Japanese Hiragana 1-25About Japanese Hiragana

The complete Japanese hiragana consists of "48" characters:

Hiraganais a Japanese syllabary, one basic component of the Japanese writing system, along with katakana, kanji, and the Latin alphabet (rōmaji). Hiragana and katakana are both kana systems, in which each character represents one mora. Each kana is either a vowel such as "a"; a consonant followed by a vowel such as "ka"; or "n", a nasal sonorant which, depending on the context, sounds either like English m, n, or ng ([ŋ]), or like the nasal vowels of French.

Hiragana is used to write native words for which there are no kanji, including particles such as から kara "from", and suffixes such as ~san "Mr., Mrs., Miss, Ms." Likewise, hiragana is used in words for which the kanji form is obscure, not known to the writer or readers, or too formal for the writing purpose. Verb and adjective inflections, as, for example, be-ma-shi-ta in tabemashita, are written in hiragana, often following a verb or adjective root (here) that is written in kanji. Hiragana is also used to give the pronunciation of kanji in a reading aid called furigana. The article Japanese writing system discusses in detail how the various systems of writing are used.

Japanese Hiragana


Japanese Hiragana History

Hiragana developed from man'yōgana, Chinese characters used for their pronunciations, a practice which started in the 5th century. The oldest example of Man'yōgana is Inariyama Sword which is an iron sword excavated at the Inariyama Kofun in 1968. This sword is thought to be made in year(which is A.D. 471 in commonly accepted theory).The forms of the hiragana originate from the cursive script style of Chinese calligraphy. The figure below shows the derivation of hiragana from manyōgana via cursive script. The upper part shows the character in the regular script form, the center character in red shows the cursive script form of the character, and the bottom shows the equivalent hiragana. Note also that the cursive script forms are not strictly confined to those in the illustration.

When they were first developed, hiragana were not accepted by everyone. Many felt that the language of the educated was still Chinese. Historically, in Japan, the regular script (kaisho) form of the characters was used by men and called otokode, "men's writing", while the cursive script (sōsho) form of the kanji was used by women. Thus hiragana first gained popularity among women, who were generally not allowed access to the same levels of education as men. From this comes the alternative name of onnade "women's writing". For example, The Tale of Genji and other early novels by female authors used hiragana extensively or exclusively.

Male authors came to write literature using hiragana. Hiragana was used for unofficial writing such as personal letters, while katakana and Chinese were used for official documents. In modern times, the usage of hiragana has become mixed with katakana writing. Katakana is now relegated to special uses such as recently borrowed words (i.e., since the 19th century), names in transliteration, the names of animals, in telegrams, and for emphasis.

Originally, all syllables had more than one hiragana. In 1900, the system was simplified so each syllable had only one hiragana. Other hiragana are known as hentaigana.