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Type Syllabary
Spoken languages Japanese, Okinawan and Ainu
Time period ~800 A.D. to the present
Parent systems
→ Katakana
Sister systems Hiragana, Hentaigana
Unicode range U+30A0–U+30FF
ISO 15924 Kana
Note: This page may contain IPA phonetic symbols in Unicode.

Katakana (片仮名, カタカナ or かたかな ?) is a Japanese syllabary, one component of the Japanese writing system along with hiragana,[1] kanji, and in some cases the Latin alphabet. The word katakana means "fragmentary kana", as the katakana scripts are derived from components of more complex kanji.

Katakana are characterized by short, straight strokes and angular corners, and are the simplest of the Japanese scripts.[2]

There are two main systems of ordering katakana: the old-fashioned iroha ordering, and the more prevalent gojūon ordering.


[edit] Usage

In modern Japanese, katakana are most often used for transcription of words from foreign languages[3] (called gairaigo). For example, "television" is written terebi (テレビ ?). Similarly, katakana is usually used for country names, foreign places, and personal names. For example, America is written アメリカ Amerika (America also has its own kanji (ateji) Amerika (亜米利加 ?) or for short, Beikoku (米国 ?), which literally means "Rice Country").

Katakana are also used for onomatopoeia,[4] words used to represent sounds. For example, pinpon (ピンポン ?), the "ding-dong" sound of a doorbell, would usually be written in katakana. Also, katakana is used for words the writer wishes to emphasize.[5]

Technical and scientific terms, such as the names of animal and plant species and minerals, are also commonly written in katakana.

Katakana are also often, but not always, used for transcription of Japanese company names. For example Suzuki is written スズキ, and Toyota is written トヨタ. Katakana are also used for emphasis, especially on signs, advertisements, and hoardings (i.e., billboards). For example, it is common to see ココ koko ("here"), ゴミ gomi ("trash") or メガネ megane ("glasses"), and words to be emphasized in a sentence are also sometimes written in katakana, mirroring the European usage of italics.

Pre-World War II official documents mix katakana and kanji in the same way that hiragana and kanji are mixed in modern Japanese texts, that is, katakana were used for okurigana and particles such as wa or o.

Katakana were also used for telegrams in Japan before 1988, and for computer systems—before the introduction of multibyte characters—in the 1980s. Most computers in that era used katakana instead of kanji and/or hiragana for output.

Although words borrowed from ancient Chinese are usually written in kanji, loanwords from modern Chinese dialects which are borrowed directly rather than using the Sino-Japanese on'yomi readings, are often written in katakana. Examples include:

Japanese Rōmaji Meaning Chinese Source language
マージャン mājan mahjong 麻將 májiàng Mandarin
ウーロン茶 ūroncha Oolong tea 烏龍茶 wūlóng Mandarin
チャーハン chāhan fried rice 炒飯 chǎofàn Mandarin
チャーシュー chāshū barbecued pork 叉燒 cha siu Cantonese
シューマイ shūmai a form of dim sum 燒賣 siu maai Cantonese

The very common Chinese loanword ラーメン rāmen is rarely written with its kanji (拉麺).

There are rare cases where the opposite has occurred, with kanji forms created from words originally written in katakana. An example of this is コーヒー kōhī, ("coffee"), which can be alternatively written as 珈琲. This kanji usage is occasionally employed by coffee manufacturers or coffee shops for novelty.

Katakana are sometimes used instead of hiragana as furigana to give the pronunciation of a word written in Roman characters, or for a foreign word, which is written as kanji for the meaning, but intended to be pronounced as the original.

Katakana are also sometimes used to indicate words being spoken in a foreign or otherwise unusual accent, by foreign characters, robots, etc. For example, in a manga, the speech of a foreign character or a robot may be represented by, for example, コンニチワ konnichiwa ("hello") instead of the more usual hiragana こんにちは konnichiwa.

Katakana are also used to indicate the on'yomi (Chinese-derived readings) of a kanji in a kanji dictionary.

