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Japanese language writing system

Japanese writing system is a combination of Kanji and Kana. Nowadays Romaji is also included in this.

Kanji is originally Chinese characters adopted by Japanese several centuries ago. Even though, they are Chinese characters, a Kanji (or a compound Kanji word), pronounced by Japanese is distinctively different from Chinese pronounciation (with exception to few characters or compound Kanji word).

Kana is a set of written symbols that represent the syllables. There are two types of Kana: Hiragana and Katakana.

Hiragana is a Japanese syllabary primarily used for writing native Japanese words or naturalised Japanese words and grammatical elements.

Katakana is a Japanese syllabary primarily used for writing foreign words, names, loan words (called as Gairaigo in Japanese) and sometimes for emphasis.

The above three: Kanji, Hiragana and Katakana are the key Japanese language writing system.

Others include Romaji and Furigana.

Romaji writing system is simple "romanization of Japanese" using Roman alphabet to write the Japanese language. Romaji literally is a combo of two words "Roma" and "Ji". Roma means "Roman" and Ji means "letters".

Furigana writing system is used in modern publications (print and digital). It is a reading aid, consisting of small text sized Kana representation on top of Kanji words. Furigana style of writing characters is sometimes called as "Ruby Characters". "Ruby" is actually name of a typeface that has a height of 5.5 points. This was introduced by British typographers and used for adding annotations in printed documents.

You can check out more details on Japanese language writing system from below links:

In olden days, Japanese was written from right to left and sometimes vertically. Writing Japanese vertically is called "Tategaki" and writing horizontally is called "Yokogaki".

In the above words "gaki" means "to write". "Tate" means "Vertical" and "Yoko" means "Horizontal". Hence "Tategaki" means "Vertical writing" and "Yokogaki" means "Horizontal writing".

TIPS for learning: [Browse All tips]
Always take a Japanese word and understand how they split up. With this you can understand and remember more words when similar compound word comes up. For example, In the above words, Tategaki and Yokogaki, the sub-word "gaki" is common. Understanding "gaki" in one word will help in understanding another word that comes with "gaki".

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