sci.lang.japan FAQ / 1. Writing / 1.1. and

1.1.3. What is the use of the "we" and "wi" kana?

Ebisu beer written webisu
Photo credit: Toby Oxborrow
Used under a Creative Commons licence.

Although kana for wi and we exist, namely hiragana ゐ and ゑ, and katakana ヰ and ヱ, these kana are not used in modern Japanese. They were used in historical kana usage, not to represent sounds "wi" and "we" but the sounds now represented by kana い and え, i and e respectively. See 1.1.7. What is historical kana usage?.

One archaic system of representing the English "v" sound used dakuten marks on the wagyō katakana. This system is represented in Unicode: ヷヸ ヹヺ. There is no kana for "wu", so this element is missing from the list.

Modern Japanese either uses ba, bi, bu, be, bo to represent the v sound or ヴ (katakana u with a dakuten) plus small vowels, thus "ヴァイオリン" for violin. See also 5.1. How do I write an English word in Japanese?.

The wi is also used sometimes to write the word "whisky", as in ヰスキ.


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