Some Japanese personal names are written in katakana. This was more common in the past, hence elderly women often have katakana names.

It is very common to write words with difficult-to-read kanji in katakana. This phenomenon is often seen with medical terminology. For example, in the word 皮膚科 hifuka ("dermatology"), the second kanji, , is considered difficult to read, and thus the word hifuka is commonly written 皮フ科 or ヒフ科, mixing kanji and katakana. Similarly, difficult-to-read kanji such as gan ('cancer') are often written in katakana or hiragana.

Katakana is also used for traditional musical notations, as in the Tozan-ryū of shakuhachi, and in sankyoku ensembles with koto, shamisen, and shakuhachi.

[edit] Orthography

Foreign phrases are sometimes transliterated with a space separating the words, or a middle dot called nakaguro (中黒 ?). When it is assumed that the reader knows the separate gairaigo words in the phrase, the middle dot is not used. For example, the phrase コンピュータゲーム konpyūta gēmu ("computer game") contains two well-known gairaigo, and therefore is not written with a middle dot.

Katakana spelling differs slightly from hiragana. While hiragana spells long vowels with the addition of a second vowel kana, katakana usually uses a vowel extender mark called a chōon. This is a short line following the direction of the text, horizontal for yokogaki (horizontal text), and vertical for tategaki (vertical text). It is generally used in foreign loanwords; long vowels in katakana words of Japanese origin are usually spelt as they would be in hiragana. There are exceptions such as ローソク(蝋燭 rōsoku "candle") or ケータイ(携帯 kētai "mobile phone").

A small tsu (ッ) called a sokuon indicates a geminate consonant, represented in rōmaji by the doubling of the following consonant. For example, "bed" is represented in katakana as ベッド (beddo). The sokuon may also be used to approximate a non-native sound; Bach is written バッハ (Bahha); Mach as マッハ (Mahha).

Foreign sounds may be challenging to express in Japanese, resulting in spellings such as Khrushchev (フルシチョフ Furushichofu), Ali Khamenei (アリー・ハーメネイー Arī Hāmeneī) or Itzhak Perlman (イツハク・パールマン Itsuhaku Pāruman or イツァーク・パールマン Itsāku Pāruman).

[edit] Table of katakana

This is a table of katakana together with their Hepburn romanization. Katakana with dakuten or handakuten follow the gojūon kana without them. Characters in red are obsolete, characters in green are modern additions. used mainly to represent sounds from other languages. Learning to read katakana is often complicated by the similarities between different characters. For example, shi シ and tsu ツ , as well as so ソ and n ン , look very similar in print except for the slant and stroke shape. (These differences in slant and shape are more prominent when written with an ink brush.)

vowels yōon
a i u e o ya yu yo
ka ki ku ke ko キャ kya キュ kyu キョ kyo
sa shi su se so シャ sha シュ shu ショ sho
ta chi tsu te to チャ cha チュ chu チョ cho
na ni nu ne no ニャ nya ニュ nyu ニョ nyo
ha hi fu he ho ヒャ hya ヒュ hyu ヒョ hyo
ma mi mu me mo ミャ mya ミュ myu ミョ myo
ya yi1 yu ye1 yo
ra ri ru re ro リャ rya リュ ryu リョ ryo
wa  wi wu1  we wo 2 ヰャ wya ヰュ wyu ヰョ wyo
ga gi gu ge go ギャ gya ギュ gyu ギョ gyo
za ji zu ze zo ジャ ja ジュ ju ジョ jo
da (ji) (dzu) de do ヂャ (ja) ヂュ (ju) ヂョ (jo)
ba bi bu be bo ビャ bya ビュ byu ビョ byo
pa pi pu pe po ピャ pya ピュ pyu ピョ pyo
(ユェ) イェ ye
(ヷ) ヴァ va (ヸ) ヴィ vi vu (ヹ) ヴェ ve (ヺ) ヴォ vo ヴャ vya ヴュ vyu ヴョ vyo
シェ she
ジェ je
チェ che
スィ si スャ sya スュ syu スョ syo
ズィ zi ズャ zya ズュ zyu ズョ zyo
ティ ti トゥ tu テャ tya テュ tyu テョ tyo
ディ di ドゥ du デャ dya デュ dyu デョ dyo
ツァ tsa ツィ tsi ツェ tse ツォ tso
ファ fa フィ fi ホゥ hu フェ fe フォ fo フャ fya フュ fyu フョ fyo
リェ rye
ウァ wa ウィ wi ウェ we ウォ wo ウャ wya ウュ wyu ウョ wyo
(クヮ) クァ kwa クィ kwi クゥ kwu クェ kwe クォ kwo
(グヮ) グァ gwa グィ gwi グゥ gwu グェ gwe グォ gwo
small ka small ke
1: These now-obsolete katakana appeared in some textbooks as early as 1873 ( Meiji 6), but never became widespread. [1] [2]
2: In modern times, ウォ ("wo") is used as the representation of a "wo" sound instead. The katakana version of the wo kana, ヲ, is primarily used, albeit rarely, to represent the particle を in katakana. The particle is commonly pronounced the same as the o kana.

