from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Font Syllabary
languages Japanese
Usage time since approx. 800 AD
Officially in JapanJapan Japan Palau (on Angaur )
ancestry Chinese script
 →  Man'yōgana
  →  Katakana
relative Hiragana , hentaigana
Unicode block U + 30A0..U + 30FF
ISO 15924 Kana
Hrkt (Hiragana and Katakana)
Jpan (Hiragana, Katakana, Kanji)
Japanese Katakana KA.pngJapanese Katakana TA.pngJapanese Katakana KA.pngJapanese Katakana NA.png

The katakana ( Japanese 片 仮 名 or カ タ カ ナ ) is a syllabary (more precisely Morescript ) of the Japanese language . It is the second Japanese Morescript next to Hiragana . In addition, Chinese characters are still used in the Japanese script , called Kanji in this context .

Each katakana symbol stands as a syllabogram for either a vowel or a consonant followed by a vowel, with the exception of the later added character , which represents a nasal sound at the end of the syllable.

The katakana were developed from Chinese characters, more precisely Man'yōgana , by removing lines from a character with the corresponding reading. Katakana therefore only have one to four straight or slightly curved strokes and mostly acute angles and the typeface clearly differs from the soft, rounded hiragana.

The katakana are arranged according to the 50-sounds table . The Iroha , a poem in which all fifty original syllables appear, is rarely used instead.

Syllable or Morescript?

In Japanese, which is phonological relevant suprasegmental unit not syllable , but More (z. B. be in Haiku and Tanka not counted the syllables, but the Moren). Japanese mores consist of a short vowel or a pre-vowel consonant and a short vowel or a simple post-vowel consonant in the syllable ending. Syllables with a long vowel or with a post-vowel consonant in the end of the syllable are two-core.

This syllable phonological property of Japanese is also taken into account in the katakana and hiragana: one character each. In the case of short vowel open syllables, the more corresponds to the syllable (this is why the Japanese Morse scripts are often imprecisely called syllable scripts).

To represent a long vowel, a diacritic (the Chōonpu ) is used in the katakana writing and the symbol for the short vowel is used twice in the hiragana writing, so that the first “short vowel” belongs to the first and the second to the second more. A post-vowel consonant in the end of the syllable forms a more and is represented by its own character. A two-syllable form must be represented by two, three or four characters, depending on the number of moras.


Learning katakana can sometimes be difficult as some characters are very similar. For example, shi and tsu or so and n only differ in the direction of the stroke. The differences can be seen more clearly if the symbols are drawn with a writing brush .

  • The respective Hepburn transcription is to be read in italics behind the katakana .
  •  Characters that are out of date or are not (no longer) listed by MEXT are highlighted in gray .
  • Under the Katakana is the pronunciation in IPA according to the conventions of the English Wikipedia


