Dakuten, Handakuten and Contracted Sounds - Japanese Hiragana

Author Anna Baffa Volpe for article 'Dakuten, Handakuten and Contracted Sounds - Japanese Hiragana'

Anna Baffa Volpe

11 min reading time

今日は、welcome back!

How did you find the first part of the syllabary ひらがな?

Were you able to identify the various characters and recognise them in the different words?

We studied together the part of the Hiragana table about pure sounds, the vowels and the double consonants.

Hiragana syllabary table
Part of the Hiragana syllabary.

We are now able to read words such as:

  • おかあさん mother
  • おとうさん father
  • いもうと younger sister
  • おとうと younger brother
  • おねえさん older sister
  • おにいさん older brother
  • いとこ cousin
  • こうこう high school
  • ようちえん kindergarten
  • こうえん park
  • にわ garden
  • いえ house
  • きつね fox

Read until the end of the post to check the readings in Rōmaji of the words in the list above.


Today we have a look at new sounds: the Impure, Semi-pure and Contracted sounds.

We won't learn any new syllables or characters. We will use the characters we studied already with some adjustments. These will vary the reading of the first characters, but not change their symbol.

Hiragana Syllabary: Dakuten

We begin with two new signs that placed after the character to change its pronunciation:

The first diacritical sign is represented by two inverted commas or quotation marks called dakuten (in slang tenten) meaning point, dots or nigori that means "impurity, muddy or torbid"

These inverted commas are written at the top right of the characters and only in the following series:

  • series か
  • series さ
  • series た
  • series は
Hiragana Dakuten
This table shows all Hiragana characters in their Dakuten form

As in the first part of the Hiragana reading I report the _transcription in _ that you can see in bold letters.

Series ga

  • ga
  • gi
  • gu
  • ge
  • go
japanese fox
The fox (きつね) school (がっこう)
  • がくせい gakuse student.
  • あげる ageru the verb to give.
  • ありがとうございます arigatō gozaimasu thank you
  • まんが manga japanese comics, manga
  • およぐ oyogu the verb to swim.
  • むぎmugi the wheat
  • やまがた Yamagata name of a Japanese prefecture

Series za

  • za
  • ji
  • zu
  • ze
  • zo
water
Snow (ゆき) water (みず)
  • かぜkaze wind
  • じかん jikan time
  • みずうみ mizūmi lake
  • かざり kazari 'ornament, 'decoration
  • ぞう 'elephant
  • しみずさん Shimizu san Mr. Shimizu

Series da

  • da
  • ji
  • zu
  • de
  • do
Words with the ぢ ji character are very few; for the sound ji the character is more common
daidokoro
Daidokoro だいどころ, the kitchen.
  • ともだち tomodachi friend, friends
  • だいず daizu soy
  • つづき tsuzuku the verb to continue
  • でんわ denwa phone
  • どうぞ dōzo please!
  • はねだくうこう Haneda kūkō one of the airports in Tōkyō along with なりたくうこう Narita kūkō

Series ba

  • ba
  • bi
  • bu
  • be
  • bo
o-bento
O-Bento おべんとう, the Japanese lunch box
  • おぼえる oboeru the verb remember
  • えび ebi the shrimps
  • へび hebi the snake
  • おばあさん obāsan grandmother
  • ほぼ hobo adverb about, approximately
  • にほんぶえ Nihonbue the Japanese flute
  • かびん kabin vase
  • たちばな Tachibana Japanese surname

Hiragana Syllabary: Handakuten

As we can see there are no new syllables, we go over the pure characters already studied by adding only the ten ten.

The second sign is represented by a ゜ dot always placed in the top right of the character, called handakuten or maru, which means circle and is only used with the series ha

series pa

  • pa
  • pi
  • pu
  • pe
  • po
tenpura
Tenpura てんぷら, the popular Japanese dish
  • かんぱい kanpai to make a toast in Japan, cheers!
  • かっぱ Kappa kappa, Japanese mythological creature that dwells in rivers, ponds, water
  • しんぴてきな shinpiteki na mysterious
  • べっぷおんせん Beppu onsen the Hot Springs baths in Beppu (Kyūshū island)
  • がっぺい gappei union, fusion
akiremenaide
Akiremenaide あきらめないで

An expression the Japanese love and use a lot, as do fans and lovers of manga and anime: akiramenaide never give up!

あきらめないで

Don't give up!

Hiragana Syllabary: contracted sounds

The last step to complete the whole syllabary are contracted sounds.

Contract Sounds Table
This table shows all the contracted sounds of the Hiragana syllabary
The contracted sounds are combinations of the syllables ending in "i" with the three characters や, ゆ, よ

kya series きゃ

  • き + や = きゃ kya
  • き + ゆ = きゅ kyu
  • き + よ = きょ kyo

As we notice, the three syllables や, ゆ, よ are transcribed in the bottom right-hand corner and are smaller than the main character.

What happens if I write the three characters ya, yu, yo with the same size as the first? The word acquires another meaning, if the term exists of course.

