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The basic Japanese "alphabet".  These are the first set of characters you should probably learn if attempting to learn Japanese (although some prefer to start with Katakana).

As well as being the basic alphabet these also represent the basic sounds of the language.  All Japanese words can be broken down into these sounds.

With only a couple of exceptions, the sounds are formed by a combination of a consonent followed by a vowel, with the vowels being pronounced:




Basic Hiragana

a, i, u, e, o
あ い う え お

ka, ki, ku, ke, ko
か き く け こ

sa, shi, su, se, so
さ し す せ そ

ta, chi, tsu, te, to
た ち つ て と

na, ni, nu, ne, no
な に ぬ ね の

ha, hi, fu, he, ho
は ひ ふ へ ほ

ma, mi, mu, me, mo
ま み む め も

ya, yu, yo
や ゆ よ

ra, ri, ru, re, ro
ら り る れ ろ

wa


wo (pronouced more like, and often transcribed as, 'o')


n/m


Altered Sounds

Appending a small double 'apostrophe' or circle to some hiragana alters their sound.  The double apostrophe hardens the sound while the circle softens it (?).

k becomes g
ga, gi, gu, ge, go
が ぎ ぐ げ ご

s becomes z
za, ji, zu, ze, zo
ざ じ ず ぜ ぞ

t becomes d
da, di, du, de, do
だ ぢ づ で ど

h becomes b with the double apostrophe
ba, bi, bu, be, bo
ば び ぶ べ ぼ

h becomes p with the circle
pa, pi, pu, pe, po
ぱ ぴ ぷ ぺ ぽ

Combination Sounds

Small versions of the vowels and y-sounds are used to extend vowel sounds and run another hiragana into a y-sound (better explanation anyone?)

e.g. the cha sound in the honourific -chan is made up of the sound 'chi' running into the 'ya' sound and is written ちゃ.

a, i, u, e, o
ぁ ぃ ぅ ぇ ぉ

ya, yu, yo
ゃ ゅ ょ

The small tsu is used to double the consonent in the hiragana it preceeds.  In comics it is used to indicate an abrupt stop to a sentence, sort of a 'staccato' on the last syllable.  Although the musical 'staccato' symbol is sometimes used within sentences :-)

e.g. tsukkurimashou  (let's make something)  The ku is preceded by a small tsu.

tsu


Er...

Small 'wa'.  (Not used much after the war.)  The deity 'Kannon' is classically spelt: くゎあんのん


v??  (a common bodge, as in 'Evangelion'.  Surprised it deserves its own code.  Would usually only be used in Katakana):


Apparently (thanks, Nataku) these are 'wi' and 'we' (which don't appear in after-war writing):
ゐ ゑ

Character Set

The following are mentioned purely for a complete reference to the character set available.

Double apostophe, circle (voice and semi-voice modifiers):
゛ ゜

Iteration marks - repeat last syllable unchanged or voiced, respectively:
ゝ ゞ



Training Aids:

A convenient set of three printable charts for learning these may be found at http://www.tokyowithkids.com/fyi/hiragana_chart.html .  Or see Google: hiragana chart .

[Unicode hiragana reference]
Interesting.  Of the last 9 characters on that page, I only see 4 (the others are black boxes).  Can anyone see these properly?  I deleted them when constructing this page thinking they were invalid characters. --Kazuhiko
I see three boxes, but the rest are fine. --M-A
Time and browsers move on... and now I just see a whole load of '?'s, and nothing Japanese-looking in sight. --M-A
Time and browsers move on: I used to see the same 4 that Kazuhiko referred to, but now I can see 6 of them - I can see all the sound marks and iteration marks; showing "?"s are now just the Yori digraph and the small Ka and Ke. --AC



CategoryLanguage, Japanese
See Also: Katakana, Kanji, Furigana

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Last edited July 14, 2006 11:05 am (viewing revision 20, which is the newest) (diff)
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