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My chart[edit]

My summary was mistaken: the chart came from hiragana, not katakana. Gwalla | Talk 23:25, 6 Aug 2004 (UTC)

Previous discussion of the merge of "Historical kana usage": Talk:Historical kana usage Gwalla | Talk 23:29, 30 Aug 2004 (UTC)


Was always taught that "Wi" and "We" really sound like "Yi" and "Ye" -- and I recall charts where these letters occur in the "ya" column. Can anyone confirm this?

no one spells the old name of tokyo "wedo" and "yido" sounds more like the way really old folks pronounce the word for water well.

Yes, I thought so too. As examples there are ヱビス and ヱン, typically romanized as Yebisu and Yen.
According to a Japanese Wikipedia article [1], the wi, we characters changed pronunciation to i, ye sometime during the 10-11th centuries (wi was never yi). Later, ye became e. In any case, the romanization should be in synch with how it's done in the hepburn page.
Basically, we and e were the same, both pronounced ye.


I'm not sure some of these historical kana names are actually historically spelled using the kana. In particular, Inouye should be "Yinouye" if it were faithful to the "historical" spelling; "Inouye" in that orthography appears only in the United States and is due to simplification of transliteration. "Iwo" also seems to be that way. There is also no "kw" kana in "historical" japanese.

That's only partially correct about "kw." There was no one kana for "kw." However, it was common (especially in Kyoto) to pronounce words with a "kw" and spell them with a ku - wa. Check Oku no Hosomichi, I recall seeing some in there. Of course, back in the olden days, they never made kana smaller, but it's essentially the same as the modern katakana ku - xa. Anyhow, even in Kyoto, the pronunciations had all shifted over to ka by the time spelling reform came, so the wa's were dropped and never seen again. --Carl 04:00, 7 Dec 2004 (UTC)
In classical Japanese, several fairly common words used the "kwa" represented by ku - smallwa. Kwaji/kaji, wagwashi/wagashi. ryoukwan/ryoukan, suikwa/suika, gwaikoku/gaikoku, gakkwai/gakkai... there are dozens of kwa and gwa listed in the Koujien Dictionary. Here's a link to a Zuuzuu-ben (Touhoku dialect) page. At the end is a list of ka/kwa words it has retained while the sound scheme simplified in the rest of the not-so-isolated and more recently colonised areas of Japan.

About the ya-line e (ye), this website may be helpful, but only if you know enough Japanese. Otherwise, Jim Breen has a decent albeit very brief explanation of what happened to the "missing" kana. Essentially, there was never a kana for ye in any real sense of the term (perhaps only a katakana e to substitute), but was most commonly represented phonetically by at least one kanji. Perhaps the sound fell out of disuse or its consideration as one sound changed before it was assigned kana. But there was never any ya-line i sound (yi as in above "Yinouye"). Yi and wu are some of the hardest sounds to represent in Japanese whereas ye, wi, and we and even kwa are pretty easy.

It may also be noteworthy that some popular, modern usages of the wi and we are technically incorrect, but as the sounds no longer exist in Japan, they often go by unnoticed. For example, Yebisu beer is rendered Webisu in katakana. This spelling is not historically accurate and it drives Japanese teachers in Japan absolutely mad at times. Sorry to ramble! --JH 28 Dec 2004
Quick question: are you sure the wa in kwa was written small in the olden days? I'm sure it's written that way now when explaining about dialect differences and whatnot, but it's my understanding that before the reforms, small kana weren't really in use. For example, kyou was written with large ke and fu, though the fu was obviously just used to make a blended sound in later days. So, it wouldn't seem unusual to me to make a kwa sound using just the regular size when writing and not a special, smaller one. Or was "wa" just the one kana written small before the reforms? --Carl 06:38, 28 Dec 2004 (UTC)
All the classical texts (for learners) that I've seen either use the small wa in left-to-right horizontal writing or else use the normal size wa in furigana in tate-gaki vertical writing. Perhaps this spelling convention is a modern revision. But if you look at classical tate-gaki furigana, nearly(?) all small kana are rendered in the normal size, as it seems they simply did not use small kana in furigana. This applies to ya-line kana (sho is rendered shi-yo, chou is rendered chi-yo-u). Perhaps this indicates elision of previously distinct syllables, or otherwise the innovation of small kana was not well developed/standardised at that point. But as long as the ku+wa=kwa, modern spelling conventions make the realisation of kwa more readily intelligible for the casual reader. I understand my place as an anon editor and as an amateur, and if you'd like to revert back to the big wa, I won't get bent out of shape in the least. --JH 28 Dec 2004

table of kana[edit]

Table of the Japanese kana
あア かカ さサ たタ なナ はハ まマ やヤ らラ わワ んン
a ka sa ta na ha ma ya ra wa n
いイ きキ しシ ちチ にニ ひヒ みミ りリ ゐヰ
i ki shi ti ni hi mi ri (wi)
うウ くク すス つツ ぬヌ ふフ むム ゆユ るル
u ku su tsu nu fu mu yu ru
えエ けケ せセ てテ ねネ へヘ めメ れレ ゑヱ
e ke se te ne he me re (we)
おオ こコ そソ とト のノ ほホ もモ よヨ ろロ をヲ
o ko so to no ho mo yo ro (w)o

Hmm I see Quadell has already replaced the image with this table. Perhaps it would be good to make a screen shot for those who's computers don't have japanese fonts.