[edit] History

Katakana was developed in the early Heian Period from parts of man'yōgana characters as a form of shorthand. For example, ka カ comes from the left side of ka 加 "increase". The table below shows the origins of each katakana: the red markings of the original Chinese character eventually became each corresponding symbol.

[edit] Japanese language instruction

Some instructors "introduce katakana after the students have learned to read and write sentences in hiragana without difficulty and know the rules."[6] Most students who have learned hiragana "do not have great difficulty in memorizing" katakana as well.[7]

Other instructors introduce the katakana first, because these are used with loanwords. This gives students a chance to practice reading and writing kana with meaningful words. This is the approach taken by Eleanor Harz Jorden. [3]

[edit] Computer encoding

In addition to fonts intended for Japanese text and Unicode catch-all fonts (like Arial Unicode MS), many fonts intended for Chinese text also include katakana (such as MS Song).

Katakana have two forms of encoding, halfwidth hankaku (半角 ?) and fullwidth zenkaku (全角 ?). The halfwidth forms come from JIS X 0201 originally. This includes halfwidth katakana in right side area of ASCII. That is, most halfwidth katakana could be represented by one byte each. In the late 1970s, two-byte character sets such as JIS X 0208 were introduced to represent hiragana, kanji, and other characters. JIS_X_0208 has its own katakana area independently of one-byte character set such as JIS_X_0201. katakana of JIS_X_0208 takes two-byte (at least), so many (especially old) devices output these katakana as two-byte-width. This is why katakana of JIS_X_0201 is called halfwidth and JIS_X_0208, fullwidth. Therefore, most encodings have no halfwidth hiragana.

Although often said to be obsolete, in fact the halfwidth katakana are still used in many systems and encodings. For example, the titles of mini discs can only be entered in ASCII or halfwidth katakana, and halfwidth katakana were commonly used in computerized cash register displays, on shop receipts, and Japanese digital television and DVD subtitles. Several popular Japanese encodings such as EUC-JP, Unicode and Shift-JIS have halfwidth katakana code as well as fullwidth. By contrast, ISO-2022-JP has no halfwidth katakana, and is mainly used over SMTP and NNTP. Halfwidth katakana are commonly used to save memory space.

[edit] Unicode

In Unicode, fullwidth katakana occupy code points U+30A0 to U+30FF [4]:

    0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F

Encoded in this block along with the katakana are the nakaguro word separation middle dot, the chōon vowel extender, the katakana iteration marks, and a ligature of コト sometimes used in vertical writing.

Halfwidth equivalents to the fullwidth katakana also exist. These are encoded within the Halfwidth and Fullwidth Forms block (U+FF00–U+FFEF) [5], starting at U+FF65 and ending at U+FF9F (characters U+FF61–U+FF64 are halfwidth punctuation marks):

    0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
FF7   ソ

This block also includes the halfwidth dakuten and handakuten. The fullwidth versions of these characters are found in the hiragana block.

