Difference Between Katakana and Hiragana

Katakana vs Hiragana

The difference between Katakana and Hiragana is mainly in the usage. 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 the time, Japan developed a system of writing for both Japanese, as well as for 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, who are 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.

Both Katakana and Hiragana are syllabic writing. That means, every letter in these alphabets only carry a syllable such as o. This shows that Katakana and Hiragana are very different from Kanji as Kanji is a form of ideographic writing. Ideographic writing is when one character represents a whole idea or a concept. So, while many Kanji character can stand alone and act as separate words, the Katakana and Hiragana characters have to be brought together to make a word with a complete sense.

What is Hiragana?

In the 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. What 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. Hiragana is mainly used to spell Original Japanese words. Hiragana characters are rounder in nature. Of the two, Hiragana is the older having been used since 1st century AD. It is said that Japanese people use Hiragana for more formal types of writing such as writing books and letters.