a i u e O ya yu yo
Individual graphs
( Gojuon )
( Yoon )
k ka
[kɯ], [kɯ̥]
キ ャ kya
キ ュ kyu
キ ョ kyo
s sa
[ɕi], [ɕi̥]
[sɯ], [sɯ̥]
シ ャ sha
シ ュ shu
シ ョ sho
t ta
[ʦɯ], [ʦɯ̥]
チ ャ cha
チ ュ chu
チ ョ cho
n na
ニ ャ nya
ニ ュ nyu
ニ ョ nyo
H ha
[ha] 1
[çi], [hi] 6
[he] 1
ヒ ャ hya
[ça], [hʲa]
ヒ ュ hyu
[ça], [hʲɯ]
ヒ ョ hyo
[ço], [hʲo]
m ma
ミ ャ mya
ミ ュ myu
ミ ョ myo
y ya
2 yu
2 yo
r ra
リ ャ rya
リ ュ ryu
リ ョ ryo
w wa
[ɰi], [i] 4
2   we
[ɰe], [e] 4
wo  3
[ɰo], [o] 4
* n
[ɴ], [ɰ̃], [n], [m] 7
Single graphs with diacritics
( Gojūon with Dakuten and Handakuten )
Digraphs with diacritics
( Yoon with Dakuten and handakuten )
G ga
ギ ャ gya
ギ ュ gyu
ギ ョ gyo
z za
[ʑi] 5
[zɯ] 5
ジ ャ yes
ジ ュ ju
ジ ョ jo
d there
ji / dji / jyi 5
[ʑi], [ʥi]
to / dzu 5
[zɯ], [dzɯ]
ヂ ャ ja / dja / jya 5
[ʑa], [ʥa]
ヂ ュ ju / dju / jyu 5
[ʑɯ], [ʥɯ]
ヂ ョ jo / djo / jyo 5
[ʑo], [ʥo]
b ba
ビ ャ bya
ビ ュ byu
ビ ョ byo
p pa
ピ ャ pya
ピ ュ pyu
ピ ョ pyo
1If Katakana not be used for foreign words, but for writing native Japanese words and atハandヘis (often seen in pre-war literature (to particles Rekishiteki KanazukaiEngl. )), Isハha / ɰa / andヘhe then / e / pronounced.
2The characters yi , ye and wu appeared in some textbooks from 1873 ( Meiji 6), but were never in common use. These have not yet been included in the Unicode standard.Katakana obsolete yi.svgKatakana obsolete ye.svgKatakana obsolete wu.svg
3In modern times, ウ ォ wo is used to represent the wo sound. The katakana version of wo-kana , , is primarily, though rarely, used to represent the particles in katakana. The particle is usually pronounced like o-kana .
4thThe other w-katakana were also used earlier to transcribe the w-sound; you can still find ヰ ス キ ーwisukī / ɰisɯ̥ki / for whiskey today . Nowadays it is preferred to use the u-combinations (ウ ォvo , ウ ィvi and ウ ェve ) for the representation of the English w-sound . Often no combination is used, e.g. B. ウ イ ザ ー ドuizādo instead of ウ ィ ザ ー ドwizādo for engl. "wizard".
5The Kana ヂji and ヅzu are v. a. for etymological spellings, when the unvoiced equivalents チchi and ツtsu are subjected to a sound shift ( rendaku ) and become voiced when they appear in the middle of a compound word e.g. B. in ツ ヅ クtsudzuku . In other cases the identically pronounced ジji and ズzu are used instead. ヂdi and ヅyou can never start a word and they are not common in katakana as the concept of rendaku does not apply to transcribed foreign words, one of the main uses of katakana.
Depending on the region ( Yotsugana English ), ジ, ヂ, ズ and ヅ are pronounced differently. In the Tokyo dialect the following applies: ヅ = ズ / (d) zɯ / and ジ = ヂ / (d) ʑi /.
6thIn the Tokyo dialect, ヒhi is pronounced differently depending on where it is in the word. At the end of a word and in front of an obstruction it is pronounced / çi /, like the “soft ch” in “I ch ” (e.g. コ ー ヒ ーkōhī / koːçiː / or ヒ トhito / çito /), otherwise / hi / (e.g. B. ヒ メhime / hime /). Depending on the region, ヒhi is always pronounced / çi / regardless of the word order.
7thDepending on the position in the word, ンn is pronounced differently. Before m-, b- or p-kana it is pronounced / m / (e.g. ナ ン バ ーnanbā / nambaː /), in the word / ɴ /, at the end mostly / ñ /. / ɰ̃ / is the description for all pronunciation variants.

Extended katakana (特殊 音)

The following table is a modern extension of modern character compositions (→ Japanese script # Palatalization / refraction (ligature) ), which is used exclusively for the pronunciation of foreign language terms (→ Gairaigo ).

