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than meaning. This system is known as man'yougana (万葉仮名) (see 1.3.10. What is man'yougana?). The two kana alphabets, katakana (片仮名) and hiragana (平仮名), began as simplifications of this complicated system.
Table 1: The parent kanji of the hiraganacharacters k s t n h m y r w nn k Table 2: The parent kanji of each katakana character. s t n h m y r w ワ 和 ヰ 井 ン May be from 尓/爾 nn
a あ か さ た 安 加 左 太 i い き し ち 以 幾 之 知 u う く す つ
な は ま や ら わ ん 奈 波 末 也 良 和 毛/无 に ひ み 仁 比 美 り ゐ 利 為
a ア カ サ タ 阿 加 散 多 i イ キ シ チ 伊 幾 之 千 u ウ ク ス ツ
ナ ハ マ
奈 八 万/末 也 良 ニ ヒ ミ 二 比 三 ヌ フ ム リ 利 ユ ル 由 留 レ
ぬ ふ む ゆ る
宇 久 寸 州? 奴 不 武 由 留 e え け せ て 衣 計 世 天 o お こ そ と 於 己 會 止 ね へ め 祢 部 女 れ ゑ 礼 恵
宇 久 須 州? 奴 不 牟 e エ ケ セ テ 江 介 世 天 o オ コ ソ ト 於 己 會 止 ネ ヘ メ 祢 部 女 ノ ホ モ 乃 保 毛
流/礼 慧/恵 ヨ ロ 与 呂 ヲ 乎
の ほ も よ ろ を 乃 保 毛 与 呂 遠
Each katakana and hiragana character is a simplification of one of the man'yougana kanji.The hiragana are based on a stylized form of the character using sousho or cursive calligraphy. See 184.108.40.206. Handwritten styles. Katakana, fragment or partial kana, are based on parts of the kanji, often written in the cursive style. In the past, hiragana took more than one form for each "sound". Since 1900, they have been standardized to unique forms, and the variant forms only live on as hentaigana (変体仮名).
using the tategaki (see 1. The oldest example of Man'yōgana is Inariyama Sword which is an iron sword excavated at the Inariyama Kofun in 1968.D.D. Hiragana developed from man'yōgana.8. Can Japanese be written right to left?) writing style.3.On the right are two tables of the parent kanji of each kana. According to Seeley's book on the Japanese writing system. This sound came into being around the year 1. The upper part shows the character in the regular script form. the center character in red shows the cursive script form of the character. This sword is thought to be made in year of 辛亥年 (which is A. The figure below shows the derivation of hiragana from manyōgana via cursive script. and the bottom shows the equivalent hiragana.000 A. The forms of the hiragana originate from the cursive script style of Chinese calligraphy. resulting in discrepancies between sources. There is some controversy about some of the characters' origins. other sources state that it originates from the kanji 尓/爾 (these are both forms of the same kanji. Note also that the cursive script forms are not strictly confined to those in the illustration. What is the origin of the gojuuon kana ordering?).. a practice which started in the 5th century. katakana n (ン) did not originate from any particular kanji.) The origin of the katakana character for tsu is also unknown.   . 471 in commonly accepted theory). The katakana themselves predate the existence of the syllabic nasal sound which is now represented by ん (See 7. and so originally there was no equivalent katakana. These tables are in the gojuuonorder (see 1. What is syllabic n?).5.1. However. since it appears fully formed in the earliest documents available. Some sources differ somewhat from this. Chinese characters used for their pronunciations. after the katakana had already been created.9.
Many felt that the language of the educated was still Chinese. while katakana and Chinese were used for official documents. since the 19th century). . Originally. in telegrams. uses every hiragana once (except n ん. hiragana were not accepted by everyone.When they were first developed. Thus hiragana first gained popularity among women. In modern times. the regular script (kaisho) form of the characters was used by men and called otokode (男手?).. Historically. Male authors came to write literature using hiragana. Hiragana was used for unofficial writing such as personal letters. The Tale of Genji and other early novels by female authors used hiragana extensively or exclusively. while the cursive script (sōsho) form of the kanji was used by women. which was just a variant of む before Muromachi era). "men's writing". For example. Katakana is now relegated to special uses such as recently borrowed words (i. the system was simplified so each syllable had only one hiragana. who were generally not allowed access to the same levels of education as men. names in transliteration. the names of animals. and for emphasis. From this comes the alternative name of onnade (女手?)"women's writing". Other hiragana are known as hentaigana (変体仮名?) The pangram poem Iroha-uta ("ABC song/poem"). In 1900. in Japan.e. which dates to the 10th century. all syllables had more than one hiragana. the usage of hiragana has become mixed with katakana writing.