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ひらがな - Hiragana

Basic Hiragana Characters

Hiragana characters represent all the syllables used in Japanese there are 46 basic Hiragana Characters 5 representing the 5 vowels 1 singular consonant the rest are vowel-consonant unions. Hiragana characters are usually learned by associating them with the Latin equivalent but they aren't an exact match most notably the R sounds (the actual sound is similar to both an R and an L). This means which Latin characters used to represent Japanese characters are often debated leading to different schools of thought on which should be used but I think it is best to only used these as a guide to learn the characters then forget they equate to Latin characters as soon as possible.

Hiragana Combinations

A small version of やゃ、ゆゅ and よょcan be merged with some characters (き、し、ち、に、ひ、み、 and り) to create another 21 syllables.

Voiced Hiragana Characters

Another 20 characters can be made by adding functional marks to the character 2 dashes on K,S,T and H and a small circle on H. Usually different Latin characters are used to represent these characters but in Japanese they aren’t completely independent characters they are considered voiced versions of the non-marked basic characters. This means that sometimes they are used in place of the basic character some examples are:

  • 百 ひゃく(Hundred) - 三百 さんびゃく(300) - 八百 はっぴゃく(800)
  • 口 くち(Mouth) - 出口 でぐち(Exit)
  • 神 かみ(God) - 女神 めがみ(Goddess)

Voiced Hiragana Combinations

As with the standard characters you can attach the small ゃ、ゅ and ょ to the equivalent voiced characters (ぎ、じ、ぢ、び、 and ぴ )

Small っ

A small っ can be added before certain characters (K,S,Z,T,D and M) to create a hard consonant sound it is usually written with a double consonant when converted to Latin character. Examples:

  • っか (kka)
  • っしゃ (ssya)
  • っず (ssu)
  • って (tte)
  • っど (ddo)
  • っみ (mmi)