sci.lang.japan FAQ / 14. Computers

14.3. What is half-width katakana?

Half-width, hankaku (半角), refers to a character which is half as wide as it is high. Characters of equal height and width are called full-width, zenkaku (全角).

Half-width katakana, hankaku katakana (半角片仮名), is a type of computer output of katakana where each letter is tall and thin, compared to full width katakana, where each character is about the same height and width. Originally, before there was any kanji encoding for Japanese, half-width katakana was the only way to output Japanese text on a computer. Nowadays, the need for this encoding has reduced, but half-width katakana is still used, for example, on cash register receipts and for television and film subtitles to save space. It is also used in the Japanese banking system, with account names all being in half-width katakana.

In half-width katakana, there are no forms of characters with combined dakuten, like ば, or handakuten, like ぱ. Instead, the dakuten or handakuten are represented by a separate character which has the same width as one katakana character. Thus, for example, "Nippon" (Japan) in full-width katakana is ニッポン, but in half-width katakana it is ニッポン, with the handakuten as a separate ゚ symbol. (See also 1.3.6. What are the names of the Japanese non-kana, non-kanji symbols?)

Half-width katakana was originally encoded by the JIS X 0201 encoding standard. (See 14.2. Encodings of Japanese) The common "Shift JIS" encoding of Japanese is an attempt to enable both half-width katakana and full-width characters together. (See 14.2. Encodings of Japanese)

Half-width, or hankaku, is also used in a computer context to describe the ASCII character set, which is referred to as hankaku eisūji (半角英数字) in Japanese, in contrast to zenkaku eisūji (全角英数字), the "full width" versions of ASCII characters which occupy the same space as a kanji, as in ABC123$ %&.

There is no half-width version of the hiragana characters.

To input half-width katakana, see 14.1. How is Japanese input on a computer?. For more about the uses of katakana, see 1.1.9. What is used for?

Half-width katakana in Unicode

In Unicode, half-width katakana is represented from position FF61 to FF9F.

     0123456789ABCDEF
FF60
FF70 ソ
FF80
FF90

sci.lang.japan FAQ / 14. Computers

Copyright © 1994-2015 Ben Bullock

If you have questions, corrections, or comments, please contact Ben Bullock or use the discussion forum / Privacy

Book reviews Convert<br>Japanese<br>numbers Handwritten<br>kanji<br>recognition Stroke order<br>diagrams Convert<br>Japanese<br>units
Dictionary of Japanese food Make comments automatically Recognize simplified Chinese characters Figlet - giant ascii letters Play reversi against the computer Unix manual pages in English, Korean, and Japanese. Turn numerals into English words