Difference Between Katakana and Hiragana

Katakana vs Hiragana

Though the Japanese spoke the Japanese language, they did not have a script of their own till about 4 A.D. In the 5th century, Japanese tried to make a writing script by importing Chinese script and that too through another country, Korea. They developed a hybrid style of writing Chinese called Kojiki. Over time, Japan developed a system of writing for both Japanese, as well as words borrowed from China.

Hiragana and Katakana evolved as two separate syllabic scripts or syllabaries. Today, the system of writing is a mixture of these scripts called Katakana and Hiragana along with a third script called Kanji. Many people, trying to learn Japanese as a foreign language, fail to appreciate the differences between Katakana and Hiragana. This article will remove doubts and make learning Japanese writing system easy for such people.

In Japanese script, Hiragana is an alphabet that is used to spell different Japanese words. Japanese kids and all foreign students of Japanese language have to learn this alphabet system to be able to write in Japanese language. However, entire Japanese is not written using Hiragana alphabets. Hat is Katakana, then? Well, it is a copy of Hiragana alphabet and, for every Hiragana alphabet, there is a Katakana version. The same holds true for every Katakana alphabet that has a Hiragana version.

Why have two similar alphabets that even pronouncing or sounding the same but having different characters? The answer to this conundrum lies in the fact that while Hiragana is mainly used to spell Original Japanese words, Katakana alphabet is used to spell words that have been borrowed and incorporated in Japanese language from Chinese and Korean languages. One feature that distinguishes Katakana characters from Hiragana characters is that, characters in Katakana are more angular in appearance than Hiragana characters.

Out of the three major systems of writing Japanese, kana is the most common, and Hiragana and Katakana are two subsystems in this Kana system of writing. Kanji is the most ancient system of writing Japanese while Romaji is the latest to incorporate Roman alphabets to spell Japanese words. Of the two, Hiragana is the older having been used since 1st century AD while Katakana is merely a thousand year old. This is why there is generous sprinkling of Hiragana characters in Katakana.


What is the difference between Katakana and Hiragana?

• Hiragana and Katakana are both sub systems of writing Japanese in the Kana system of writing

• Hiragana is older than Katakana having been used since 1st century AD while Katakana originated as late as 1000 AD.

• Hiragana characters are rounded while Katakana characters are angular in appearance

• Hiragana script is used t spell traditional Japanese words while Katakana is used to spell words of foreign origin

• Katakana is more for taking shorthand while it is Hiragana that is more formal and used for writing books and letters