Katakana

The sounds that make up the current Japanese Katakana character set were developed to differentiate between native words and those adopted from a foreign culture.  The 46 characters are displayed in the table below.

Place the mouse cursor over a character to display the English letters representing the character (called romaji) in the RED BOX and the actual pronunciation of the character in the YELLOW BOX.

Katakana Character Set
daku-on are the sounds correpsonding to g, z, d and b.  This is also referred to as daku-ten or nigori-ten referring to the two small lines written in the upper right portion of the character.  If when spelling a word using these types of characters, the verbal communication isn’t correctly heard, the speaker will refer to the original Katakana character name followed by the words “ten-ten”. For example, if “Bill” is referred to in a conversation, the listener might confirm the person’s name by referring to the character “hi” followed by the word “ten-ten”, to distinguish between the name “Phil”.  handaku-on corresponds to the sound p.  This is also referred to as handaku-ten or maru referring to the small circle written in the upper right portion of the character.

Place the mouse cursor over a character to display the English letters representing the character (called romaji) in the RED BOX and the actual pronunciation of the character in the YELLOW BOX.

Katakana (daku-on and handaku-on characters)

Place the mouse cursor over a character to display the English letters representing the character (called romaji) in the RED BOX and the actual pronunciation of the character in the YELLOW BOX.


yō-on are the sounds correpsonding to the use of ャ, ュ and ョ as a small character proceeding a character as shown in the table below.  These sounds can be combined with the soku-on mark denoted by a small version of ツ, which looks like ッ.  The soku-on character extends the preceeding character sound.  Example: キッ or when combined with yō-on, キャッ.
Katakana (yō-on characters)
リャ ミャ ヒャ ニャ チャ シャ キャ
リュ ミュ ヒュ ニュ チュ シュ キュ
リョ ミョ ヒョ ニョ チョ ショ キョ
The Katakana character set provides additional characters to accommodate non-native words with sounds not found in native Japanese conversation.  These include smaller versions of ア, イ, ウ, エ and オ (written as ァ, ィ, ゥ, ェ and ォ.)  These smaller versions of their originating characters are written like the yō-on characters to simulate non-native foreign words.  For example:
Character Example Character Representation
sofa ソファー
Fenian フィニア
web site ウェブサイト
Delaware デラウェア
form フォーム
Additional characters used in written Japanese include ヵ used to replace the similiarly functional soku-on character (for example, 一ヵ月, which means one month) and ヴ used to represent a mix of the “vi” and “be” sound (for example, used to spell the English name “Dave” as デーヴェ.)




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