Dakuten and handakuten

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◌゙ ◌゚
Dakuten and handakuten
Diacritics in Latin & Greek
double acute˝
double grave ̏
caron, háčekˇ
inverted breve  ̑  
diaeresis, umlaut¨
palatal hook  ̡
retroflex hook  ̢
hook above ̉
horn ̛
iota subscript ͅ 
ogonek, nosinė˛
perispomene ͂ 
rough breathing
smooth breathing᾿
Marks sometimes used as diacritics
full stop/period.
Diacritical marks in other scripts
Arabic diacritics
Early Cyrillic diacritics
kamora ҄
pokrytie ҇
titlo ҃
Hebrew diacritics
Indic diacritics
Gurmukhī diacritics
Khmer diacritics
Thai diacritics
IPA diacritics
Japanese kana diacritics
Syriac diacritics
Dotted circle
Punctuation marks
Logic symbols

The dakuten (Japanese: 濁点, Japanese pronunciation: [dakɯ̥teꜜɴ] or [dakɯ̥teɴ], lit. "voicing mark"), colloquially ten-ten (, "dots"), is a diacritic most often used in the Japanese kana syllabaries to indicate that the consonant of a syllable should be pronounced voiced, for instance, on sounds that have undergone rendaku (sequential voicing).

The handakuten (半濁点, Japanese pronunciation: [handaꜜkɯ̥teɴ], lit. "half voicing mark"), colloquially maru (, "circle"), is a diacritic used with the kana for syllables starting with h to indicate that they should instead be pronounced with [p].


The kun'yomi pronunciation of the character is nigori; hence the daku-ten may also be called the nigori-ten. This character, meaning muddy or turbid, stems from historical Chinese phonology, where consonants were traditionally classified as clear ( "voiceless"), lesser-clear (次清 "aspirated") and muddy ( "voiced"). (See: Middle Chinese § Initials)

Dakuten were used sporadically since the start of written Japanese; their use tended to become more common as time went on. The modern practice of using dakuten in all cases of voicing in all writing only came into being in the Meiji period.[citation needed]


The dakuten resembles a quotation mark, while the handakuten is a small circle, similar to a degree sign, both placed at the top right corner of a kana character:


Both the dakuten and handakuten glyphs are drawn identically in hiragana and katakana scripts. The combining characters are rarely used in full-width Japanese characters, as Unicode and all common multibyte Japanese encodings provide precomposed glyphs for all possible dakuten and handakuten character combinations in the standard hiragana and katakana ranges. However, combining characters are required in half-width kana, which does not provide any precomposed characters in order to fit within a single byte.

The similarity between the dakuten and quotation marks (") is not a problem, as written Japanese uses corner brackets (「」).

Phonetic shifts[edit]

The following table summarizes the phonetic shifts indicated by the dakuten and handakuten. Literally, syllables with dakuten are "muddy sounds" (濁音, dakuon), while those without are "clear sounds" (清音, seion). However, the handakuten (lit. "half-muddy mark") does not follow this pattern.

none dakuten handakuten
ka ga か゚ nga
sa za None
ta da None
ha ba pa

Handakuten on ka, ki, ku, ke, ko (rendered as か゚, き゚, く゚, け゚, こ゚) represent the sound of ng in singing ([ŋ]), which is an allophone of /ɡ/ in many dialects of Japanese. They are not used in normal Japanese writing, but may be used by linguists and in dictionaries (or to represent characters in fiction who speak that way). This is called bidakuon (鼻濁音, "nasal muddy sound"). Another rare application of handakuten is on the r-series, to mark them as explicitly l: ラ゚ /la/, and so forth.[1] This is only done in technical or pedantic contexts, as many Japanese cannot tell the difference between r and l. Additionally, linguists sometimes use ウ゚ to represent /ɴ/ in cases when speaker pronounces at the beginning of a word as a moraic nasal.[2]

In katakana only, the dakuten may also be added to the character u and a small vowel character to create a [v] sound, as in ヴァ va. However, a hiragana version of this character also exists, with somewhat sporadic compatibility across platforms (). As /v/ does not exist in Japanese, this usage applies only to some modern loanwords and remains relatively uncommon, and e.g. Venus is typically transliterated as ビーナス (bīnasu) instead of ヴィーナス (vīnasu). Many Japanese, however, would pronounce both the same, with a /b/ sound, or even /β/ much as in Spanish, and may or may not recognize them as representing the same sound.

An even less common method is to add dakuten to the w-series, reviving the mostly obsolete characters for /wi/ () and /we/ (). /vu/ is represented by using /u/, as above; /wo/ becomes /vo/ despite its /w/ normally being silent. Precomposed characters exist for this method as well (/va/ /vi/ /vu/ /ve/ /vo/ ), although most IMEs do not have a convenient way to enter them.

In Ainu texts, handakuten can be used with the katakana to make it a /ts/ sound, セ゚ ce [tse] (which is interchangeable with ツェ), and is used with small fu to represent a final p, ㇷ゚. In addition, handakuten can be combined with either katakana or (tsu and to) to make a [tu̜] sound, ツ゚ or ト゚.

In informal writing, dakuten is occasionally used on vowels to indicate a shocked or strangled articulation; for example, on あ゙ or . Dakuten can also be occasionally used with ん (ん゙) to indicate a guttural hum, growl, or similar sound.

Kana iteration marks[edit]

The dakuten can also be added to hiragana and katakana iteration marks, indicating that the previous kana is repeated with voicing:

none dakuten

Both signs are relatively rare, but can occasionally be found in personal names such as Misuzu (みすゞ) or brand names such as Isuzu (いすゞ). In these cases the pronunciation is identical to writing the kana out in full. A longer, multi-character iteration mark called the kunojiten, only used in vertical writing, may also have a dakuten added.

Other communicative representations[edit]

  • Representations of Dakuten
Japanese radiotelephony alphabet Wabun code
ni "Dakuten"*
audio speaker icon  ▄ ▄ 
ICS India.svg ⠐
Japanese Navy Signal Flag Japanese semaphore Japanese manual syllabary (fingerspelling) Braille dots-5
Japanese Braille
  • Representations of Handakuten
Japanese radiotelephony alphabet Wabun code
ni "Handakuten"*
audio speaker icon  ▄ ▄ ▄▄▄ ▄▄▄ ▄ 
Japanese Navy Signal Flag Japanese semaphore Japanese manual syllabary (fingerspelling) Braille dots-6
Japanese Braille

* Voiced syllables and semi-voiced syllables do not have independent names in radiotelephony and are signified by the unvoiced name followed by "ni dakuten" or "ni handakuten".

  • Full Braille representation
Dakuten Handakuten Yōon + Dakuten Yōon + Handakuten Dakuten + Handakuten Yōon + Dakuten + Handakuten
⠐ (braille pattern dots-5) ⠠ (braille pattern dots-6) ⠘ (braille pattern dots-45) ⠨ (braille pattern dots-46) ⠰ (braille pattern dots-56) ⠸ (braille pattern dots-456)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Yamaguchi, Ryusei (2016), Character Sets and Internationalization (L2 Technical Committee) Document L2/16-354 : Proposal to add Kana small letters (PDF), pp. 6, 9, retrieved April 23, 2019
  2. ^ "文部省制定発音符号 - 国立国会図書館デジタルコレクション". dl.ndl.go.jp (in Japanese). Retrieved 2021-04-03.

External links[edit]