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Hiragana

From Academic Kids

Template:Japanese writing Hiragana (平仮名, literally "smooth kana") are a Japanese syllabary, one of four Japanese writing systems (the others are katakana, kanji and rōmaji).

Hiragana are used for:

  • Japanese words for which there are no kanji, for example particles such as kara から and suffixes such as ~san さん.
  • Japanese words for which the kanji form is not known to the writer, not expected to be known to the readers or too formal for the writing purpose.
  • Verb and adjective inflections, for example in tabemashita 食べました (used like this, hiragana are called okurigana 送り仮名).
  • Giving the pronunciation of kanji for readers who may not know them (used like this, hiragana are called furigana).

Each hiragana represents one syllable (technically, one mora), and is either a vowel on its own (such as a あ), a consonant followed by a vowel (such as ka か), or ん, which sounds like the English "m" or "n".

The presence of hiragana among Chinese characters is usually sufficient to identify a text as Japanese.

Contents

The hiragana writing system

The hiragana consist of a basic set of characters, the gojūon (五十音, literally "fifty sounds", but only 46 are in common use today), which can be modified as follows:

  • Adding a dakuten (濁点) marker ゛ turns an unvoiced consonant into a voiced consonant: kg, td, sz, and hb. In informal writing, particularly manga, it is occasionally used on vowels to indicate a shocked or strangled articulation.
  • Adding a handakuten (半濁点) marker ゜ changes hp.
  • Adding a small version of the hiragana for ya, yu or yo (ゃ, ゅ or ょ respectively) changes a preceding i vowel sound to a glide palatalization.
  • A small tsu っ indicates a geminate consonant. This only appears before fricatives and stops. This is represented in rōmaji by doubling the following consonant. In informal writing it is also used at the end of a word to indicate a sharp or cut-off articulation, such as in angry or shocked speech.

There are ways to represent other sounds with hiragana, using minuscule versions of the five vowel kana. This is not generally used in formal writing, but is often used in informal texts to represent trailing off of sounds (はぁ, ねぇ).

There are a few hiragana which are not in the standard modern set. wi ゐ and we ゑ are obsolete. vu ゔ is modern and is pronounced as bwu or to approximate the "v" sound in foreign languages such as English (it is rarely seen because transliterated words are usually written in katakana).

Hepburn Romanization of Hiragana

If you have a font including Japanese characters, you can view the following chart of hiragana together with their Hepburn romanization. Obsolete kana are shown in red.

a i u e o (ya) (yu) (yo)
ka ki ku ke ko きゃ kya きゅ kyu きょ kyo
sa shi su se so しゃ sha しゅ shu しょ sho
ta chi tsu te to ちゃ cha ちゅ chu ちょ cho
na ni nu ne no にゃ nya にゅ nyu にょ nyo
ha hi fu he ho ひゃ hya ひゅ hyu ひょ hyo
ma mi mu me mo みゃ mya みゅ myu みょ myo
ya yu yo
ra ri ru re ro りゃ rya りゅ ryu りょ ryo
わ wa ゐ wi ゑ we を o/wo
n
ga gi gu ge go ぎゃ gya ぎゅ gyu ぎょ gyo
za ji zu ze zo じゃ ja じゅ ju じょ jo
da (ji) (zu) de do ぢゃ (ja) ぢゅ (ju) ぢょ (jo)
ba bi bu be bo びゃ bya びゅ byu びょ byo
pa pi pu pe po ぴゃ pya ぴゅ pyu ぴょ pyo

Spelling rules

With a few exceptions for sentence particles は, を, and へ and a few other arbitrary rules, Japanese is spelled as it sounds. This has not always been the case: a previous system of spelling, now referred to as historical kana usage had many arbitrary spelling rules; the exceptions in modern usage are the legacy of that system. The exact spelling rules are referred to as kanazukai (かな使い, "kana use").

