Katakana カタカナ

第5課: Kana II: Katakana  仮名②・片仮名

Katakana is the neglected big brother of Hiragana. Both Kana systems are used together to write out the same moraic sound combinations but in different semantic situations. First, this lesson will focus on learning the many symbols that exist in Katakana. 

Katakana カタカナ

The first set of Katakana symbols that we will study are those found in the Gojūonzu (Table of 50 Sounds), which is arranged in the same way as it is for Hiragana. Pay attention to the stroke orders shown in the chart, and try to emulate them in your writing as best as possible to make your writing as legible as possible. 

■The Characters ヰ & ヱ
Due to the gradual disappearance of the consonant /w/, both the Katakana symbols for /wi/ ヰ and /we/ ヱ are rarely used and are currently only seen occasionally in personal names and place names; however, in older literature written prior to 1945, they will be seen with greater frequency. When you encounter these symbols, they are to be pronounced as [i] and [e] respectively.

■The Character ヲ

The symbol for /wo/ is usually pronounced as [o], but there are still many speakers who pronounce it as [wo], which is the traditional pronunciation. ヲ is not as frequently used as を, but it is not obsolete. 

■The Character ン

The moraic consonant /N/ is represented with ン regardless of how it is pronounced, further indicating how the consonant is deemed as one unit with several iterations rather than as several consonants. One thing that must be noted is that in Standard Japanese, ン is always either in word-medial or word-final position but never in word-initial position. 

General Handwriting Rules  書き順の基本的なルール

1. Write strokes from top to bottom and left to right.
2. Horizontal strokes come before vertical strokes.  
3. Take especial note to the stroke orders of シ and ツ.  For シ, its third stroke is irregularly written from the bottom upward, which is how you can distinguish it from ツ, which is written regularly.
4. Also take note of the stroke orders of ソ and ン. For ン, its second stroke is irregularly written from the bottom upward, which is how you can distinguish it from ソ, which is written regularly.
5. When there are horizontal strokes that span the length of the symbol, those strokes aren’t first from top to bottom regardless if other strokes may start higher up. Take キ as an example.

Examples of Katakana  「カタカナ」の例

The best way to learn how to read Hiragana is by practicing with actual Japanese words written in it. Below is a list of 60 common words written without romanization. Utilize the chart above to look up any symbol that you don’t know how to read. 

アフリカ Africa トマト Tomato アメリカ America モスクワ
 アクセス access レタスlettuce カクテル cocktail ホテル hotel
 エアコン air conditioner カラオケ karaoke ハンカチ handkerchief タオル towel
 オンライン online アルミ aluminum ミルク milk センチ centimeter
 オフライン offline イタリア Italy ナイフ knife クラス class
 カステラ sponge cake フランス France レモンlemon システム system
 ホチキス stapler メキシコ Mexico ロシア Russia トヨタ Toyota
 マラソン marathonノルマ quota コロナ corona レストラン restaurant
 コメント comment リンク link リクエスト request シナリオ scenario
 サイレン siren サンタ Santa コアラ koala トン ton
 テニス tennis イヤホン earbud ストレスstress マイナス minus
 クリア clear ケアcare コスト cost コンテンツ content
 センス sense ノウハウ know-how メンタル mental state モラル morals
 リアル real レアrare アイロン iron アカウント account
アクセント  accent カラフル colorful クリスマス Christmas コンマ comma

The Diacritics ゛ & ゜ 濁点・半濁点 

The same diacritics are used in Katakana as in Hiragana.  When 「゛」 is attached to an unvoiced consonant Kana, the Kana becomes pronounced as the voiced equivalent (ex. か = /ka/, が= /ga/). As for 「゜」, it attaches to /h/ Kana to represent /p/. 

※When writing these characters, you follow the same stroke orders as before but you add the diacritics at the very end. 
※If you recall from Lesson 2, you will realize that ぢ and づ are, in fact, the Hiragana for /dji/ and /dzu/ respectively, but they are rendered in this chart as [ji] and [zu], reflecting the fact that they are pronounced the same way as じ and ず respectively. 

※The Japanese name for 「゛」 is だくてん. It’s also colloquially known as てんてん or にごり.
※The Japanese name for 「゜」is はんだくてん.  

Examples of Words with Diacritics 濁点・半濁点を使った単語の例

アドバイス  advice ラジオradio イギリスEngland インドIndia
 ポケモン Pokemon イベントevent エプロンapron オランダHolland/Netherlands
 エゴego エジプトEgypt カジノcasino ガス gas
 ギフトgift クラゲjellyfish モンゴルMongolia ゴルフ golf
ピンクpink サイズsize サンダル sandal ドル dollar
ゼロzero ゾンビzombie ダイヤモンド diamond タイペイ Taipei
 ベルリンBerlin ロンドンLondon フライパン frying pan パンダ panda
 テレビTV ズボンpantsマクドナルド McDonald’s バスケ basketball
 ビルbuilding ピザpizza メダル medal ブラウザ browser
    ゴミtrash ピアノpiano ビタミン vitamin バスbus
 パンbread バナナbanana  デジカメ digital camera パチンコpachinko
 ドアdoor ビデオvideoパソコン personal computer セレブcelebrity
 カナダCanada プレゼントpresent コンビニconvenience store ダンスdance
 ジムgym シビアsevere タバコ tobacco タピオカtapioca
 ダムdam チヂミbuchimgae デバイスdeviceドラマdrama

Palatal Sounds in Katakana 拗音の片仮名

Palatal sounds are represented in Katakana by following a /i/-sound symbol with a small-sized /y/-sound symbol. These small-sized /y/-sound Katakana are ャ, ュ, and ョ, and they make the following combinations.

