan are the most influential part of the executive branch The executive is the branch of government exercising authority in and holding Mo ...
. Katakana combinations with beige backgrounds are suggested by the
American National Standards Institute The American National Standards Institute (ANSI ) is a private non-profit organization that oversees the development of Standardization, voluntary consensus standards for products, services, processes, systems, and personnel in the United Sta ...
and the
British Standards Institution The British Standards Institution (BSI) is the national standards body of the United Kingdom. BSI produces technical standard A technical standard is an established norm Norm, the Norm or NORM may refer to: In academic disciplines * Norm (g ...
as possible uses. Ones with purple backgrounds appear on the 1974 version of the Hyōjun-shiki formatting. Pronunciations are shown in
Hepburn romanization Hepburn romanization (Japanese Japanese may refer to: * Something from or related to Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , alt_flag = Centered deep red circle on a white rectangle , image_coat ...
. * * — The use of in these two cases to represent ''w'' is rare in modern Japanese except for Internet slang and transcription of the Latin sound into katakana. E.g.: ミネルウァ (''Mineruwa'' "
Minerva Minerva (; ett, Menrva) is the Roman goddess Roman mythology is the body of of as represented in the and . One of a wide variety of genres of , ''Roman mythology'' may also refer to the modern study of these representations, and to ...

Minerva
", from Latin ''MINERVA'' ɪˈnɛrwa; ウゥルカーヌス (''Wurukānusu'' "
Vulcan Vulcan may refer to: Mythology * Vulcan (mythology), the god of fire, volcanoes, metalworking, and the forge in Roman mythology Arts, entertainment and media Film and television * Vulcan (Star Trek), Vulcan (''Star Trek''), name of a fictional rac ...
", from Latin ''VVLCANVS'', ''Vulcānus'' ''wʊlˈkaːnʊs. The ''wa''-type of foreign sounds (as in ''watt'' or ''white'') is usually transcribed to ワ (''wa''), while the ''wu''-type (as in ''wood'' or ''woman'') is usually to ウ (''u'') or ウー (''ū''). * ⁑ — has a rarely-used
hiragana is a Japanese Japanese may refer to: * Something from or related to Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , alt_flag = Centered deep red circle on a white rectangle , image_coat ...

hiragana
form in that is also ''vu'' in Hepburn romanization systems. * ⁂ — The characters in are obsolete in modern Japanese and very rarely used.


Usage

In modern Japanese, katakana is most often used for transcription of words from foreign languages or loanwords (other than words historically imported from Chinese), called ''gairaigo''."The Japanese Writing System (2) Katakana", p. 29 in ''Yookoso! An Invitation to Contemporary Japanese''. McGraw-Hill, 1993, For example, "television" is written テレビ (''terebi''). Similarly, katakana is usually used for country names, foreign places, and foreign personal names. For example, the United States is usually referred to as ''Amerika'', rather than in its
ateji In modern Japanese Japanese may refer to: * Something from or related to Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , alt_flag = Centered deep red circle on a white rectangle , image_coat ...
kanji spelling of ''Amerika''. Katakana are also used for onomatopoeia, words used to represent sounds – for example, ピンポン (''pinpon''), the "ding-dong" sound of a doorbell. Technical and scientific terms, such as the names of animal and plant species and minerals, are also commonly written in katakana. Homo sapiens, as a species, is written ヒト (''hito''), rather than its kanji . Katakana are often (but not always) used for transcription of Japanese company names. For example,
Suzuki is a Japanese multinational corporation A multinational company (MNC) is a corporate A corporation is an organization—usually a group of people or a company A company, abbreviated as co., is a Legal personality, legal entity re ...

Suzuki
is written スズキ, and
Toyota is a Japanese multinational Multinational may refer to: * Multinational corporation, a corporate organization operating in multiple countries * Multinational force, a military body from multiple countries * Multinational state, a sovereign st ...

