Sunday, July 29, 2012

Combinations in Hiragana

So we've learned the Hiragana characters and all the extra characters... but there's just a little more. Don't worry, it's not as bad as you think it is.

The main combinations that we'll use over and over again (and you'll see a lot of it in words) consist of a character (usually from the -i sound) combined with a small Y character. As you may remember, there are only 3 Y characters: ya, yu, and yo. What this combination does is that it just combines the sound into one. I know this may sound confusing, but let's take it step by step.

Compare these two:

きよ (kiyo) and きょ (kyo)

Do you notice that the regular-sized yo is its own sound, whereas the small yo paired with ki makes it into one sound altogether? The same is true for other combinations of -i and the Y characters:

きゃ (kya), きゅ (kyu), しゃ (sha or shya), しゅ (shu or shyu), しょ (sho or shyo), びゃ (bya), びゅ (byu), びょ (byo), just to name a few.

Pretty easy, right? Now, you can take a look at the last box below the main Hiragana chart (given two posts ago) and understand what those characters are. Remember, a regular-sized Y character and a small Y character are not the same! Using them incorrectly or writing them ambiguously may confuse readers and even spell different words! Take a look at this example, it's two words that tripped me up quite a few times:

びょういん (byouin) = hospital
びよういん (biyouin) = beauty salon

Yeah, you want to avoid these mistakes. If you ever get confused or can't tell if it's a small character, make sure that you ask someone!

Now go and study your Hiragana! If there are any questions or comments, please post them below!

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