Why there are no extended characters such as da, za, pa etc. which are present in Hiragana and Katakana articles? DmitryKo 11:03, 30 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Old Spelling question[edit]

どじょう dojō (loach, a sardine-like fish), which often show the word in its historical spelling of どぜおう dozeō on their sign - if I understand correctly, shouldn't that be どぜう, dozeu? eu became , but I don't think eo changed to anything. And even if it had, there'd be a "missing" mora there.


Please post more info/resources about modern kana - links to learning resources, examples of use etc. 90% of the article is sacrificed to historical kana and its comparisons to modern kana.

Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, not a how-to site. There's not really much more to be said about modern kana besides, "look at the table; memorize the characters; congratulations, you know the Japanese 'alphabet!' " We can't be expect to have a break down of the stroke order and mnemonic devices for each character in an encyclopedia, so the article naturally ended up being mostly history. I don't think that's necessarily bad. Then again, if someone wanted to write a guide to learning kana, I think Wikisource would be a good place to host it. --Carl 15:38, 12 Jun 2005 (UTC)
A project like this already exists. See Wikibooks Japanese --ChrisRuvolo (t) 20:17, 12 Jun 2005 (UTC)


Does anyone have more info on the ゟ and ヿ characters? It would be nice to have more info than just "U+309F is a ligature of "yori" (より) sometimes used in vertical writing. U+30FF is a ligature of "koto" (コト), also found in vertical writing". Proper usage, why are they in the Unicode table, how did the ligature ended up like that -- some pictures, perhaps?

I was the anonymous who wrote the above on August 2005. I'm still looking! Anyone?lampi 06:51, 28 March 2006 (UTC)

Two systems[edit]

Why are there two Kana systems when already a single one would be enough? --Abdull 14:36, 26 November 2005 (UTC)

The article doesn't say anything about it, surprisingly. I haven't searched here, so maybe there's an article that covers it. My understanding is that there are two different systems because they're used for different purposes. Hiragana is used for Japanese words and grammatical purposes (particles, conjugation, inflection). Katakana is used for foreign words, onomatopoeia, and such. Having two separate systems probably makes text easier to read. All that said, I'm not really sure about the history: which system came first, when they decided they needed a second system, or anything like that. There's some discussion at manyogana, but it would be nice to see it expanded or clarified in this article, if anyone here would like to! HorsePunchKid 2005-11-27 01:00:32Z
The two different systems are now used for different purposes, but that's not why they both came about, and the current usages are not the way they've always been used. The two evolved on parallel tracks. This could be covered in a little more detail somewhere; it's discussed a little in the articles on hiragana and katakana. adamrice 17:47, 28 November 2005 (UTC)
I'd like to write some more about this topic but I'm not knowledgeable enough about this to start writing "off the top of my head" and at the moment I'm having a hard time finding good references. On the Japanese writing system Jim Breen added a lot of material based on Seeley's book, as referenced there. Does anyone have this book or another recommendation? It looks like a good place to start on writing the history of kana. --DannyWilde 02:35, 29 November 2005 (UTC)
I'll check out my copy of Halpern's kanji dictionary when I get home; it has quite a bit of information about the history of their various writing systems. (Wow, only $34 at Amazon! If you don't have a copy, I highly recommend it!) HorsePunchKid 2005-11-29 05:06:49Z


The infobox picture is ambiguous since it is chinese as well, meaning book. I suggest it be changed to a japanese word that is only in japanese and not in chinese. 03:23, 28 February 2006 (UTC)

Two criticisms[edit]

Two criticisms of the page:

  1. Many readers will (like me) use it to transliterate a sequence of katakana, or more rarely hiragana. This is made harder by having both kinds of kana in the same table. Once I have established that what I am looking for is a katakana character, I would prefer to scan a table which only has katakana in it. So two separate tables would make things easier.
  2. The example, of the katakana for "George W. Bush", uses the character ジ which is not in the table.