  • All combinations that have been officially standardized by MEXT are marked with a ☆ . These are also used in everyday Japanese life and are safe to use .
  • All combinations that were first standardized in the 1974 Hyōjun-shiki are marked with a ▢ . These variants are pronunciation safe, but are rarely used.
  • All combinations that are mainly used in linguistic compilations for more accurate sound reproduction are marked with a △. They are not safe to use because they are not standardized, i.e. transcriptions and pronunciations vary depending on the implementation. Most Japanese are not aware of these. → Lists (exemplary): 1 , 2 , 3
  • All combinations that were additionally proposed by the British Standards Institution in 1972 are marked with a ◇ . Some of the now obsolete kana are still there, such as ヰwi and ヱwe or the old v-kana ヷva , ヸvi , ヹve , ヺvo .
  • All combinations that are out of date or are not mainly used for the transcription of foreign words are marked with a ▣.
Single contracted sounds
group a i u e O
k group カ ゚ 行
ng 1
カ ゚ nga
▣ [ŋa]
キ ゚ ngi
▣ [ŋi]
ク ゚ ngu
▣ [ŋɯ]
ケ ゚ nge
▣ [ŋe]
コ ゚ ngo
▣ [ŋo]
s group サ 行
ス ィ swi / si 2
△ ▢ [si], [sɰi]
セ ィ si 2
△ [si]
サ 行
シ ィ shi / shī
△ [ɕiː]
シ ェ she
▢ ☆ [ɕe]
ザ 行
ズ ィ zwi / zi 2
▢ [zi], [zɰi]
ゼ ィ zi 2
△ [zi]
ザ 行
ジ ィ ji / jī
△ [ʑiː]
ジ ェ je
☆ [ʑe]
t group タ 行
テ ィ ti
▢ ☆ [ti]
ト ゥ tu 2
▢ ☆ [tɯ]
タ 行
チ ィ chi / chī
△ [ʨiː]
チ ェ che
☆ [ʨe]
タ 行
ツ ァ tsa
▢ ☆ [ʦa]
ツ ィ tsi
▢ ☆ [ʦi]
ツ ゥ tsu / tsū
△ [ʦɯː]
ツ ェ tse
▢ ☆ [ʦe]
ツ ォ tso
▢ ☆ [ʦo]
ダ 行
デ ィ di
▢ ☆ [di]
ド ゥ you 2
▢ ☆ [dɯ]
ダ 行
ヂ ィ dji / djī / jyi / jyī
▣ △ [dʑiː], [ʑiː]
ヂ ェ dje / jye
▣ △ ▢ [dʑe], [ʑe]
h group ハ 行
ホ ゥ hu
△ ▢ [hɯ]
ハ 行
フ ァ fa
▢ ☆ [ɸa]
フ ィ fi
▢ ☆ [ɸi]
フ ゥ fu / fū
△ [ɸɯː]
フ ェ fe
▢ ☆ [ɸe]
フ ォ fo
▢ ☆ [ɸo]
y group ヤ 行
イ ィ yi
△ ▢ [ji], [iː]
イ ェ ye
▢ ☆ [je], [i͜e]
ユ ェ y e
△ [je], [i͜e]
r group ラ ゚ 行
l 3
ラ ゚ la
▣ △ ▢ [ɾa]
リ ゚ li
▣ △ ▢ [ɾi]
ル ゚ lu
▣ △ ▢ [ɾɯ]
レ ゚ le
▣ △ ▢ [ɾe]
ロ ゚ lo
▣ △ ▢ [ɾo]
w group ワ 行
ウ ァ wa
◇ △ [ɰa]
ウ ィ wi
☆ [ɰi]
ウ ゥ wu 2
△ ▢ [ɰɯ], [ɯː]
ウ ェ we
☆ [ɰe]
ウ ォ where
☆ [ɰo]
ヷ 行
v 4
ヴ ァ va
▢ ☆ [va]
ヴ ィ vi
▢ ☆ [vi]
▢ ☆ [vɯ]
ヴ ェ ve
▢ ☆ [ve]
ヴ ォ vo
▢ ☆ [vo]
▣ △ ▢ [va]
v i
▣ △ ▢ [vi]
( 5 ) vu
▣ △ ▢ [vɯ]
▣ △ ▢ [ve]
▣ △ ▢ [vo]
y combinations
group a i u e O
k group カ 行
キ ィ kyi
△ [kʲi]
キ ェ kye
◇ [kʲe]
ガ 行
ギ ィ g yi
△ [gʲi]
ギ ェ gye
◇ [gʲe]
カ ゚ 行
キ ゚ ャ ngya
▣ [ŋʲa]
キ ゚ ュ ngyu
▣ [ŋʲɯ]
キ ゚ ョ ngyo
▣ [ŋʲo]
s group サ 行
ス ャ sya
△ [sʲa]
ス ュ syu
△ [sʲɯ]
ス ョ syo
△ [sʲo]
ザ 行
ズ ャ zya
△ [zʲa]
ズ ュ zyu
△ [zʲɯ]
ズ ョ zyo
△ [zʲo]
t group タ 行
テ ャ tya
△ [tʲa]
テ ュ tyu