Code points 32D0 to 32FE list circled katakana. A circled ン (n) is not included.

    0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F

[edit] Katakana uses in non-Japanese languages

[edit] Ainu

Katakana is sometimes used to write the Ainu language. In Ainu language katakana usage, the consonant that comes at the end of a syllable is represented by a small version of a katakana that corresponds to that final consonant and with an arbitrary vowel. For instance "up" is represented by ウㇷ゚ (ウu followed by small pu). Ainu also requires three additional sounds, represented by セ゜ ([tse]), ツ゜ ([tu̜]) and ト゜ ([tu̜]). In Unicode, the Katakana Phonetic Extensions block (U+31F0–U+31FF) [6] exists for Ainu language support. These characters are used mainly for the Ainu language only:

    0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
31F   ㇰ() ㇱ() ㇲ() ㇳ() ㇴ() ㇵ() ㇶ() ㇷ() ㇸ() ㇹ() ㇺ() ㇻ() ㇼ() ㇽ() ㇾ() ㇿ()

[edit] Taiwanese

Taiwanese kana (タイ ヲァヌ ギイ カア ビェン) is a katakana-based writing system once used to write Holo Taiwanese, when Taiwan was ruled by Japan. It functioned as a phonetic guide to hanzi, much like furigana in Japanese or Zhuyin fuhao in Chinese. There were similar systems for other languages in Taiwan as well, including Hakka and Formosan languages.

Unlike Japanese or Ainu, Taiwanese kana are used similarly to the Zhùyīn fúhào characters, with kana serving as initials, vowel medials and consonant finals, marked with tonal marks. A dot below the initial kana represented aspirated consonants, and チ, ツ, サ, セ, ソ, ウ and オ with a superpositional bar represented sounds found only in Taiwanese.

[edit] Example transcriptions of katakana and foreign languages

[edit] Medicine

Katakana Rōmaji Source word
ビタミン, ヴィタミン bitamin, Vitamin vitamin (German)
ミネラル mineraru mineral (English)
カルシウム karushiumu calcium (Latin)
ホルモン horumon hormon (German)

[edit] Computing

Katakana Rōmaji Source word Kanji and other words
マウス mausu mouse (English)
キーボード kībōdo keyboard (English)
ディスプレイ disupurei display (English) 画面 gamen
ポインタ, ポインター pointa, pointā pointer (English)
プログラミング puroguramingu programming (English)
ソフトウェア sofutowea software (English)
ハードウェア hādowea hardware (English)
オペレーティング・システム, オペレイティング・システム operētingu shisutemu, opereitingu shisutemu operating system (English) 基本ソフト kihonsofuto; OS ōesu
インターネット intānetto Internet (English)
ウェブ webu Web (English)

[edit] Personal names

from English names
Katakana Rōmaji Source name
ジョン jon John (English)
ジョージ jōji George (English)
メアリー or メリー mearī, merī Mary (English)
マイケル or マイクル maikeru, maikuru Michael (English)
ピーター pītā Peter (English)
スコット sukotto Scott (English)
from French names
Katakana Rōmaji Source name
マリー marī Marie (French)
ミシェル misheru Michel (French)
from German names
Katakana Rōmaji Source name
マリア maria Maria (German)
ミハエル, ミヒャエル mihaeru, mihyaeru Michael (German)

[edit] Regions

Katakana Rōmaji Source name Kanji
アフリカ afurika Africa (English) 阿弗利加 Afurika
アメリカ amerika America (English) 亜米利加 Amerika
アジア ajia Asia (English) 亜細亜 Ajia
ヨーロッパ yōroppa Europa (Portuguese) 欧羅巴 Yōroppa
欧州 Ōshū
ラテンアメリカ raten amerika Latin America (English) 中南米 Chūnanbei
オセアニア oseania Oceania (English) 大洋州 Taiyōshū

