I'd like to write about basic Japanese lessons in English.
I hope it will increase your Japanese knowledges and improve my English writing at the same time.
If you have any questions and if you found any funny English, please give me a message via comment box.

Today, let's discuss about Japanese Kana system.

The Japanesesentense which means "This blog is usually written in Japanese." is:

There are three characters in this sentence.

"この", "は", "で", and "かれています" are Hiragana.
"ブログ" is Katakana (which means "blog").
"日本語" and "書" are Kanji (which mean "Japanese" and "write").

Maybe you can distinguish the difference from its looks.
The Japanese sentence which means "This computer is made in Taiwan." is:


"この", "は" and "です" are Hiragana.
"コンピューター" is Katakana (which means "computer".)
"台湾製" is Kanji (which means "made in Taiwan".)

Hiranaga is more curvy than katakana.
Katakana is made by straight lines.
 こ の は <=Hiragana
 ブ ロ グ <=Katakana

And generally, Kanji is more complicated than Kana (Hiragana and Katakana).
 日 本 語 <=Kanji

Kana is letters or phonetic characters, which describes syllables in Japanese.

You pronounce Hiragana こ as KO and の as NO.
So you could see how to pronounce "この".
You pronounce it as "KONO".

Regarding Katakana, ブ is BU, ロ is RO, and グ is GU.
So you pronounce ブログ as BUROGU.
It is Japanese writing to describe the English word "blog".
Yes, I know BUROGU and blog is somewhat different things but they are similar enough for Japanese :)

Kanji is character or ideographic character which decscibes a meaning.
日本語 is pronounced as "NIHONGO" and means "Japanese (language)".

Katakana and Hiragana are the portions of Kana.
Kana (仮名) is a old Japanese which means "fake name".
In this context, the word "name" means "character".

And in the old time Japanese, Kanji (漢字, Han characters) are called as Mana.
Mana (真名) is another old Japanese which means "true name".

Why Kana is fake and Mana is true?
The root of the naming is that Kana is created from Kanji.

The original meaning of the word Hiragana (平仮名) is "Easy fake name".
The hiragana い (i syllable) is easy form of the Kanji 以.
The hiragana ろ (ro syllable) is easy form of the Kanji 呂.
If you write 以 very fast with a writing brush, it will be looked as い.

The original meaning of the word Katakana (片仮名) is "partial fake name".
The hiragana イ (i syllable) is a part of the Kanji 伊 (left radical).
The hiragana ロ (ro syllable) is a part of the Kanji 呂 (top / bottom radical).

In ancient time, Japanese people don't have the characters / letters.
So they could not write down the words and they just speak the words and remember in their brains.
But we imported Kanji from China so they learned how to write.

The old time (about A.D.500) Japanese used to write Chinese as the written language.
But they found that they could use the Kanji to write down the Japanese sound.

 憶良等者 今者將罷 子將哭 其彼母毛 吾乎將待曽

This is one of the most famous Japanese poem.
The poem is all written in Kanji but this is not written in Chinese.
Yamanoueno Okura (山上憶良), the author of this poem used Kanji to describe the sound of Japanese.
This usage of Kanji is out of the Chinese way, so they called Kana (fake name -- fake Kanji usage to describe Japanese).
This type of Kana (Kana in Kanji forms) are now called as Manyogana (万葉仮名).

Manyogana is too complecated to write fast.
So they made Hiragana and Katakana out of them.

(to be continued)

Subscribe with livedoor Reader

Add to Google