Note that there are two hiragana pronounced ji (じ and ぢ) and two hiragana pronounced zu (ず and づ). These pairs are not interchangeable. In general, the rules are:

  • 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 chijmeru (to boil down or to shrink) is spelled ちぢめる.
  • For compound words where the dakuten reflects rendaku voicing, use the original hiragana. For example, chi (血 "blood") is spelled ち in plain hiragana. When you bring 鼻 hana (nose) and 血 together to make hanaji 鼻血 "nose bleed"), the sound of 血changes from chi to ji. So hanaji is spelled はなぢ according to ち: the basic hiragana used to transcribe 血. Similarly, Tsukau (使う; "to use") is spelled つかう in hiragana, so kanazukai (かな使い; "kana use" .. or .. "kana orthography") is spelled かなづかい in hiragana.
  • However, this does not apply when kanji are used to make words which do not relate directly to their elemental meaning. The Japanese word for lightning, for example, is inazuma (稲妻). The 稲 component means rice plant, is written いな in hiragana and is pronounced: ina. The 妻 component means wife , and it can be written つま or occasionally ずま in hiragana. Clearly, neither of these components have anything to do with lightning but together they do when they compose the Japanese word for lightning. In which case, resort to the default spelling in hiragana: inazuma (いなずまand not いなづま.). ;.).
  • Otherwise, write ji as じ and zu as ず. This is the default.

A word cannot begin with the kana ん (n). This fact is at the basis of the word game shiritori. However, n is sometimes directly followed by a vowel. For example, ren'ai 恋愛 is spelled れんあい and den'atsu 電圧 is spelled でんあつ.

Pronunciation

See the main article on the Japanese language.

Collation

Hiragana are the basis for collation in Japanese. They are taken in the order given by the gojūon (あ い う え お … わ を ん), though iroha ordering is used for enumeration in some circumstances. Dictionaries differ in the sequence order for long/short vowel distinction, small tsu and diacritics. As the Japanese do not use word spaces (except for children), there can be no word-by-word collation; all collation is kana-by-kana.

A convenient English mnemonic phrase for remembering the gojūon ordering is:

Ah, Kana Symbols: Take Note How Many You Read Well.

The first letters in this phrase give the ordering of the non-voiced initial sounds in the syllabary.

For vowel ordering, the vowel sounds in the following English phrase may be used as a mnemonic:

Ah, we soon get old.

The vowel sounds in the English words approximate the Japanese vowels: a, i, u, e, o.

History

Hiragana developed from man'yōgana, Chinese characters used exclusively for their pronunciations, a practice which started in the 5th century. Literature was written using these characters, and as the forms of the man'yōgana became simplified (smoothed), the hiragana came in to existence, used mainly by women. The figure below shows derivation of hiragana from manyogana:

Image:Hiragana_origin.jpg

Hiragana were not accepted by everyone. Many felt that the language of the educated was still Chinese. However it gained in popularity among women as they were not allowed access to higher education. (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 also wrote literature using hiragana. Hiragana with its flowing style came to be used for unofficial writing such as personal letters while Katakana and Chinese were used for official documents. In modern times, it has become preferred over katakana, which is now relegated to special uses such as borrowed words and names in transliteration.

Most sounds had more than one hiragana. In 1900, the system was simplified so each sound had only one hiragana. Other hiragana are known as hentaigana (変体仮名). Note however that this hentai (変体: "variants") is not the same word as the hentai (変態) from which the English slang term is derived.

The poem Iroha-uta ("Song of colours"), from the 10th century, uses every hiragana once:

いろはにほへと Iro ha nihohe to Even if colours have sweet perfume
ちにぬるを chirinuru wo eventually they fade away
わかよたれそ wakayo tare so What in this world
つねならむ tsune naramu is eternal ?
うゐのおくやま uwi no okuyama The deep montains of vanity
けふこえて kefu koete I cross them today
あさきゆめみし asaki yume mishi renouncing the superficial dreeams
ゑひもせすね wehi mo sesu ne not giving in to their madness any more

Hiragana in Unicode

In Unicode, Hiragana occupies code points U+3040 to U+309F [1] (http://www.unicode.org/charts/PDF/U3040.pdf):

  0123456789ABCDEF
304  
305 
306 
307 
308 
309   

The Unicode hiragana block contains precomposed characters for all hiragana in the modern set, including small vowels and y-group kana for compound syllables, plus the archaic wi and we and the rare vu. 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). The latter 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), repectively. U+309F is a digraph of 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.

There are no characters at code points U+3040, U+3097, or U+3098.

External links

Template:Commons

cs:Hiragana de:Japanisches Schriftsystem#Hiragana es:Hiragana fr:Hiragana gl:Hiragana ko:히라가나 id:Hiragana is:Hiragana it:Hiragana he:היראגאנה ms:Hiragana nl:Hiragana ja:平仮名 pl:Hiragana pt:Hiragana ru:Хирагана sk:Hiragana sl:Hiragana sr:Хирагана fi:Hiragana sv:Hiragana th:ฮิระงะนะ zh:平假名

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