☆ [tʲɯ]
テ ェ tye
△ [tʲe]
テ ョ tyo
△ [zʲɯ]
テ ィ ェ tye
△ [tʲe]
タ 行
ツ ャ tsya
△ [ʦʲa]
ツ ュ tsyu
◇ △ [ʦʲɯ]
ツ ョ tsyo
△ [ʦʲo]
ダ 行
デ ャ dya
△ [dʲa]
デ ュ dyu
☆ [dʲɯ]
デ ェ dye
△ [dʲe]
デ ョ dyo
△ [dʲɯ]
デ ィ ェ dye
△ [dʲe]
n group ナ 行
ニ ィ nyi
△ [ɲi]
ニ ェ nye
◇ [ɲe]
h group ハ 行
ヒ ィ hyi
△ [hʲi], [çi]
ヒ ェ hye
◇ [hʲe], [çe]
ハ 行
フ ャ fya
◇ △ [fʲa], [ɸʲa]
フ ュ fyu
☆ [fʲɯ], [ɸʲɯ]
フ ィ ェ fye
◇ △ [ɸʲe], [fʲe]
フ ョ fyo
◇ △ [ɸʲo], [fʲo]
バ 行
ビ ィ byi
△ [bʲi]
ビ ェ bye
◇ [bʲe]
パ 行
ピ ィ pyi
△ [pʲi]
ピ ェ pye
◇ [pʲe]
m group マ 行
ミ ィ myi
△ [mʲi]
ミ ェ mye
◇ [mʲe]
r group ラ 行
リ ィ ryi
△ [ɾʲi]
リ ェ rye
◇ [ɾʲe]
ラ ゚ 行
リ ゚ ャ lya
▣ △ [ɾʲa]
リ ゚ ュ lyu
▣ △ [ɾʲɯ]
リ ゚ ョ lyo
▣ △ [ɾʲo]
w group ワ 行
ヰ ャ wya
▣ △ [ɰʲa]
ヰ ュ wyu
▣ △ [ɰʲɯ]
ヰ ョ wyo
▣ △ [ɰʲo]
ウ ャ wya
△ [ɰʲa]
ウ ュ wyu
◇ △ [ɰʲɯ]
ウ ョ wyo
△ [ɰʲo]
ヷ 行
ヴ ャ vya
◇ △ [vʲa]
ヴ ュ vyu
☆ [vʲɯ]
ヴ ィ ェ vye
◇ △ [vʲe]
ヴ ョ vyo
◇ △ [vʲo]
w combinations
group a i u e O
k group カ 行
ク ァ kwa
☆ [kʷa]
ク ィ kwi
☆ [kʷi]
ク ゥ kwu
△ [kʷɯ]
ク ェ kwe
☆ [kʷe]
ク ォ kwo
☆ [kʷo]
ク ヮ6 kwa
▣ △ [kʷa]
ガ 行
グ ァ gwa
☆ [gʷa]
グ ィ gwi
◇ △ [gʷi]
グ ゥ gwu
△ [gʷɯ]
グ ェ gwe
◇ △ [gʷe]
グ ォ gwo
◇ △ [gʷo]
グ ヮ6 gwa
▣ [gʷa]
s group サ 行
ス ァ swa
△ [sʷa]
ス ゥ ィ swi
△ [sʷi]
ス ゥ swu
△ [sʷɯ]
ス ェ swe
△ [sʷi]
ス ォ swo
△ [sʷo]
ザ 行
ズ ァ zwa
△ [zʷa]
ズ ゥ ィ between
△ [zʷi]
ズ ゥ zwu
△ [zʷɯ]
ズ ェ two
△ [zʷe]
ズ ォ two
△ [zʷo]
t group タ 行
ト ァ twa
△ [tʷa]
ト ィ twi
△ [tʷi]
ト ェ twe
△ [tʷe]
ト ォ two
△ [tʷo]
ト ゥ ァ twa
△ [tʷa]
ト ゥ ィ twi
△ [tʷi]
ト ゥ ゥ twu
△ [tʷɯ]
ト ゥ ェ twe
△ [tʷe]
ト ゥ ォ two
△ [tʷo]
ダ 行
ド ァ dwa
△ [dʷa]
ド ィ dwi
△ [dʷi]
ド ェ dwe
△ [dʷe]
ド ォ dwo
△ [dʷo]
ド ゥ ァ dwa
△ [dʷa]
ド ゥ ィ dwi
△ [dʷi]
ド ゥ ゥ dwu
△ [dʷɯ]
ド ゥ ェ dwe
△ [dʷe]
ド ゥ ォ dwo
△ [dʷo]
n group ナ 行
ヌ ァ nwa
△ [nʷa]
ヌ ィ nwi
△ [nʷi]
ヌ ゥ nwu
△ [nʷɯ]
ヌ ェ nwe
△ [nʷe]
ヌ ォ nwo
△ [nʷo]
h group ハ 行
ホ ゥ ァ hwa
△ [hʷa]
ホ ゥ ィ hwi
△ [hʷi]
ホ ゥ ゥ hwu
△ [hʷɯ]
ホ ゥ ェ hwe
△ [hʷe]
ホ ゥ ォ hwo
△ [hʷo]
バ 行
ブ ァ bwa
△ [bʷa]
ブ ィ bwi
△ [bʷi]
ブ ゥ bwu
△ [bʷɯ]
ブ ェ bwe
△ [bʷe]
ブ ォ bwo
△ [bʷo]
パ 行
プ ァ pwa
△ [pʷa]
プ ィ pwi
△ [pʷi]
プ ゥ pwu
△ [pʷɯ]
プ ェ pwe
△ [pʷe]
プ ォ pwo
△ [pʷo]
m group マ 行
ム ァ mwa
△ [mʷa]
ム ィ mwi
△ [mʷi]
ム ゥ mwu
△ [mʷɯ]
ム ェ mwe
△ [mʷe]
ム ォ mwo
△ [mʷo]
r group ラ 行
ル ァ rwa
△ [ɾʷa]
ル ィ rwi
△ [ɾʷi]
ル ゥ rwu
△ [ɾʷɯ]
ル ェ rwe
△ [ɾʷe]
ル ォ rwo
△ [ɾʷo]
w group ヷ 行
ヴ ゥ ァ vwa
△ [vʷa]
ヴ ゥ ィ vwi
△ [vʷi]
ヴ ゥ ゥ vwu
△ [vʷɯ]
ヴ ゥ ェ vwe
△ [vʷe]
ヴ ゥ ォ vwo
△ [vʷo]
group a i u e O
h combinations
t group タ 行
t / th
テ ァ tha
△ [tʰa], [ta]
テ ゥ thu / tu
△ [tʰɯ], [tɯ]
テ ォ tho
△ [tʰo], [to]
ダ 行
d / dh
デ ァ dha
△ [dʰa], [da]
デ ゥ dhu / du
△ [dʰɯ], [dɯ]
デ ォ dho
△ [dʰo], [do]
functional graphemes
* * , 7
[ka], [ko], [ga] 
☆ [ː]
☆ [ Q ]


