Hiragana and katakana are the
syllabic Japanese scripts, the so called kana. Each syllable is
represented uniquely with one character or a combination of
two characters (e.g. kyu, see the extended chart). In Kanji
many glyphs can have the same pronunciation, while in the kana
every character has different pronunciation. Unlike Kanji,
the characters don't have any meaning. Each basic set contains
46 characters. With each of the scripts, all sounds in the
Japanese language can be expressed.
Both of the kana are descendants
of ancient Chinese writing.
Historically it was considered
to be the writing of women. One of the classic works of Japanese
literature, The Tale of Genji, was written in this script by
the female author Murasaki Shikibu in the 11th century.
Today it is used to write:
Every Japanese word can be written with hiragana,
but using it instead of kanji is considered to be lack of education.
It is the first script that Japanese children learn in school.
The basic hiragana chart:
Beside the basic signs, there
are the derived and the composed. From the syllables starting
with k the ones starting with g are derived in the following
likewise h transforms to b and
p; t transforms to d:
Finally there are the hiragana
that are composed of two others like:
Here you can find the full
list of hiragana.
This form of writing consists
of straight strokes with sharp corners unlike the smooth hiragana.
Katakana is used when writing:
foreign names like "Paris"
company names, like "toyota", "yamaha"
foreign words in Japanese "tv-set", "bus"
newly created words, like "karaoke"
The basic katakana chart:
can find the full list