Katakana and Hiragana are essentially two groups of Japanese alphabets. They are syllabaries, meaning that they are set of alphabets that represent the syllables of various words.
This is a popular method that helps people know how to pronounce different words and letters. However, there are several differences between the two groups.
Katakana vs Hiragana
The difference between Katakana and Hiragana is that Katakana has its roots in regular scripts (kaisho) of Chinese characters and is used for words taken from the Chinese or Korean languages whereas Hiragana has its roots in a cursive script and is used for words that have a Japanese origin.
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Katakana is written in a regular script that makes it appear sharp and block-like. It is used for words that are foreign, meaning that they have been taken from other languages.
This alphabet set is used to bring about an effect of emphasis and sometimes even for a stylish appearance. However, it is generally avoided in formal settings.
Meanwhile, Hiragana is written in a cursive script (sosho) which makes it appear ‘curly’, just like English Cursive makes words look slightly slanted and curly. It is used for native words that have their origins in the Japanese language.
This is the most common and simplest way of writing things down in Japanese. It is also very popular in formal settings.
|Parameters of Comparison||Katakana||Hiragana|
|Meaning||It is a syllabary that is used for foreign words taken largely from the Chinese and Korean languages.||It is a syllabary that is used for native words that have their origins in the Japanese language.|
|Script||It is written in regular scripts (kaisho).||It is written in cursive scripts (sosho).|
|Appearance||It has a sharp and block-like appearance.||It has a slanted and curly appearance.|
|Uses||It is used to give stylish effects and emphasis but is not used in formal settings.||It is the most simple and common way of writing and is extensively used in formal settings.|
|Notation||It is very commonly used as a phonetic notation.||It is very commonly used as a grammar notation.|
What is Katakana?
Katakana is a set of alphabets that are used in the Japanese language, for words that are taken from foreign languages. These largely include words from the Chinese, Korean, and even English language.
However, they are generally only used informally, for stylish effects and emphasis. They are not used at all in formal settings.
Regardless, they are written in regular scripts, which are termed as Kaisho. These have a sharp and block-like appearance. The alphabets are made using short and straight strokes that have defined corners.
Due to this, most people use this for artistic purposes.
Regardless, the Katakana syllabary is generally used for phonetic notations. This means that it is used to teach how a word should be pronounced. Especially those of foreign languages.
There is always a lot of confusion when scientific words, foods and company names are derived from other languages. In such a situation, Katakana proves to be helpful.
The writing system is suspected to have been used since 800 CE. It was probably used by Buddhist monks of that time who lived in Nara. Over time, several languages adopted it.
Some of these include Ainu Taiwanese Hokkien, Ryukyuan, and Palauan. Nowadays, it is common teaching for those who study the Japanese language.
What is Hiragana?
Hiragana is another set of alphabets that create an entire writing system together. However, what makes them different from Katakana is that these alphabets are only used for native Japanese words.
This is the most commonly used syllabary in Japan and is used for formal writing. This writing system is written in cursive scripts. The alphabets are curly and slightly slated.
Like Katakana, Hiragana is used as a phonetic notation. However, it is also used as a grammar notation. This means that it helps people know how words must be placed to make a grammatically correct sentence.
Regardless, the practice of this writing system is known to have flourished in the 5th Century. Several artefacts discovered throughout history have had this writing system for the words engraved on them.
These were writings in cursive alphabets that were taken from scripts on Chinese calligraphy.
There has also been evidence that this writing system was not accepted by the masses when it first came around. The men of that time were allowed to undertake education, and they always chose to write in Katakana script.
The women of those times, who were not allowed education were only allowed to write Hiragana script. Therefore, it became a popular writing system among women.
Main Differences Between Katakana and Hiragana
- Katakana is a syllabary that is used for foreign words taken largely from Chinese and Korean language whereas Hiragana is a syllabary that is used for native words that have their origins in the Japanese language.
- Katakana is written in regular scripts (kaisho) whereas Hiragana is written in cursive scripts (sosho).
- Katakana has a sharp and block-like appearance whereas Hiragana has a slanted and curly appearance.
- Katakana is used to give stylish effects and emphasis but is not used in formal settings whereas Hiragana is the most simple and common way of writing and is extensively used in formal settings.
- Katakana is very commonly used as a phonetic notation whereas Hiragana is used as a grammar notation.
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Emma Smith holds an MA degree in English from Irvine Valley College. She has been a Journalist since 2002, writing articles on the English language, Sports, and Law. Read more about me on her bio page.