1These combinations are actually only used in Hiragana and are used to display the bidakuon ( 鼻 濁音 ). At times it was thought about using this kana to display a former c . That would be Engl. "call" then コ ゚ ー ルcōru instead of コ ー ルkōru (similar to the L series). In practice, the katakana version ng or c is no longer used.
2The combinations ス ィ si, swi and ズ ィ zi, zwi exist, but they are not commonly used. Because of this, they are often not listed in extended katakana tables. Your pronunciation is uncertain, so a pronunciation as si as in "Ba ssi st" is possible, as well as a pronunciation as swi similar to " Swi ng". The pronunciation- safe variants セ ィ si and ゼ ィ zi , as well as ス ゥ ィ swi and ズ ゥ ィ zwi , are used much less often and are unknown to most Japanese. Very often in the transcription si is replaced by shi and zi by Trans ji . The combination ト ゥ tu and ド ゥ du also exist, but are often replaced by tsu and dzu to avoid confusion with twu and dwu . ウ ゥ wu is also one of the unsafe combinations, as these are more difficult to pronounce for the Japanese. As a rule, ウ ゥ wu is therefore replaced with ウ ー uu .
3The combinations of the L-series are often listed in extended katakana tables. However, they are not used in practice, because combinations of the L series are pronounced like combinations of the R series and originally only serve to display a former L in the original word. B. ラ ゚ ヴ ァ ーlavā instead of ラ ヴ ァ ーravā for engl. "lover". ru and ル ゚ lu are pronounced the same.
4thThe / v / sound is being integrated more and more into everyday Japanese language, but just as often it is still substituted with / b / because / v / is not part of the native Japanese sound inventory. So is z. B. バ ー ジ ョ ンbājon more often for engl. "version" can be found as the equally correct ヴ ァ ー ジ ョ ンvājon .
5The Kana as another version for vu is and was so uncommon that it has not yet been included in the Unicode standard.Katakana obsolete wu.svg
6thThe small w-kana (ヮ, , , ) are mainly intended to represent historical orthography and to transcribe Ainu . This also applies to セ ゚tse / ce , ツ ゚tu , ト ゚tu and ウ ゚um . These are rarely used for Gairaigo transcriptions.
7thThe small ke ( ) is an abbreviation of the Kanji , an old attributive particle, and is pronounced in names for places ga . Sometimes the small ka ( ) is used instead. Usually it is read 'ka' like z. B. in 三 ヶ 月 間sankagetsukan .