Toyota
is written トヨタ. As these are common family names, Suzuki being the second most common in Japan, using katakana helps distinguish company names from surnames in writing. Katakana are commonly used on signs, advertisements, and hoardings (i.e.,
billboards A billboard (also called a hoarding in the UK and many other parts of the world) is a large outdoor advertising structure (a billing board), typically found in high-traffic areas such as alongside busy roads. Billboards present large advertisem ...
), for example, ''koko'' ("here"), ''gomi'' ("trash"), or ''megane'' ("glasses"). Words the writer wishes to emphasize in a sentence are also sometimes written in katakana, mirroring the usage of
italics In typography Typography is the art and technique of arranging type to make written language A written language is the representation of a spoken or gestural language A language is a structured system of communication used by ...
in European languages. Pre–World War II official documents mix katakana and kanji in the same way that hiragana and kanji are mixed in modern Japanese texts, that is, katakana were used for ''
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 ...

okurigana
'' and particles such as ''wa'' or ''o''. Katakana was also used for telegrams in Japan before 1988, and for computer systems – before the introduction of multibyte characters – in the 1980s. Most computers of that era used katakana instead of kanji or hiragana for output. Although words borrowed from ancient
Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world's most populous country, with a populat ...
are usually written in kanji, loanwords from modern Chinese dialects that are borrowed directly use katakana instead. The very common Chinese loanword '''', written in katakana as , is rarely written with its kanji (). There are rare instances where the opposite has occurred, with kanji forms created from words originally written in katakana. An example of this is ''kōhī'', ("
coffee Coffee is a drink prepared from roasted s, the seeds of from certain s in the ' genus. From the coffee fruit, the seeds are separated to produce a stable, raw product: unroasted ''green coffee''. The seeds are then , a process which transfo ...

coffee
"), which can alternatively be written as . This kanji usage is occasionally employed by coffee manufacturers or coffee shops for novelty. Katakana is used to indicate the ''on'yomi'' (Chinese-derived readings) of a kanji in a kanji dictionary. For instance, the kanji 人 has a Japanese pronunciation, written in hiragana as ''hito'' (person), as well as a Chinese derived pronunciation, written in katakana as ''jin'' (used to denote groups of people). Katakana is sometimes used instead of hiragana as
furigana is a Japanese language, Japanese reading aid, consisting of smaller kana or syllabic characters, printed next to kanji (Ideogram, ideographic characters) or other characters to indicate their pronunciation. It is one type of ruby character, ruby ...
to give the pronunciation of a word written in Roman characters, or for a foreign word, which is written as kanji for the meaning, but intended to be pronounced as the original. Katakana are also sometimes used to indicate words being spoken in a foreign or otherwise unusual accent. For example, in a
manga Manga (Japanese Japanese may refer to: * Something from or related to Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , alt_flag = Centered deep red circle on a white rectangle , image_coat ...

manga
, the speech of a foreign character or a robot may be represented by ''konnichiwa'' ("hello") instead of the more typical hiragana . Some Japanese personal names are written in katakana. This was more common in the past, hence elderly women often have katakana names. This was particularly common among women in the
MeijiMeiji, the Romanization of Japanese, romanization of the Japanese language, Japanese Japanese writing system, characters wiktionary:明, 明 wiktionary:治, 治 , may refer to: Japanese emperor and era * Emperor Meiji, the Emperor of Japan between ...
and
Taishō is a period in the history of Japan The first human habitation in the Japanese archipelago has been traced to prehistoric times around 30,000 BCE. The Jōmon period, named after its cord-marked pottery, was followed by the Yayoi period ...
periods, when many poor, illiterate parents were unwilling to pay a scholar to give their daughters names in kanji. Katakana is also used to denote the fact that a character is speaking a foreign language, and what is displayed in katakana is only the Japanese "translation" of their words. Some frequently used words may also be written in katakana in dialogs to convey an informal, conversational tone. Some examples include ("manga"), ''aitsu'' ("that guy or girl; he/him; she/her"), ''baka'' ("fool"), etc. Words with difficult-to-read kanji are sometimes written in katakana (hiragana is also used for this purpose). This phenomenon is often seen with
medical terminology Medical terminology is language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. La ...
. For example, in the word ''hifuka'' ("
dermatology Dermatology is the branch of medicine Medicine is the science Science (from the Latin word ''scientia'', meaning "knowledge") is a systematic enterprise that Scientific method, builds and Taxonomy (general), organizes knowledge in the f ...
"), the second kanji, , is considered difficult to read, and thus the word ''hifuka'' is commonly written or , mixing kanji and katakana. Similarly, difficult-to-read kanji such as ''gan'' ("
cancer Cancer is a group of diseases involving abnormal cell growth with the potential to invade or spread to other parts of the body. These contrast with benign tumor A benign tumor is a mass of cells Cell most often refers to: * Cell (biolo ...

cancer
") are often written in katakana or hiragana. Katakana is also used for traditional musical notations, as in the ''Tozan- ryū'' of ''
shakuhachi A is a Japanese and ancient Chinese longitudinal, end-blown flute The end-blown flute (also called an edge-blown flute or rim-blown flute) is a woodwind instrument Woodwind instruments are a family of musical instruments A musical ins ...

