The Info List - Hiragana

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HIRAGANA (平仮名, ひらがな) is a Japanese syllabary , one component of the Japanese writing system , along with katakana , kanji , and in some cases rōmaji ( Latin script ). It is a phonetic lettering system. The word _hiragana_ literally means "ordinary" or "simple" kana ("simple" originally as contrasted with kanji).

Hiragana and katakana are both kana systems. With one or two minor exceptions, each sound in the 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 あ); a consonant followed by a vowel such as _"ka"_ (か); or _"n"_ (ん), a nasal sonorant which, depending on the context, sounds either like English _m_, _n_, or _ng_ (), or like the nasal vowels of French . Because the characters of the kana do not represent single consonants (except in the case of "n"), the kana are referred to as syllabaries and not alphabets.

Hiragana is used to write _okurigana _ (kana suffixes following a kanji root, for example to inflect verbs and adjectives), various grammatical and function words including particles , as well as miscellaneous other native words for which there are no kanji 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 ordering hiragana : the old-fashioned iroha ordering and the more prevalent gojūon ordering.


* 1 Writing system * 2 Table of hiragana * 3 Spelling rules * 4 History * 5 Stroke order and direction * 6 Unicode * 7 See also * 8 References * 9 External links


Hiragana base characters

_A_ _I_ _U_ _E_ _O_











Functional marks and diacritics

゛ ゜


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 _, 五十音, "Fifty Sounds"), as illustrated in the adjacent table, read (_a_), い (_i_), (_u_), (_e_), (_o_), (_ka_), (_ki_), く (_ku_), (_ke_), (_ko_) and so forth, with the singular consonant (_n_) 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_ is usually pronounced as a vowel (_o_) in modern Japanese, and is preserved in only one use, as a particle .

Romanization of the kana does not always strictly follow the consonant-vowel scheme laid out in the table. For example, ち, nominally _ti_, is very often romanised as _chi_ in an attempt to better represent the actual sound in Japanese.

These basic characters can be modified in various ways. By adding a _dakuten _ marker ( ゛), a voiceless consonant is turned into a voiced consonant: _k_→_g_, _ts/s_→_z_, _t_→_d_, _h_→_b_ and _ch_/_sh_→_j_. For example, (_ka_) becomes (_ga_). Hiragana beginning with an _h_ can also add a _handakuten _ marker ( ゜) changing the _h_ to a _p_. For example, (_ha_) becomes (_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 ) to _a_, _u_ or _o_. For example, (_ki_) plus ゃ (small _ya_) becomes きゃ (_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 さ _saka_ "hill" with さっ _sakka_ "author". The _sokuon_ also sometimes appears at the end of utterances, where it denotes a glottal stop , as in いてっ! ( 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 (_minna_, "all").

Hiragana usually spells long vowels with the addition of a second vowel kana; for example, おかあさ (_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 らーめん, _rāmen _, but this usage is considered non-standard in Japanese; 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 (はぁ _haa_, ねぇ _nee_). Standard and voiced iteration marks are written in hiragana as and respectively.


The following table shows the complete hiragana together with the Hepburn romanization and 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 gray. For all syllables besides ん, the pronunciation indicated is for word-initial syllables, for mid-word pronunciations see below.

Hiragana syllabograms


_A_ _I_ _U_ _E_ _O_ _YA_ _YU_ _YO_

a i u e o

_K_ ka ki ku ke ko きゃ kya きゅ kyu きょ kyo

_S_ sa SHI su se so しゃ sha しゅ shu しょ sho

_T_ ta CHI TSU te to ちゃ cha ちゅ chu ちょ cho

_N_ na ni nu ne no にゃ nya にゅ nyu にょ nyo

_H_ ha ( as particle) hi FU he ( as particle) ho ひゃ hya ひゅ hyu ひょ hyo

_M_ ma mi mu me mo みゃ mya みゅ myu みょ myo

_Y_ ya yu yo

_R_ ra ri ru re ro りゃ rya りゅ ryu りょ ryo

_W_ wa i/wi e/we o/wo (particle)

* n before stop consonants; elsewhere (indicates a geminate consonant) (reduplicates and unvoices syllable) (reduplicates and voices syllable)


