sci.lang.japan FAQ / 1. Writing

1.1. Hiragana and katakana

Kanji writing originated from Chinese, but the hiragana and katakana writing systems originated in Japan, based on the Chinese characters (see 1.1.1. How did and originate?).

Japanese is unusual in having a writing system that is "syllabic". Each hiragana (平仮名) or katakana (片仮名) except one corresponds to either a vowel or a combination of a consonant plus a vowel. (The exception is the syllabic n, written ん or ン. See 7.10. What is syllabic n?) Precisely, each of the kana corresponds to one mora (see 7.7. What is the difference between a mora and a syllable?).

The kana have more than one possible ordering. These are discussed in 1.1.5. What is the origin of the kana ordering? and 1.1.6. How does the ordering go?. For methods of remembering the kana ordering, see 1.1.4. Is there a mnemonic for remembering the order of kana signs?. Some history of the kana and the reason for the gaps in the kana chart in the "y" column appear in 1.1.2. Is there a symbol for or ?.

Details of books to learn hiragana and katakana are at the FAQ's page of book reviews of hiragana and katakana books.


sci.lang.japan FAQ / 1. Writing

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