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Writing

One of the most interesting thing about Japanese is surely the script. There are three different ones: kanji, hiragana and katakana. Also, there is a transliteration of Japanese to the Roman alphabet called romaji.

The first three scripts are in a mixed everyday use. I.e., in one sentence there can be glyphs of all three writings.

Kanji is the set of ideographic characters that are borrowed from Chinese. Hiragana and katakana are syllabic writings (the symbols represent syllables, which build up world).  For more information, please click the links.

Very short history of the Japanese script

Until the 3. century AD, the Japanese didn't have any mode of writing. Then they adapted the Chinese, and named it "kan-ji", the writing from the Kan dynasty of China.

Because, the kanji has a lot of different glyphs for every syllable, the hiragana and katakana came to be, where every syllable has one representation (with the exception of "ji" and "zu"). Hiragana was the women's way of writing. It was indeed used by females, because it was considered that kanji is too complex for them. Katakana was introduced because of the need to take notes fast, so it's was a way of shorthand writing (stenography).

In time, the use of these writings changed, so hiragana is no longer used only by women but it is the entry level Japanese alphabet, and katakana is mostly used to write foreign words and loan words.

 

Kanji flashcards
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