_A_ _I_ _U_ _E_ _O_ _YA_ _YU_ _YO_

_G_ ga gi gu ge go ぎゃ gya ぎゅ gyu ぎょ gyo

_Z_ za JI zu ze zo じゃ ja じゅ ju じょ jo

_D_ da JI ZU de do ぢゃ ja ぢゅ ju ぢょ jo

_B_ ba bi bu be bo びゃ bya びゅ byu びょ byo

_P_ pa pi pu pe po ぴゃ pya ぴゅ pyu ぴょ pyo

In the middle of words, the _g_ sound (normally ) often turns into a velar nasal and less often (although increasing recently) into the voiced velar fricative . An exception to this is numerals; 15 _juugo_ is considered to be one word, but is pronounced as if it was _jū_ and _go_ stacked end to end: .

Additionally, the _j_ sound (normally ) can be pronounced in the middle of words. For example, すう _sūji_ 'number'.

In archaic forms of Japanese, there existed the _kwa_ (くゎ ) and _gwa_ (ぐゎ ) digraphs. In modern Japanese, these phonemes have been phased out of usage and only exist in the extended katakana 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 high nasal vowel before vowels, palatal approximants (_y_), 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, とうきょ (lit. _toukyou_) is pronounced 'Tokyo', and せんせ _sensei_ is 'teacher'. However, と _tou_ is pronounced 'to inquire', because the _o_ and _u_ are considered distinct, _u_ being the infinitive verb ending. Similarly, してい _shite iru_ is pronounced 'is doing'.

For a more thorough discussion on the sounds of Japanese, please refer to Japanese phonology .


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 phonemically orthographic , i.e. there is a one-to-one correspondence between kana characters and sounds, leaving only words' 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. The old spelling is referred to as _kanazukai _ (仮名遣い).

There are two hiragana pronounced _ji_ ( and ぢ) and two hiragana pronounced _zu_ ( and づ), but to distinguish them, sometimes _ぢ_ is written as _di_ and _づ_ is written as _dzu_. These pairs are not interchangeable. Usually, _ji_ is written as 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 and _tsudzuku_ ('to continue') is つづく. For compound words where the dakuten reflects _rendaku _ voicing, the original hiragana is used. For example, _chi_ (血 'blood') is spelled in plain hiragana. When 鼻 _hana_ ('nose') and 血 _chi_ ('blood') combine to make _hanaji_ (鼻血 'nose bleed'), the sound of 血 changes from _chi_ to _dji_. So _hanadji_ is spelled はなぢ according to ち: the basic hiragana used to transcribe 血. Similarly, _tsukau_ (使う/遣う; 'to use') is spelled つか in hiragana, so _kanazukai_ (仮名遣い; 'kana use', or 'kana orthography') is spelled かなづか 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_ (稲妻). The 稲 component means 'rice plant', is written い in hiragana and is pronounced: _ina_. The 妻 component means 'wife' and is pronounced _tsuma_ (つま) when written in isolation—or frequently as _zuma_ (ずま) 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 いなず rather than いなづ is used.

Officially, and do not occur word-initially pursuant to modern spelling rules. There were words such as ぢば _jiban_ 'ground' in the historical kana usage , but they were unified under in the modern kana usage in 1946, so today it is spelled exclusively じばん. However, づ _zura_ 'wig' (from かつら _katsura_) and づ _zuke_ (a sushi term for lean tuna soaked in soy sauce) are examples of word-initial today. Some people write the word for hemorrhoids as (normally じ) for emphasis.

No standard Japanese words begin with the kana (_n_). This is the basis of the word game shiritori . _n_ is normally treated as its own syllable and is separate from the other _n_-based kana (_na_, _ni_ etc.). A notable exception to this is the colloquial negative verb conjugation; for example わからな _wakaranai_ meaning " don't understand" is rendered as わから _wakaran_. It is however not a contraction of the former, but instead comes from the classic negative verb conjugation _nu_ (わから _wakaranu_).

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 きんえ _kin'en_ 'smoking forbidden', きねん _kinen_ 'commemoration', きんね _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 じゅんいちろ _Jun'ichirō_ pronounced

There are a few hiragana that are rarely used. _wi_ and _we_ are obsolete outside of Okinawan orthography. 𛀁 _e_ was an alternate version of _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 transliterated words are usually written in katakana , where the corresponding character would be written as ヴ. ぢゃ, ぢゅ, ぢょ for _ja_/_ju_/_jo_ are theoretically possible in rendaku , but are practically never used. For example, 日本中 'throughout Japan' could be written にほんぢゅう, but is practically always にほんじゅう.