In the Meiji period, katakana were still used to write particles and grammatical endings ( okurigana ), especially in official documents. Hiragana have taken on this role in modern Japanese .

Seen in Kobe

The most common use in modern Japanese is to transcribe foreign words ( gairaigo ) and foreign names. The common name for television, テ レ ビ terebi , is an abbreviation of the French "télévision". Angela Merkel is represented as ア ン ゲ ラ ・ メ ル ケ ル angera · merukeru .

For some verbs, the root of the word is written in katakana. These verbs, mostly from youth language, are derived from foreign words. An example is サ ボ る saboru , "to skip", which is derived from "sabotage".

In Kanji dictionaries, the On reading (s) of a character are given in Katakana and the Kun reading (s) in Hiragana for a better overview . However, this convention is limited to dictionaries; if words of ancient Japanese or Chinese origin, whose Kanji are rare or uncommon today, appear in continuous texts, then both On and Kun readings are written as Hiragana.

In Manga, the many onomatopoeic expressions are also written in katakana (with exceptions in hiragana).

Terms that are written with rare Chinese characters, i.e. characters that do not belong to the 2136 Jōyō Kanji , are also often written in katakana. In some cases, a compound word only replaces one character with katakana. This is particularly common with medical terms. In the word “ dermatology ” ( 皮膚科 , hifuka ), the second character 膚 is considered difficult, which is why hifuka is usually written using katakana 皮 フ 科 or ヒ フ 科 . The character gan , " cancer ", is also often written in hiragana or katakana. Animals, plants and minerals are also often written using rare kanji, which is why they are often rendered in katakana for simplicity. Many sushi restaurants still use Kanji for the individual types of fish.

Japanese family businesses often use the katakana surname as their company name, including today's large corporations Suzuki ( ス ズ キ ) and Toyota ( ト ヨ タ ).

Katakana are also used in written language as eye-catchers and for emphasis, especially on signs. Common examples are コ コ koko (here), ゴ ミ gomi (garbage) and メ ガ ネ megane (glasses). In advertisements, individual parts of the sentence are also set in katakana, for example ヨ ロ シ ク yoroshiku .

Telegrams in Japan before 1988 were also written exclusively in katakana. Even Japanese computers could only process katakana before the introduction of multi-byte characters in the 1980s.

Characters that are placed over the Kanji to indicate pronunciation ( Furigana ) are usually in Hiragana. However, if the pronunciation is not intended to be Japanese but English, Chinese, or another language, katakana is used instead. For example, above the abbreviation JR ( Japan Railways ) you can find the lettering ジ ェ イ ア ー ル ( jei āru ), which indicates the pronunciation of the abbreviation.

A number of Chinese dishes that only came to Japan in the 20th century are written in Chinese characters, but the pronunciation does not correspond to the Sino-Japanese On reading , but to Cantonese or standard Chinese . On the packaging in the supermarket, the names of the products are usually written in Chinese characters, but the reading is also given in katakana. For convenience, the characters are often left out and these words are only written in katakana:

  • ウ ー ロ ン 茶 ( 烏龍茶 ), ūroncha ( oolong tea)
  • チ ャ ー ハ ン ( 炒飯 ), chāhan, (fried rice)
  • チ ャ ー シ ュ ー ( 叉 焼 ), chāshū, from Cantonese char siu , grilled pork
  • シ ュ ー マ イ ( 焼 売 ), shūmai, from Cantonese siu maai, a dim sum variant.
  • ラ ー メ ン ( 拉 麺 ), ramen

Katakana are also sometimes used in manga to indicate that something is being said with a foreign or otherwise weird accent. A robot could say könnte ン ニ チ ワ ( konnichi wa ) instead of the usual spelling reibung ん に ち は in Hiragana. The angular shape of the katakana should give an optical impression of the pronunciation.

In the post-war period, it was fashionable to give children, especially girls, first names in katakana, so that older women often have names in katakana. Foreign names that sound good in Japanese, such as マ リ ア maria and エ リ カ erika, were also used.

Katakana are used in traditional Japanese music for the writing of notes , for example in the Tozan school of shakuhachi , and in sankyoku ensembles consisting of koto , shamisen and shakuhachi.


Katakana orthography differs slightly from that used in hiragana. Only with the katakana there is the elongation stroke for vowels ( ), Japanese chōonpu , with the hiragana a second vowel is written instead. However, this dictionary rule is not taken so strictly in everyday use. You can often see signs where, for example, the word Rāmen is in Hiragana with an elongation line ( ら ー め ん ). And although the elongation stroke should actually be limited to loan words, Japanese words are sometimes written in katakana with an elongation stroke so that it is not so noticeable among the many anglicisms, for example ロ ー ソ ク ( 蝋 燭 rōsoku , "candle") or ケ ー タ イ ( 携 帯 kētai "mobile phone") ).

