Katakana vs. Hiragana
What is Difference between Katakana and Hiragana? The Japanese language is beautiful and complicated. There are three major writing systems as well as many subsystems. The Kanji system is the oldest and uses Chinese characters that express complete words or phrases.
Difference between Katakana and Hiragana
The Romaki system is the most recent and uses the Roman alphabet to spell Japanese and foreign words. In the middle is the Kana system, a syllabic form of writing that has four different subsystems. All forms of writing Kana 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 the hiragana are two of the Kana writing systems, each one completely Japanese but different in many ways.
Origins of Hiragana and Katakana
The Hiragana was introduced to Japan in the fifth century after Christ. It comes from a variation of Chinese cursive calligraphy. Because the Kanji form of writing has been available to educated men for centuries, the simplest form of hiragana was designed for women’s writing.
Originally the Katakana system was developed around a thousand years ago. It also comes from truncated versions of Chinese characters but not from a form of Chinese calligraphy. Until the opening of Japan in 1850, the katakana was maintained and regulated for a utilitarian function.
Current uses of Hiragana and Katakana
The hiragana is the most popular form of the Kana writing system. It is used in most personal and informal correspondence as well as in literature. However, in a formal script, words are used that have no equivalent in the Kanji system or in Kanji characters that are very difficult for the reader to understand.
The katakana system is a mixture of hiragana and Kanji. However, its most popular use is for the translation of foreign words into the Japanese language. This does not include old words borrowed from Chinese but words that have been introduced since the 19th century such as television or Bach. Because of this, it is often the first writing system that foreign students use when they learn Japanese. It can also be used to emphasize, especially in advertising, as well as the way in which italics are used in the English language.
Appearance of Hiragana and Katakana
Because the hiragana was originally derived from Chinese cursive calligraphy, most of the characters are round and can be completed in one or two steps. The katakana is much more angular than the hiragana. One of the main reasons that it is not so popular is because it is not so elegant.
- There are three writing systems in Japanese: Chinese characters (Kanji), Japanese syllabary (kana) and modern Latin letters (romaji).
- Hiragana and katakana are two forms of the kana system.
- The hiragana is older than the katakana.
- Hiragana is traditionally used for literature and personal writing while katakana is used for the translation of foreign words.
- The hiragana is a more elegant form of writing while the katakana is very angular.