The みゅ _myu_ kana is extremely rare in originally Japanese words; linguist Haruhiko Kindaichi raises the example of the Japanese family name Omamyūda (小豆生田) and claims it is the only occurrence amongst pure Japanese words. Its katakana counterpart is used in many loanwords, however.


See also: Man\'yōgana and Old Japanese § Sources and dating _ Hiragana characters' shapes were derived from the Chinese cursive script (sōsho_). Shown here is a sample of the cursive script by Chinese Tang Dynasty calligrapher Sun Guoting , from the late 7th century.

Hiragana developed from _man\'yōgana _, 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 year of 辛亥年 (which is A.D. 471 in commonly accepted theory). The forms of the hiragana originate from the 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. Note also that 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 _otokode_ (男手), "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 _onnade_ (女手) "women's writing". For example, _ The Tale of Genji _ and other early novels by female authors used hiragana extensively or exclusively.

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 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 hentaigana (変体仮名).

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 before the Muromachi era ).


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


Main articles: Hiragana ( Unicode block) and Kana Supplement (Unicode block)

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:

HIRAGANA Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F


ぁ あ ぃ い ぅ う ぇ え ぉ お か が き ぎ く

U+305x ぐ け げ こ ご さ ざ し じ す ず せ ぜ そ ぞ た

U+306x だ ち ぢ っ つ づ て で と ど な に ぬ ね の は

U+307x ば ぱ ひ び ぴ ふ ぶ ぷ へ べ ぺ ほ ぼ ぽ ま み

U+308x む め も ゃ や ゅ ゆ ょ よ ら り る れ ろ ゎ わ

U+309x ゐ ゑ を ん ゔ ゕ ゖ

゙ ゚ ゛ ゜ ゝ ゞ ゟ

NOTES 1.^ As of Unicode version 10.0 2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points

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 _wi_ and _we_ and the rare ゔ _vu_; the archaic 𛀁 _ye_ is included in 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 (_ka_) and small け (_ke_), respectively. U+309F is a ligature of よ (_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 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:

KANA SUPPLEMENT Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F

U+1B00x 𛀀 𛀁 𛀂 𛀃 𛀄 𛀅 𛀆 𛀇 𛀈 𛀉 𛀊 𛀋 𛀌 𛀍 𛀎 𛀏

U+1B01x 𛀐 𛀑 𛀒 𛀓 𛀔 𛀕 𛀖 𛀗 𛀘 𛀙 𛀚 𛀛 𛀜 𛀝 𛀞 𛀟

U+1B02x 𛀠 𛀡 𛀢 𛀣 𛀤 𛀥 𛀦 𛀧 𛀨 𛀩 𛀪 𛀫 𛀬 𛀭 𛀮 𛀯

U+1B03x 𛀰 𛀱 𛀲 𛀳 𛀴 𛀵 𛀶 𛀷 𛀸 𛀹 𛀺 𛀻 𛀼 𛀽 𛀾 𛀿

U+1B04x 𛁀 𛁁 𛁂 𛁃 𛁄 𛁅 𛁆 𛁇 𛁈 𛁉 𛁊 𛁋 𛁌 𛁍 𛁎 𛁏

U+1B05x 𛁐 𛁑 𛁒 𛁓 𛁔 𛁕 𛁖 𛁗 𛁘 𛁙 𛁚 𛁛 𛁜 𛁝 𛁞 𛁟

U+1B06x 𛁠 𛁡 𛁢 𛁣 𛁤 𛁥 𛁦 𛁧 𛁨 𛁩 𛁪 𛁫 𛁬 𛁭 𛁮 𛁯

U+1B07x 𛁰 𛁱 𛁲 𛁳 𛁴 𛁵 𛁶 𛁷 𛁸 𛁹 𛁺 𛁻 𛁼 𛁽 𛁾 𛁿

U+1B08x 𛂀 𛂁 𛂂 𛂃 𛂄 𛂅 𛂆 𛂇 𛂈 𛂉 𛂊 𛂋 𛂌 𛂍 𛂎 𛂏

U+1B09x 𛂐 𛂑 𛂒 𛂓 𛂔 𛂕 𛂖 𛂗 𛂘 𛂙 𛂚 𛂛 𛂜 𛂝 𛂞 𛂟

U+1B0Ax 𛂠 𛂡 𛂢 𛂣 𛂤 𛂥 𛂦 𛂧 𛂨 𛂩 𛂪 𛂫 𛂬 𛂭 𛂮 𛂯

U+1B0Bx 𛂰 𛂱 𛂲 𛂳 𛂴 𛂵 𛂶 𛂷 𛂸 𛂹 𛂺 𛂻 𛂼 𛂽 𛂾 𛂿

U+1B0Cx 𛃀 𛃁 𛃂 𛃃 𛃄 𛃅 𛃆 𛃇 𛃈 𛃉 𛃊 𛃋 𛃌 𛃍 𛃎 𛃏

U+1B0Dx 𛃐 𛃑 𛃒 𛃓 𛃔 𛃕 𛃖 𛃗 𛃘 𛃙 𛃚 𛃛 𛃜 𛃝 𛃞 𛃟

U+1B0Ex 𛃠 𛃡 𛃢 𛃣 𛃤 𛃥 𛃦 𛃧 𛃨 𛃩 𛃪 𛃫 𛃬 𛃭 𛃮 𛃯

U+1B0Fx 𛃰 𛃱 𛃲 𛃳 𛃴 𛃵 𛃶 𛃷 𛃸 𛃹 𛃺 𛃻 𛃼 𛃽 𛃾 𛃿

NOTES 1.^ As of Unicode version 10.0

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 _bidakuon _. As of Unicode 10.0, these character combinations are explicitly called out as Named Sequences.

HIRAGANA NAMED SEQUENCES Unicode Named Character Sequences Database

Sequence name Codepoints Glyph







* Japanese writing system * Bopomofo (Zhùyīn fúhào, "phonetic symbols"), a phonetic system of 37 characters for writing Chinese developed in the 1900s and common in Taiwan. * 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 * Nü Shu , a syllabary writing system used by women in China's Hunan province * Shodō , Japanese calligraphy.


* ^ http://daijirin.dual-d.net/extra/hiragana.html 「平」とは平凡な、やさしいという意で、当時普通に使用する文字体系であったことを意味する。 漢字は書簡文や重要な文章などを書く場合に用いる公的な文字であるのに対して、 平仮名は漢字の知識に乏しい人々などが用いる私的な性格のものであった。 Translation: 平 means "ordinary" or "simple" since at that time it was a writing system for everyday use. While kanji was the official system used for letter-writing and important texts, hiragana was for personal use by people who had limited knowledge of kanji. * ^ "Japanese calligraphy". _Encyclopedia Britannica_. Retrieved 2017-06-22. * ^ Richard Bowring; Haruko Uryu Laurie (2004). _An Introduction to Modern Japanese: Book 1_. United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press. p. 9. ISBN 978-0521548878 . * ^ Liu, Xuexin (2009). "Japanese Simplification of Chinese Characters in Perspective". _Southeast Review of Asian Studies_. 31. access-date= requires url= (help ) * ^ NHK, WORLD. "The Japanese Syllabaries (Hiragana)" (PDF). _www.nhk.or.jp_. * ^ _Yookoso! An Invitation to Contemporary Japanese_ 1st edition McGraw-Hill, page 13 "Linguistic Note: The Origins of Hiragana and Katakana" * ^ Seeley (2000:19-23) * ^ Richard Bowring; Haruko Uryu Laurie (2004). _An Introduction to Modern Japanese: Book 1_. United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press. p. 8. ISBN 978-0521548878 . * ^ Hatasa, Yukiko Abe; Kazumi Hatasa; Seiichi Makino (2010). _Nakama 1: Introductory Japanese: Communication, Culture, Context 2nd ed_. Heinle. p. 2. ISBN 0495798185 .

* "The Art of Japanese Calligraphy", Yujiro Nakata, ISBN 0-8348-1013-1 , gives details of the development of _onode_ and _onnade_.


_ Wikimedia Commons has media related to HIRAGANA _.

_ Look up HIRAGANA _ in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.

* Real Kana Practice hiragana using different typefaces. * Hiragana unicode chart * Hiragana trace sheets

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