shakuhachi
'', and in ''
sankyoku ''Sankyoku'' (Japanese: 三曲 / wikt:さんきょく, さんきょく) is a form of Japanese chamber music played often with a vocal accompaniment. It is traditionally played on shamisen, koto (instrument), koto, and kokyū, but more recently the ...
'' ensembles with '' koto'', ''
shamisen The , also known as the or (all meaning "three strings"), is a three-stringed traditional Japanese musical instrument derived from the Chinese instrument . It is played with a plectrum called a bachi. The Japanese pronunciation is usuall ...

shamisen
'' and ''shakuhachi''. Some instructors teaching Japanese as a foreign language "introduce ''katakana'' after the students have learned to read and write sentences in ''hiragana'' without difficulty and know the rules." Most students who have learned hiragana "do not have great difficulty in memorizing" katakana as well. Other instructors introduce katakana first, because these are used with loanwords. This gives students a chance to practice reading and writing kana with meaningful words. This was the approach taken by the influential American linguistics scholar
Eleanor Harz Jorden Eleanor Harz Jorden (1920 – February 18, 2009) was an American linguistics scholar and an influential Japanese language educator and expert. Born Eleanor Harz, she married William Jorden, reporter and diplomat; the marriage ended in divorce. Dr. ...
in '' Japanese: The Written Language'' (parallel to '' Japanese: The Spoken Language'').


Ainu

Katakana is commonly used by Japanese linguists to write the
Ainu language Ainu ( ''Ainu-itak'') or more precisely Hokkaido Ainu, is a language spoken by a few elderly members of the Ainu people The Ainu or the Aynu ( ain, アィヌ, , ; ja, アイヌ, ; russian: Áйны, ), also known as the in historical Jap ...
. In Ainu katakana usage, the consonant that comes at the end of a syllable is represented by a small version of a katakana that corresponds to that final consonant followed by an arbitrary vowel. For instance "up" is represented by ウㇷ゚ (ウ 'u'' followed by small ''pu''. Ainu also uses three handakuten modified katakana, セ゚ (, and ツ゚ or ト゚ ( . In Unicode, the Katakana Phonetic Extensions block
U+31F0–U+31FF
exists for Ainu language support. These characters are used for the Ainu language only.


Taiwanese

Taiwanese kana (タイ ヲァヌ ギイ カア ビェン) is a katakana-based writing system once used to write Holo Taiwanese, when
Taiwan Taiwan, officially the Republic of China (ROC), is a country in East Asia East Asia is the eastern region of Asia Asia () is Earth's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern Hemisphere, Eastern and N ...

Taiwan
was under Japanese control. It functioned as a phonetic guide for
Chinese characters Chinese characters, also called ''hanzi'' (), are logogram In a written language A written language is the representation of a spoken or gestural language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, ...
, much like furigana in Japanese or Zhùyīn fúhào in Chinese. There were similar systems for other languages in Taiwan as well, including
Hakka The Hakka (), sometimes also referred to as Hakka Han, or Hakka Chinese, are a Han Chinese The Han Chinese (), or the Han people (), is an East Asian East Asia is the east East is one of the four cardinal direction The fou ...
and
Formosan languages The Formosan languages are the languages of the indigenous peoples of Taiwan, all of which are Austronesian. The Taiwanese indigenous peoples recognized by the government are about 2.3% of the island's population. However, only 35% speak their ...

Formosan languages
. Unlike Japanese or Ainu, Taiwanese kana are used similarly to the
zhùyīn fúhào Zhuyin () or Mandarin Phonetic Symbols, also nicknamed Bopomofo, is a major Transliteration of Chinese, Chinese transliteration system for Mandarin Chinese and other related languages and dialects which is nowadays most commonly used in Taiw ...
characters, with kana serving as initials, vowel medials and consonant finals, marked with tonal marks. A dot below the initial kana represents aspirated consonants, and チ, ツ, サ, セ, ソ, ウ and オ with a superpositional bar represent sounds found only in Taiwanese.


Okinawan

Katakana is used as a phonetic guide for the
Okinawan language The Okinawan language (, , , ) or Central Okinawan, is a Northern Ryukyuan language spoken primarily in the southern half of the island of Okinawa, as well as in the surrounding islands of Kerama, Kumejima is a List of towns in Japan, town ...
, unlike the various other systems to represent Okinawan, which use hiragana with extensions. The system was devised by the Okinawa Center of Language Study of the University of the Ryukyus. It uses many extensions and yōon to show the many non-Japanese sounds of Okinawan.