※Just as before, there are two ways to write [ja], [ju], and [jo], but remember that those written with ヂ correspond to the consonant /dj/ and those written with ジ correspond to the consonant /j/. 

Example Words with Palatal Sounds  拗音を使った単語の例

カジュアルcasual カリキュラムcurriculum キャベツcabbage
 キャンセルcancel ギャンブルgamble シャツshirt
 シャンデリア chandelier ジャンプjump ジョギングjogging
 チャイムchime チャンネルchannel パジャマpajamas
 マンション condominium ピュアpure ジャズjazz
 ピョンヤン Pyeongyang チャンピオンchampion ギクシャクawkwardness
 ミュンヘンMunich ジュニアjunior ジャンルgenre
 チュニジアTunisia チャンピオンchampion ギャングgang

Additional Sound Katakana 特殊音の片仮名

The Japanese mora inventory has gradually expanded to accommodate the influx of loanwords from other languages. As a result, ways to write out these sounds in Kana needed to be created. Katakana is most known for its use in transcribing such loanwords, but it is not limited to this, nor is it a set rule to have to write loanwords in Katakana. So for the glyphs introduced below, you can mirror them in Hiragana at well, but it will be very unlikely that you’ll ever see them not written in Katakana. 

  +/a/  +/i/  +/u/  +/e/  +/o/
 /kw/+ クァ・クヮ クェ クォ
/gw/+ グァ・グヮ グェ グォ
/s/+ スィ
/z/+ ズィ
/sh/+ シェ
/j/+ ジェ
  /t/+ ティ トゥ
/ch/+ チェ
 /ts/+ ツァ ツィ ツェ ツォ
 /ty/+ テュ
 /d/+ ディ ドゥ
/dy/+ デュ
/f/+ ファ フィ フェ フォ
/w/+ ウィ ウェ ウォ
 /y/+ イェ
/v/+* ヴァ ヴィ・ヸ ヴ ヴェ・ヹ ヴォ・ヺ

※Loanwords exhibit sounds that would otherwise not be treated as (separate) consonants, but some glyphs may not be pronounced as intended. For instance, although there are glyphs for /si/ and /zi/, they would still be pronounced as [shi] and [ji] respectively by most speakers.

※To create these glyphs, additional small kana (sutegana) have been invented involving vowels and /w/-sound Kana.

※Additional w-sounds and y-sounds are usually pronounced broken up as if they were written with full-sized characters. For instance, kiwi can either be pronounced as kiui キウイ or kiwi キウィ.

※/v/ is not a native sound in Japanese. Although younger speakers may try to pronounce loanwords with /v/ as [v], most speakers pronounce it as [b] as it is the standard pronunciation. In older texts, /v/ was represented by adding the ゛diacritic to a /w/-sound Kana. Nowadays, the sounds are represented by following ヴ with the appropriate small-sized vowel Kana. 

Words with Additional Sounds   特殊音の入った単語

ウォン the Korean won シェフchef チェス chess
 ウェブサイト websiteネガティヴ*ネガティブnegative ディスクdisc
ネイティヴ *ネイティブnative プレッツェルpretzelチェコCzech
 ディスコdisco ファンfan カフェcafe
 ファイルfile フェイクfake フォンデュfondue
 フィリピンPhillipinesイェルサレムJerusalem フォントfont
 ハイウェイhighwayフィルムfilm フィギュアfigure
マニフェストmanifestoウィキペディアWikipediaシェイクスピア Shakespeare
 ファミレスfamily restaurantクォリティqualityツェツェバエTsetes fly
 ファイトfighting spirit デュエットduetおとっつぁん*father

※Any word with a /v/-sound Kana can be rewritten with a /b/-sound Kana. The choice is yours. 

※おとっつぁん is an example of additional sounds being written in Hiragana, and it is also an example of these sounds being used outside of loanwords. In fact, various dialects and colloquial expressions of native origin utilize sounds outside the traditional set of Kana symbols. 

Long Consonants with Small “tsu” 長子音を示す促音「ッ」

Long consonants are represented by the small “tsu” (sokuon 促音), which in Katakana is ッ. It is very important not to confuse it with a full-sized ツ as they are not pronounced the same.

マットmat アップup(load)/(close-)up  ガッツgutz クリックclick
ロボットrobot エチケット  etiquette キャップcap コップ glass
 アグレッシブ aggressive カップルcupple ギャップgap カップcup

To be Continued 次章につづく

Now that we have learned all the basic symbols of Hiragana and Katakana,  we will next focus on orthographical rules which govern how to use them. After that, we will learn about Kanji, concluding our coverage on the basics of Japanese writing.