Did You Know?
What are the origins of the Japanese Language Scripts?
Innovation and tradition are the backbones of the Japanese writing system which uses a combination of 3 different types of scripts; Kanji, Hiragana and Katakana.
Kanji uses modified Chinese characters and both Hiragana and Katakana are syllabic scripts. Syllabic scripts are made up of symbols which typically represent an optional consonant sound followed by a vowel sound.
Hiragana and katakana are both kana systems, in which each symbol represents one sound. Each kana is either a vowel, a consonant followed by a vowel, a nasal sound which, depending on the context, sounds either like English m, n, or ng.
Hiragana is used to write native Japanese words. Its origin lies in the early literary works which used Chinese characters completely for their phonetic values at the 8th century CE. At first, hiragana was scorned by literate men as Chinese was the "cultured" language. Women, on the other hand, use hiragana primarily since they were not allowed to learn the Chinese characters. Over time the volume and complexity of this system was reduced giving rise to the current Hiragana system
Katakana, which has its origin as a pronunciation aid for Chinese Buddhist scriptures has evolved to become used for suffixes, particles, postpositions, etc. along with kanji used for word roots.
Between 5,000 and 10,000 Chinese characters, or kanji, are used in written Japanese. In 1981 in an effort to make it easier to read and write Japanese, the Japanese government introduced the jōyō kanji hyō (List of Chinese Characters for General Use), which includes 1,945 regular characters, plus 166 special characters used only for people's names. All government documents, newspapers, textbooks and other publications for non-specialists use only these. Writers of other material are free to use whatever kanji they want.
By the way if you are thinking of getting a tattoo for your trip to Japan the most popular script is Kanji!
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