If the font is set vertically ( tategaki ), the elongation line is also vertical. In this form, it can also be easily distinguished from the character ichi (一), "one", since the one is a horizontal line even when written vertically. In the Hepburn transcription , the lengthened vowel is written with a macron (¯).

As with the Hiragana , a small tsu (ッ), a so-called sokuon, is written to double the following consonant ( gemination ). In the transcription the consonant is doubled. The English word "bed", in Japanese ベ ッ ド , is therefore transcribed back as beddo .

The problem with the katakana spelling is that the katakana can only reproduce the limited volume of Japanese sounds, which is why it is not always easy to infer the foreign word from a katakana spelling. Although guidelines exist, a number of terms have established themselves in varying forms; the phonetically very similar “towel” and “tower” are rendered as タ オ ル taoru and タ ワ ー tawā, respectively . With German names, syllables with a lot of consonants are particularly problematic. Loan words that contain too many syllables are often abbreviated in Japanese, so "sexual harassment" becomes セ ク ハ ラ sekuhara .

A whole series of other vowels and consonants are difficult to translate into katakana.

  • The voiceless velar fricative , ie the “ch” in German words like “Ba ch ”, is represented in the Katakana transcription as ッ + ハha . The composer Johann Sebastian Bach is therefore written ヨ ハ ン ・ ゼ バ ス テ ィ ア ン ・ バ ッ ハ yohan zebasut i an bahha .
  • “R” and “l” cannot be distinguished. The Japanese “r” corresponds to the [ ɺ ] or [ ɾ ] depending on the context .
  • The German umlauts “ä”, “ö” and “ü” have no equivalent in Japanese. The “ä” is usually rendered as “e”, with the “ö” one helps oneself with “e” ( ケ ー ラ ー kērā for Koehler) or “u” ( パ ス ツ ー ル pasutsūru for “Pasteur”), the “ü” becomes yu ( リ ュ プ ケ ryupuke for "Lübke") replaced.
  • Further examples of the difficulties in transcribing names into Katakana are "Khrushchev" フ ル シ チ ョ フ (Furushichofu), Ali Khamenei ア リ ー ・ ハ ー メ ネ イ ー (Arī Hāmeneī), Itzhak Perlman イ ツ マ ・ ・ .

For the Japanese, however, the transcription of names has a decisive advantage: The katakana provide a pronunciation that is easy for them to understand, even if it is far from the original. Names in Latin letters, on the other hand, are anything but unambiguous: As a European, you develop a certain feeling for whether a name should be pronounced in English, French, German, Polish, Spanish or whatever, and how it should sound roughly. For the Japanese, this is a hurdle that is as high as names in Chinese characters for Europeans.

Since there are no spaces in Japanese script, a middle point ( ) is used instead to separate words in a katakana block , Japanese nakaguro ( 中 黒 ). One example is the separation of first name and surname in foreign names.

Stroke order

Table katakana.svg


Each left: katakana; right: sign of origin in Chinese standard script

The katakana were developed in the early Heian period from the Man'yōgana , which originally served to mark the pronunciation of a character in Kanbun texts. In the case of characters that had established themselves as marking a specific pronunciation, individual elements were then left out for simplification. So from , “to add”, read ka , by omitting the element the katakana .

It was only later that people started to write characters in the order of words that is usual in Japanese and also to append the inflected endings to verbs. As an isolating language, Chinese has no inflection.

Character sets

Katakana exist in most of the fonts in full ( 全 角 zenkaku , English full-width) and half-width ( 半角 hankaku , English half-width). The half-width katakana were introduced in 1969 with the 8-bit JIS X 0201 standard, the katakana are in the extended area from 0x80, beyond the ASCII characters. Since there was only space for 128 characters in the extended area, only the katakana were implemented from the Japanese script. Like Chinese characters, katakana were traditionally written in square blocks ( ems ). However, the fonts of that time provided for a fixed character width of a half square, which is why a Katakana font was developed that was only half as wide. This made it possible to write Japanese with an 8-bit font, even if hiragana and kanji had to be dispensed with.