Table of ''katakana''

This is a table of katakana together with their
Hepburn romanization Hepburn romanization (Japanese Japanese may refer to: * Something from or related to Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , alt_flag = Centered deep red circle on a white rectangle , image_coat ...
and rough
IPA IPA commonly refers to: * India pale ale, a style of beer * International Phonetic Alphabet The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) is an alphabetic system of phonetic notation based primarily on the Latin script Latin script, also ...
transcription for their use in Japanese. Katakana with ''dakuten'' or ''handakuten'' follow the ''gojūon'' kana without them. Characters ''shi'' シ and ''tsu'' ツ, and ''so'' ソ and ''n(g)'' ン, look very similar in print except for the slant and stroke shape. These differences in slant and shape are more prominent when written with an
ink brush Ink brushes () are paintbrushes used in Chinese calligraphy Chinese calligraphy is the writing of Chinese characters as an art form, combining purely visual art and interpretation of the literary meaning. This type of expression has been w ...
.


History

Katakana was developed in the 9th century (during the early
Heian period The is the last division of classical History of Japan, Japanese history, running from 794 to 1185. It followed the Nara period, beginning when the 50th emperor, Emperor Kanmu, moved from the capital of Japan to Heian-kyō (modern Kyoto). It i ...
) by Buddhist monks in Nara by taking parts of ''
man'yōgana is an ancient writing system A writing system is a method of visually representing verbal communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A languag ...
'' characters as a form of shorthand, hence this kana is so-called . For example, comes from the left side of . The adjacent table shows the origins of each katakana: the red markings of the original
Chinese character Chinese characters, also called ''hanzi'' (), are logogram In a written language A written language is the representation of a spoken or gestural language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, ...

Chinese character
(used as ''man'yōgana'') eventually became each corresponding symbol. Early on, katakana was almost exclusively used by men for official text and text imported from China. Official documents of the
Empire of Japan The was a historical nation-state A nation state is a political unit where the state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of Sta ...

Empire of Japan
were written exclusively with
kyūjitai are the traditional forms of kanji are a set of logographic In a written language A written language is the representation of a spoken or gestural language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, ...
and katakana.


Obsolete Kana


Variant forms

Katakana have variant forms. For example, 20px(ネ) and 20px(ヰ). However, katakana's variant forms are fewer than hiragana's ones. Katakana's choices of ''man'yōgana'' segments had stabilized early on and established – with few exceptions – an unambiguous
phonemic orthography A phonemic orthography is an orthography An orthography is a set of conventions for writing Writing is a medium of human communication that involves the representation of a language with written symbols. Writing systems are not themselve ...
(one symbol per sound) long before the 1900 script regularization.


Polysyllabic kana


Yi, Ye and Wu


Stroke order

The following table shows the method for writing each katakana character. It is arranged in a traditional manner, where characters are organized by the sounds that make them up. The numbers and arrows indicate the
stroke order Stroke order is the order in which the strokes A stroke is a medical condition in which poor blood flow Hemodynamics American and British English spelling differences#ae and oe, or haemodynamics are the Fluid dynamics, dynamics of blood ...
and direction, respectively.


Gugyeol-inspired theory

According to Yoshinori Kobayashi, professor of linguistics at , katakana is likely based on a system of writing from the Korean Peninsula. He claims that his findings suggest the possibility that the katakana-like annotations used in possibly originated in 8th-century Korea –
Silla Silla or Shilla (57 BCE57 BCE according to the '' Samguk Sagi''; however Seth 2010 notes that "these dates are dutifully given in many textbooks and published materials in Korea today, but their basis is in myth; only Goguryeo may be traced ...

Silla
– and were then introduced to Japan through Buddhist texts.''Japan Times'',
Katakana system may be Korean, professor says
Linguist
Alexander Vovin Alexander Vladimirovich Vovin (russian: Александр Владимирович Вовин; born 27 January 1961) is an American linguist and philologist, born in Russia (Soviet Union), currently director of studies at the School for Advanced ...
elaborates on Kobayashi's argument, asserting that katakana derives from the Korean ''
gugyeol Gugyeol, also ''kwukyel'', is a system for rendering texts written in Classical Chinese Classical Chinese, also known as Literary Chinese (古文 ''gǔwén'' "ancient text", or 文言 ''wényán'' "text speak"; Written vernacular Chinese, m ...
'' (구결) system.


