Difference Between Katakana and Hiragana
Katakana vs Hiragana
The Japanese language is both beautiful and complex. There are three major systems of writing, as well as many sub-systems. The Kanji system is the most ancient and employs Chinese characters that express entire words or phrases. The Romaji system is the most recent; it uses the Roman alphabet to spell out both Japanese and foreign words. In the middle is the Kana system of writing, a syllabic form of writing that has four different sub-systems. All forms of Kana writing employs a single character for a single sound or diphthong and can be read phonetically regardless of whether the reader has any understanding of the meaning. The katakana and hiragana are two of the Kana systems of writing, each completely Japanese, but also differing in many respects.
Origins of Hiragana and Katakana
Hiragana ‘“ was first introduced into Japan in the fifth century AD. It comes from a variation of the cursive script of Chinese calligraphy. Because the Kanji form of writing had been available to learned men for centuries, the more simplistic hiragana was initially scorned as women’s writing.
Katakana ‘“ originally developed about one thousand years ago as a form of shorthand. It too comes from truncated versions of Chinese characters but not from a prized form of Chinese calligraphy. Until the opening of Japan in the 1850s, katakana was kept regulated to this utilitarian function.
Uses of Hiragana and Katakana Today
Hiragana ‘“ is the most popular form of the Kana writing system. It is used for most personal and informal correspondence as well as in most literature. However, even in formal writing, it is used for words that have no Kanji equivalent or whose Kanji characters are too difficult for the reader to understand.
Katakana ‘“ is interspersed with hiragana and Kanji. However, it is most popularly used for the transliteration of foreign words into the Japanese language. This does not include ancient Chinese loan words, but rather words that been introduced since the nineteenth century such as television or Bach. Because of this, it is often the first writing system that foreigners use when studying Japanese. It can also be used for emphasis, especially in advertising, the way that italics are used in the English language.
The Look of Hiragana and Katakana
Hiragana ‘“ since it was originally derived from Chinese cursive calligraphy, most hiragana characters are rounded and can be completed in one or two strokes.
Katakana ‘“ is much more angular than hiragana. One of the reasons it is not as popular is because of its inelegance.
1. There are three writing systems in Japan: Chinese characters (Kanji), a Japanese syllabary (Kana), and modern Latin letters (Romaji).
2. Hiragana and katakana are both forms of the Kana system.
3. Hiragana is more ancient than katakana.
4. Hiragana has been traditionally used for literature and personal writing whereas katakana is used for shorthand and transliterating foreign words.
5. Hiragana is a more elegant form of writing while katakana is very angular and stark.
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