In the late 1970s, two-byte fonts such as JIS X 0208 were developed which, with their character space of over 65,000 characters, made it possible to write hiragana, katakana and kanji and thus represent the Japanese script completely digitally. In addition, the briefs allowed characters in the full em-width. JIS X 0208 now introduced a second full-width drawing space for katakana. These katakana were not only twice as wide in typesetting, but also in digitization because they were stored on two bytes.

This historical development is also the reason why there is half-width katakana, but no half-width hiragana.

Despite all efforts to do away with this redundant duplication, half-width katakana are still in use in various systems. The title display on MiniDiscs , for example, uses a coding similar to JIS X 0201 and only allows ASCII and half-width Katakana. Half-width katakana can also be found in electronic cash registers and in DVD subtitles . Most common Japanese character sets such as EUC-JP (see Extended Unix Code ), Unicode and Shift-JIS offer both half-width and full-width katakana. The ISO-2022-JP (see ISO / IEC 2022 ), which is common in e-mails and Usenet , on the other hand, only has the two-byte katakana.


In Unicode, the normal-width katakana occupy the Unicode block Katakana (U + 30A0 to U + 30FF):

0 1 2 3 4th 5 6th 7th 8th 9 A. B. C. D. E. F.

The half-width katakana are coded in the block from U + FF65 to U + FF9F:

0 1 2 3 4th 5 6th 7th 8th 9 A. B. C. D. E. F.
FF7 ソ

There is also the code range U + 32D0 to U + 32FE, in which all katakana except bis are circled.

0 1 2 3 4th 5 6th 7th 8th 9 A. B. C. D. E. F.

Katakana for the Ainu language

The Ainu language is also written with katakana. In this language, syllables can end in different consonants. To write this, the final consonant is written with a half-height character from the u-column, the vowel remains silent. The syllable up is therefore written ウ ㇷ ゚ ( u with lowercase pu ). In Unicode, the characters in the phonetic expansion block for katakana are reserved for Ainu language support (U + 31F0 to U + 31FF), which also contains half-height katakana that do not end in -u .

0 1 2 3 4th 5 6th 7th 8th 9 A. B. C. D. E. F.

Web links

Commons : Katakana  - album with pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Katakana  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Thomas E. McAuley: Language change in East Asia. Routledge, 2001, ISBN 0-7007-1377-8 , p. 90.
  2. a b c Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) : Representation of loan words (Japanese).
  3. 「い ろ は と ア イ ウ エ オ」 ( Memento from May 27, 2012 in the web archive archive.today ) LINK DEFECTIVE!
  4. 伊豆 で の 収穫 日本 国語 学 史上 比 類 な き 変 体 仮 名 LINK DEFECTIVE!
  5. http://waisky-smoke.ldblog.jp/archives/65427541.html
  6. a b Wolfgang Hadamitzky: Kana transcription tables
  7. a b What do I do with sounds that don't exist in Japanese? on www.japanisch-grund-und-intensivkurs.de
  8. a b c Katakana tables (English) on nihongoichiban.com
  9. Yu Sato: Introduction to Japanese Linguistics ( Memento from June 26, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) (Japanese), 2012, pdf.
  10. Modern expansion of the sound table (Japanese).
  11. a b Hyōjun-Shiki ( Memento from September 24, 2015 in the Internet Archive ), standard formula Romaji notation, web.archive.org, (Japanese).
  12. ^ Timothy J. Vance: The Sounds of Japanese
  13. ^ Chirag Bharadwa: An Introduction to Katakana. (PDF) In: Japanese Language and Culture. Cornell University, January 11, 2016, accessed January 16, 2019 .
  14. British Standard 英国 規格 (BS 4812: 1972) - 要約 (Japanese). . Archived from the original on June 3, 2013. Retrieved January 24, 2011.
  15. https://jisho.org/word/%E3%83%B6 Electronic dictionary entry for ヶ
  16. ysjapanese.wp-x.jp ( Memento from June 28, 2018 in the Internet Archive ) LINK DEFEKT!
  17. Why が is pronounced "nga"? (English), blog question on HiNative.com
  18. What is known about the existence of the K series with hand acute? (Japanese), blog post on matome.naver.jp
  19. Are the k-series katakana used with hand acute? Not today, back then already (Japanese), blog post on memomo2.blogspot.de
  20. American gingival fricatives (s) and (∫) in Japanese - Theoretical consideration of the articulatory difficulties (Japanese), pdf.
  21. http://www.unicode.org/L2/L2017/17091-sc2-n4523-small-kana.pdf
  22. http://www.unicode.org/L2/L2016/16354-kana-small-ltr.pdf