Computer encoding

In addition to fonts intended for Japanese text and Unicode catch-all fonts (like
Arial Unicode MS In digital typography File:metal movable type.jpg, 225px, Movable type being assembled on a composing stick using pieces that are stored in the type case shown below it Typography is the art and technique of typesetting, arranging type to mak ...
), many fonts intended for Chinese (such as MS Song) and Korean (such as Batang) also include katakana.


Hiragana and katakana

In addition to the usual display forms of characters, katakana has a second form, (there are no kanji). The half-width forms were originally associated with the
JIS X 0201 JIS X 0201, a Japanese Industrial Standard are the standard Standard may refer to: Flags * Colours, standards and guidons * Standard (flag), a type of flag used for personal identification Norm, convention or requirement * Standard (me ...
encoding. Although their display form is not specified in the standard, in practice they were designed to fit into the same rectangle of pixels as Roman letters to enable easy implementation on the computer equipment of the day. This space is narrower than the square space traditionally occupied by Japanese characters, hence the name "half-width". In this scheme, diacritics (dakuten and handakuten) are separate characters. When originally devised, the half-width katakana were represented by a single byte each, as in JIS X 0201, again in line with the capabilities of contemporary computer technology. In the late 1970s, two-byte character sets such as
JIS X 0208 JIS X 0208 is a 2-byte character set specified as a Japanese Industrial Standards, Japanese Industrial Standard, containing 6879 graphic characters suitable for writing text, place names, personal names, and so forth in the Japanese language. Th ...
were introduced to support the full range of Japanese characters, including katakana, hiragana and kanji. Their display forms were designed to fit into an approximately square array of pixels, hence the name "full-width". For backward compatibility, separate support for half-width katakana has continued to be available in modern multi-byte encoding schemes such as Unicode, by having two separate blocks of characters – one displayed as usual (full-width) katakana, the other displayed as half-width katakana. Although often said to be obsolete, the half-width katakana are still used in many systems and encodings. For example, the titles of mini discs can only be entered in ASCII or half-width katakana, and half-width katakana are commonly used in computerized cash register displays, on shop receipts, and Japanese digital television and DVD subtitles. Several popular Japanese encodings such as
EUC-JP Extended Unix Code (EUC) is a multibyte character encoding Character encoding is the process of assigning numbers to Graphics, graphical character (computing), characters, especially the written characters of Language, human language, allowing ...
,
Unicode Unicode, formally the Unicode Standard, is an information technology Technical standard, standard for the consistent character encoding, encoding, representation, and handling of Character (computing), text expressed in most of the world's wri ...

Unicode
and
Shift JIS Shift JIS (Shift Japanese Industrial Standards, also SJIS, MIME name Shift_JIS, known as PCK in Oracle Solaris, Solaris contexts) is a character encoding for the Japanese language, originally developed by a Japanese company called ASCII Corporatio ...
have half-width katakana code as well as full-width. By contrast,
ISO-2022-JP ISO/IEC 2022 ''Information technology—Character code structure and extension techniques'', is an ISO The International Organization for Standardization (ISO ) is an international standard An international standard is a technical standard ...
has no half-width katakana, and is mainly used over
SMTP The Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) is an internet standard An Internet Standard in computer network engineering refers to the normative specification of a technology that is appropriate for the Internet. Internet Standards allow interoper ...
and
NNTP The Network News Transfer Protocol (NNTP) is an application protocol Protocol may refer to: Sociology and politics * Protocol (politics) Protocol originally (in Late Middle English, c. 15th century) meant the minutes or logbook taken at a meet ...
.


