Japanese Katakana Symbols

On this page you can learn more about the  history and use of japanese katakana symbols.

What are the different Japanese symbols called?
There are four kinds of symbols that make up four Japanese "alphabets":
  • Kanji characters

    - complex Japanese symbols originally from China

  • Hiragana characters

    - simple, rounded Japanese symbols developed in Japan

  • Katakana characters

    - simple, angular Japanese symbols derived from kanji in Japan

  • Roman characters

    - the English alphabet

How many katakana characters are used in Japanese?
Thereare 46 katakana symbols in Japanese, each with a particular sound but with no independent meaning. Click on this link to see how to write Japanese katakana symbols.
How are katakana symbols used in Japanese?
Each Japanese "alphabet" has a particular function and katakana is the "alphabet" used to write foreign words and names. This is why our Japanese name translator outputs names in katakana symbols. The Japanese language also uses katakana characters for emphasis (as bold script or italics are used in English) and for onomatopoeic expressions, of which there are around 1,000 in Japanese.
What is the history of Japanese katakana symbols?
Japanese is thought to be related to the Ural-Altaic family of languages, that includes Turkish, Mongolian, Manchu and Korean. An early form of Japanese existed from about the 3rd century AD. However, it wasn't until later that the Japanese gained the ability to write. The writing system they began to use was Chinese, imported from China and Korea along with a variety of technologies, political systems and Buddhism. It remains in the form of kanji symbols. However, the difficulty of adapting the Chinese kanji symbols to represent the sounds of the Japanese language resulted in the development of two phonetic "alphabets" of simplified Japanese symbols - katakana and hiragana.

Katakana symbols were developed in the 9th Century by Japanese students of Buddhism who found it hard to keep up when writing lecture notes using complex Chinese kanji symbols. They started to write only parts of the more complex kanji symbols as a shorthand that then became established as katakana - an independent Japanese "alphabet" in it's own right.
Related Information
(Please note that some sites require Japanese fonts installed. japanese-name-translation.com is not responsible for the content of external sites.) More information about katakana and Japanese