For example:

  • きょう: kyō the meaning is today
  • きよう: kiyō the meaning is skillful

In the first case, the sounds defined as contracted are shorter and faster in pronunciation, whereas in the second they are distinct and marked.

tokyo
Tokyo
  • きょうかい kyōkai church
  • ゆうびんきょく **yūbinkyoku post office
  • きゅうに kyū ni avverbio suddenly
  • おきゃくさま o kyaku sama customer

gya series ぎゃ

  • ぎ + や = ぎゃ gya
  • ぎ + ゆ = ぎゅ gyu
  • ぎ + よ = ぎょ gyo
gyoza
Gyoza

Gyōza dumplings filled with ground meat and vegetables and wrapped in a thin dough

  • ぎゅうにく gyūniku beef
  • きぎょう kigyō entreprise, business
  • ぎゃくに gyaku ni adverb on the contrary

sha series しゃ

  • し + や = しゃ sha
  • し + ゆ = しゅ shu
  • し + よ = しょ sho
densha
Densha, the train
  • いしゃ isha doctor
  • しょうがっこう shōgakkō primary school
  • しゅくじつ shukujitsu national holiday

ja series じゃ

  • じ + や = じゃ ja
  • じ + ゆ = じゅ ju
  • じ + よ = じょ jo
manju
Manjū

Manjū is a type of わがし, Japanese sweet, a small rounded dough, made with a mixture of wheat, rice flour, sugar and filled with あずき azuki bean jam, called あんこ anko.

  • じゅうどう jūdō Judo, the martial discipline
  • じゃがいも jagaimo potato
  • ひじょうに hijō ni adverb extremely

cha series ちゃ

  • ち + や = ちゃ cha
  • ち + ゆ = ちゅ chu
  • ち + よ = ちょ cho
ocha
Ocha おちゃ, the tea.
  • こうちゃ kōcha black tea
  • うちゅう uchū the Universe
  • ぶちょう buchō Head, Chief of a section, of a department

ja series ぢゃ

  • ぢ + や = ぢゃ ja
  • ぢ + ゆ = ぢゅ ju
  • ぢ + よ = ぢょ jo

We have already found these three sounds with the series じゃ、じゅ、じょ whose use is prevalent in the words of the Japanese language. The ぢゃ series has very few applications.

  • ごはんじゃわん gohanjawan rice bowl
  • おだわらぢょうちん Odawarajōchin the lanterns of Odawara

There is an underlying phonetic rule in the use of the sound ji expressed by じ or ぢ, we will postpone this to another article, for now it is enough to learn mainly the じゃ, じゅ, じょ series for the sounds ja, ju and jo.

nya series にゃ

  • に + や = にゃ nya
  • に + ゆ = にゅ nyu
  • に + よ = にょ nyo
Milk
ぎゅうにゅう, milk
  • にゅうがくしけん nyūgaku shiken School Entrance Test
  • にょうぼう nyōbō wife
  • こうにゅう kōnyū purchase

hya series ひゃ

  • ひ + や = ひゃ hya
  • ひ + ゆ = ひゅ hyu
  • ひ + よ = ひょ hyo

Remember for this series that the letter h is an aspirated sound.

hail
Hyō, the hail
  • ひょうごけん Hyōgo ken the prefecture of Hyogo
  • ひゃく hyaku the number 100

bya series びゃ

  • び + や = びゃ bya
  • び + ゆ = びゅ byu
  • び + よ = びょ byo
300 yen
300 yen: さんびゃくえん
  • さん san the number 3
  • びゃく byaku, comes from hyaku 100
  • えん en the japanese currency yen
  • さんびょう san byō 3 minutes
  • びゃくだん byakudan white sandalwood
  • びゅうろん byūron mistaken opinion

pya series ぴゃ

  • ぴ + や = びゃ pya
  • ぴ + ゆ = びゅ pyu
  • ぴ + よ = びょ pyo
japanesegourd
Kanpyō, かんぴょう, strips of dried gourd

Kanpyō strips obtained from the bottle gourd, cut thinly and dried. They have various uses in Japanese cooking (わしょく) as in まきずし rice rolls seasoned and wrapped in nori seaweed.

  • はっぴゃく happyaku the number 800
  • はっぴょう happyō announcement

mya series みゃ

  • み + や = みゃ mya
  • み + ゆ = みゅ myu
  • み + よ = みょ myo
Myōga
Myōga, みょうが, Japanese ginger.

Myōga variety of ginger, a very important ingredient in Japanese cooking, わしょく.

  • みょうにち myōnichi way along with ashita to translate the adverb tomorrow
  • じんみゃく jinmyaku the personal conncetions

rya series りゃ

  • り + や = りゃ rya
  • り + ゆ = りゅ ryu
  • り + よ = りょ ryo
ryokan
Ryokan りょかん

Ryokan traditional hotel, the Japanese-style inn

  • りょこう ryokō journey
  • りゅう ryū the Dragon
  • りゃくする ryaku suru the verb to omit, abbreviate

Rōmaji readings: exercise

  • おかあさん okāsan mother
  • おとうさん otōsan father
  • いもうと imōto younger sister
  • おとうと otōto younger brother
  • おねえさん onēsan older sister
  • おにいさん onēsan older brother
  • いとこ itoko cousin
  • こうこう kōkō High School
  • ようちえん yōchien kindergarten
  • こうえん kōen park
  • にわ niwa garden
  • いえ ie house
  • きつね kitsune the fox

If you've read this post and the previous one on Hiragana readings you are now able to read any word or sentence containing Hiragana!

Try practising now using japanese websites, blogs or any other way you can find on the web. Try to distinguish and read the words written in Hiragana.

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