Unicode

Katakana was added to the Unicode Standard in October, 1991 with the release of version 1.0. The Unicode block for (full-width) katakana is U+30A0–U+30FF. Encoded in this block along with the katakana are the ''nakaguro'' word-separation
middle dot An interpunct, , also known as an interpoint, middle dot, middot and centered dot or centred dot, is a punctuation mark consisting of a vertically centered dot used for interword separation In punctuation, a word divider is a glyph that separ ...
, the ''chōon'' vowel extender, the katakana
iteration mark Iteration marks are characters or punctuation marks that represent a duplicated character or word. Chinese In Chinese language, Chinese, (usually appearing as ) or is used in casual writing to represent a doubled character. However, it is not us ...
s, and a
ligature Ligature may refer to: * Ligature (medicine), a piece of suture used to shut off a blood vessel or other anatomical structure ** Ligature (orthodontic), used in dentistry * Ligature (music), an element of musical notation used especially in the med ...
of コト sometimes used in vertical writing. Half-width equivalents to the usual full-width katakana also exist in Unicode. These are encoded within the
Halfwidth and Fullwidth Forms In CJK characters, CJK (Chinese, Japanese and Korean) computing, graphic characters are traditionally classed into fullwidth (in Taiwan and Hong Kong: wikt:全形, 全形; in CJK: wikt:全角, 全角) and halfwidth (in Taiwan and Hong Kong: wikt: ...
block (U+FF00–U+FFEF) (which also includes full-width forms of Latin characters, for instance), starting at U+FF65 and ending at U+FF9F (characters U+FF61–U+FF64 are half-width punctuation marks). This block also includes the half-width dakuten and handakuten. The full-width versions of these characters are found in the Hiragana block. Circled katakana are code points U+32D0–U+32FE in the Enclosed CJK Letters and Months block (U+3200–U+32FF). A circled ン (n) is not included. Extensions to Katakana for phonetic transcription of Ainu and other languages were added to the Unicode standard in March 2002 with the release of version 3.2. The Unicode block for Katakana Phonetic Extensions is U+31F0–U+31FF: Historic and variant forms of Japanese kana characters were added to the Unicode standard in October 2010 with the release of version 6.0. The Unicode block for Kana Supplement is U+1B000–U+1B0FF: The Unicode block for Small Kana Extension is U+1B130–U+1B16F: Katakana in other Unicode blocks: *
Dakuten The , colloquially , is a diacritic A diacritic (also diacritical mark, diacritical point, diacritical sign, or accent) is a glyph added to a letter Letter, letters, or literature may refer to: Characters typeface * Letter (alphabet) ...
and
handakuten The , colloquially , is a diacritic sign most often used in the Japanese language, Japanese kana syllabaries to indicate that the consonant of a syllable should be pronounced Voice (phonetics), voiced, for instance, on sounds that have undergon ...
diacritics are located in the Hiragana block: ** U+3099 COMBINING KATAKANA-HIRAGANA VOICED SOUND MARK (non-spacing dakuten): ゙ ** U+309A COMBINING KATAKANA-HIRAGANA SEMI-VOICED SOUND MARK (non-spacing handakuten): ゚ ** U+309B KATAKANA-HIRAGANA VOICED SOUND MARK (spacing dakuten): ゛ ** U+309C KATAKANA-HIRAGANA SEMI-VOICED SOUND MARK (spacing handakuten): ゜ * Two katakana-based
emoji An emoji ( ; plural emoji or emojis) is a pictogram A pictogram, also called a pictogramme, pictograph, or simply picto, and in computer usage an icon An icon (from the Greek language, Greek 'image, resemblance') is a religious wor ...

emoji
are in the Enclosed Ideographic Supplement, Enclosed Ideographic Supplement block: ** U+1F201 SQUARED KATAKANA KOKO ('here' sign): 🈁 ** U+1F202 SQUARED KATAKANA SA ('service' sign): 🈂 * A katakana-based Japanese TV symbol from the ARIB STD-B24 standard is in the Enclosed Ideographic Supplement, Enclosed Ideographic Supplement block: ** U+1F213 SQUARED KATAKANA DE ('data broadcasting service linked with a main program' symbol): 🈓 Furthermore, as of Unicode 14.0, the following combinatory sequences have been explicitly named, despite having no precomposed symbols in the katakana block. Font designers may want to optimize the display of these composed glyphs. Some of them are mostly used for writing the
Ainu language Ainu ( ''Ainu-itak'') or more precisely Hokkaido Ainu, is a language spoken by a few elderly members of the Ainu people The Ainu or the Aynu ( ain, アィヌ, , ; ja, アイヌ, ; russian: Áйны, ), also known as the in historical Jap ...
, the others are called Dakuten and handakuten#Phonetic shifts, ''bidakuon'' in Japanese. Other, arbitrary combinations with U+309A handakuten are also possible.


See also

* Japanese phonology * Hiragana * Historical kana usage * Romaji, Rōmaji * Gugyeol * ''Tōdaiji Fujumonkō'', oldest example of kanji text with katakana annotations * :File:Beschrijving van Japan - ABC (cropped).jpg for the kana as described by Engelbert Kaempfer in 1727


Notes


References


External links


Practice pronunciation and stroke order of Kana

Katakana Unicode chart

Japanese dictionary with Katakana, Hiragana and Kanji on-screen keyboards

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