I'm not going to change things myself because I don't actually know any Japanese. Maproom (talk) 12:36, 17 December 2007 (UTC)

I take your point, but the same paragraph that mentions how George Bush is written in Japanese mentions "See the article katakana for details." I don't know how many people will be using the kana article (or any article) as a tool for transliterating Japanese, and in any case, that's just one use for it. To my own mind, it's reasonable for the kana article to focus on what the different forms of kana have in common and how they differ. And if you've got Japanese text in electronic form, you might be better off using an online converter tool (see ) adamrice (talk) 14:40, 17 December 2007 (UTC)[edit]

I'm going to remove and replace as an external link for the time being because it has been a dead link for the past few months now. If you finds that it becomes active again, then you can probably add it back in. Eugeniu B (talk) 20:09, 30 July 2008 (UTC)

no real history in 'history'[edit]

We say that Kūkai concluded that Japanese would be better written in kana than kanji, but do not say how this is relevant to the article. Did he or people inspired by him start writing in man'yōgana? Did they intentionally create katakana? If not, how is Kūkai and Siddham of any interest to this article? (I added the bit about the kana order reflecting Siddham, but I don't know when or how it happened.) kwami (talk) 18:20, 20 October 2008 (UTC)

Maybe it's relevant to the article because is provides a reason for Kana's existence. Japanese is a much more grammar-rich language than Chinese, and while Kanji was suitable for the (simple, almost pidgeon-like) grammar of Chinese, the much more complex Japanese grammar benefits in transcription by having the "auxiliary" characters of Kana to make these forms obvious to the reader. I'll leave it to someone else to fix the text.Kornbelt888 (talk) 02:00, 6 February 2009 (UTC)

Parent systems[edit]

Please see Talk:Japanese_writing_system#Parent_systems for edits to the development tree. (talk) 14:00, 19 January 2009 (UTC)

Common origins[edit]

The section on the development from manyogana should probably say which kana letters have the same root in both forms. Ku for instance does and all in all about two thirds of the katakana and hiragana characters obviously share the same manyogana origin. (talk) —Preceding undated comment added 19:54, 3 June 2009 (UTC).

Done — Christoph Päper 20:30, 4 June 2009 (UTC)

Why the transcription was removed?[edit]

Some Kana signs do not represent the combinations of the specified consonants and vowels (フ is not 'hu' but 'fu'). Their transcription is required. --P.Y.Python (talk) 13:46, 17 June 2009 (UTC)

Transcription issues have been moved to the bullet lists below the tables, and remain broad (no mention of all the shikis). The roman letters are basically only row and column headings (although conforming to ISO 3602 Strict) for orientation of Western readers. If you did it any other way you would have to take several aspects into account, e.g. phonologic notation and (in(ter))dependence of written and spoken forms of language, especially with the roman script (which is an issue really not belonging here and badly confused, still, by many linguists even). — Christoph Päper 22:10, 23 July 2009 (UTC)

Found unused image on Commons[edit]

w:File:Table hiragana.svgw:File:Table katakana.svg 好しか?:P -- 李博杰  | Talk contribs email 07:01, 1 August 2009 (UTC)

What no kanji?[edit]

My understanding of "kana" matched the definition given in this article (i.e. hiragana and katakana) until yesterday when I came across an article using the word to describe characters from all Japanses script type, including kanji. Can anyone authoritatively clear this up? Tesspub (talk) 08:09, 1 May 2010 (UTC)

An editing bug[edit]

I've been trying to edit the page, however most of the characters randomly disappeared; I tried to fix it, although no hope. Could anyone fix this? ♪nooristani♪talk 00:39, 11 April 2012 (UTC)

Sorry, but I undid your edits as I had no idea what you wanted to do. Oda Mari (talk) 06:36, 11 April 2012 (UTC)

ヱ's etymology[edit]

According to a section on page 26 of 仮字の本末 (假字本来 in Chinese) claims that ヱ came from the ヨ part of 慧. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:57, 1 January 2015 (UTC)

What does it mean?[edit]

I am trying to figure out the section on collation. The text is as follows:

Kana are the basis for collation in Japanese. They are taken in the order given by the gojūon (あ い う え お … わ を ん), though iroha (い ろ は に ほ へ と … せ す (ん)) ordering is used for enumeration in some circumstances. Dictionaries differ in the sequence order for long/short vowel distinction, small tsu and diacritics. As Japanese does not use word spaces (except as a tool for children), there can be no word-by-word collation; all collation is kana-by-kana.

What exactly does that last sentence mean? It would be akin to saying "English dictionaries are not collated by word, but letter-by-letter". It is rather meaningless. Obvious collation is by each individual unit, but the entries are still per word. And what does a lack of word spaces have to do with it? Obviously a dictionary must break entries into individual words, as they cannot define individual kana, and cannot define entire sentences, so not sure what the sentence intends. It just seems rather confusing. Either it is making a point that is terribly unclear, or it is saying something wrong. Could someone with a bit more knowledge try to clear it up, a to the uninitiated (at least this uninitiated) it is rather nonsensical. (talk) 03:18, 20 September 2017 (UTC)

Thought about it some more, and if the last sentence is not about dictionaries, but documents it is still nonsensical. All collation in every language I can name is symbol by symbol, word spaces or not. Granted, in a language using ideograms the symbols are words, but it is still not "word by word" collation, but symbol by symbol. So not sure what is meant by "word-by-word" as it seems to be describing something that does not exist, not only in Japanese written in kana, but for any language I can name. (talk) 03:24, 20 September 2017 (UTC)