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Japanese Katakana


The katakana syllabary was derived from abbreviated Chinese characters used by Buddhist monks to indicate the correct pronunciations of Chinese texts in the 9th century. At first there were many different symbols to represent one syllable of spoken Japanese, but over the years the system was streamlined. By the 14th century, there was a more or less one-to-one correspondence between spoken and written syllables.

The word katakana "part (of kanji) syllabic script". The "part" refers to the fact that katakana characters represent parts of kanji.

Characteristics and usage of katakana

Katakana are also used to write Ainu, a language spoken on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido.

Katakana and the kanji from which they developed

In each column the rōmaji appears on the left, the katakana symbols in the middle and the kanji from which the symbols were derived on the right.

katakana syllabary and the Chinese characters from which the syllables are derived

Katakana syllabary (片仮名 / カタカナ)

The symbols on the right are the basic katakana syllabary in the order they appear in dictionaries and indices (reading from left to right and top to bottom). Additional sounds (the symbols on the right) are represented by diacritics and combinations of symbols.

Katakana syllabary

Long vowels

How long vowels are written in katakana

Download this chart in Word, or PDF format (also includes hiragana).


Japanese pronunciation

Sample text in Katakana

Sample text in Katakana

This text in standard Japanese


Transliteration (rōmaji)

Subete no ningen wa, umare nagara ni shite jiyū de ari, katsu, songen to kenri to ni tsuite byōdō de aru. Ningen wa, risei to ryōshin to o sazukerareteari, tagai ni dōhō no seishin o motte kōdōshinakerebanaranai.

A recording of this text


All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
(Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

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