[edit] Nations

Katakana Rōmaji Source name English name
アルゼンチン aruzenchin Argentina (English) Argentina
ブラジル burajiru Brasil (Portuguese) Brazil
ブルガリア burugaria България, Balgariya (Bulgarian) Bulgaria
カナダ kanada Canada (English) Canada
チェコ cheko Česko (Czech) Czech Republic
イギリス igirisu Inglês (Portuguese) England
フィンランド finrando Finland (English) Finland
フランス furansu France (French) France
ドイツ doitsu Deutschland (German) Germany
オランダ oranda Holanda (Portuguese) Holland (The Netherlands)
インド indo India (English) India
インドネシア indoneshia Indonesia (Indonesian) Indonesia
アイルランド airurando Ireland (English) Ireland
イタリア itaria Italia (Italian) Italy
リトアニア ritoania Lithuania (English) Lithuania
マレーシア marēshia Malaysia (Malay) Malaysia
メキシコ mekishiko Mexico (English) Mexico
フィリピン firipin Filipinas (Spanish) Philippines
ポーランド pōrando Poland (English) Poland
ポルトガル porutogaru Portugal (Portuguese) Portugal
ルーマニア rūmania România (Romanian) Romania
ロシア roshia Росси́я, Rossiya (Russian) Russia
シンガポール shingapōru Singapore (English) Singapore

[edit] Cities

Katakana Rōmaji Source name English name
ベルファスト berufasuto Belfast (English) Belfast
ベルリン berurin Berlin (German) Berlin
ブカレスト bukaresuto Bucharest (English) Bucharest
ブエノスアイレス buenosu airesu Buenos Aires (Spanish) Buenos Aires
シカゴ shikago Chicago (English) Chicago
ハノイ hanoi Hà Nội (Vietnamese) Hanoi
ホンコン honkon 香港 (Cantonese) Hong Kong
リスボン risubon Lisbon (English) Lisbon
ロンドン rondon London (English) London
ロサンゼルス rosanzerusu Los Angeles (Spanish) Los Angeles
マドリッド madoriddo Madrid (Spanish) Madrid
マニラ manira Manila (Spanish),(Tagalog) Manila
モスクワ mosukuwa Москва, Moskva (Russian) Moscow
ニューヨーク nyū yōku New York (English) New York
パリ pari Paris (French) Paris
プラハ puraha Praha (Czech) Prague
ローマ rōma Roma (Italian) Rome
サンフランシスコ sanfuranshisuko San Francisco (Spanish) San Francisco
シアトル shiatoru Seattle (English) Seattle
シドニー shidonī Sydney (English) Sydney
トロント toronto Toronto (English) Toronto
ワシントン washinton Washington (English) Washington

[edit] References

  1. ^ Roy Andrew Miller, A Japanese Reader: Graded Lessons in the Modern Language, Rutland, Vermont: Charles E. Tuttle Company, Tokyo, Japan (1966), p. 28, Lesson 7 : Katakana : a—no. "Side by side with hiragana, modern Japanese writing makes use of another complete set of similar symbols called the katakana."
  2. ^ Miller, p. 28. "The katana symbols, rather simpler, more angular and abrupt in their line than the hiragana..."
  3. ^ Yookoso! An Invitation to Contemporary Japanese 1st edition McGraw-Hill 1993, page 29 "The Japanese Writing System (2) Katakana"
  4. ^ Yookoso! An Invitation to Contemporary Japanese 1st edition McGraw-Hill 1993, page 29 "The Japanese Writing System (2) Katakana"
  5. ^ Yookoso! An Invitation to Contemporary Japanese 1st edition McGraw-Hill 1993, page 29 "The Japanese Writing System (2) Katakana"
  6. ^ Mutsuko Endo Simon, A Practical Guide for Teachers of Elementary Japanese, Center for Japanese Studies, the University of Michigan (1984) p. 36, 3.3 Katakana
  7. ^ Simon, p. 36

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

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