What is yōon?

ya yu yo
k キャ kya キュ kyu キョ kyo
sh シャ sha シュ shu ショ sho
ch チャ cha チュ chu チョ cho
n ニャ nya ニュ nyu ニョ nyo
h ヒャ hya ヒュ hyu ヒョ hyo
m ミャ mya ミュ myu ミョ myo
r リャ rya リュ ryu リョ ryo
Dakuten (voiced) sounds
g ギャ gya ギュ gyu ギョ gyo
j ジャ ja ジュ ju ジョ jo
b ビャ bya ビュ byu ビョ byo
p ピャ pya ピュ pyu ピョ pyo
Table of yōon sounds

Yōon (拗音) is a feature of Japanese in which a mora (see What is the difference between a mora and a syllable?) is formed with an added y sound, known by linguists as a palatalized consonant.[1] Yōon is represented in kana using a kana ending in i, such as き(ki), plus a smaller-than-usual version of one of the three y kana, ya, yu or yo. For example kyō, "today", is written きょう, using a small version of the yo kana,よ. Contrast this with kiyō, skillful, which is written きよう, with a full-sized yo kana. In the past, in historical kana usage, yōon was not distinguished with the smaller kana, and had to be guessed by context. See What is historical kana usage?

Most of the words which now use yōon were originally derived from Chinese. The ancient version of Japanese did not have any yōon sounds. It is theorised that yōon developed because of the influence of the Chinese words.[1]

See also How can I input small kana like ぃ, っ and ょ, or づ on a computer?

References

  1. Haruo Kubozono, Handbook of Japanese Phonetics and Phonology; 2015

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