The modern Japanese alphabet and the katakana

Learn more the modern japanese alphabet and the katakana with examples of changes over time!

The modern Japanese alphabet and the katakana

THE Japanese language, like any other language, has changes in its writing and reading that change over time. This fact occurs in a special way in katakana, being known as modern kanas or modern japanese alphabet.

as the Katakana's goal is to make foreign words easier to read and write., it became the Japanese alphabet with the most modifications, where syllables enter and leave that alphabet constantly, creating registered and unofficial variations.

The modern Japanese alphabet and book authors

Why then don't book authors usually write about modern katakanas? As changes constantly move in and out of this alphabet, book authors try to cling to the most commonly used symbols that have a similarity to hiragana. The goal is to facilitate the learning of symbols that can be used to represent any foreign word and be perfectly understood by the Japanese.

This way, it is not necessary to learn modern Japanese alphabet to write foreign words in Japanese, as the standard Japanese alphabet already fulfills this need. On the other hand, it is not that uncommon to find words such as the names of computer games and video games using modernized kanas.

The most used modern Japanese alphabet

Below is a short list of modern katakana syllables commonly used in Japan.

Y family
イィ(yi), イェ(ye)

Family of V
ヴァ(Va), ヴィ(Vi), ヴ(Vu), ヴェ(Vé), ヴォ(Vo), ヴャ(Vya), ヴュ(Vyu), ヴョ(Vyo)

Syllables without family
シェ(she), ジェ(je), チェ(che), スィ(si), ズィ(zi), リェ(rye),

tee family
ティ(ti), トゥ(tu), テャ(tya), テュ(tyu), テョ(tyo)

D family
ディ(di), ドゥ(du), デャ(dya), デュ(dyu), デョ(dyo)

TS family
ツァ(tsa), ツィ(tsi ), ツェ(tse), ツォ(tso),

F family
ファ(fa), フィ(fi), ホゥ(hu), フェ(faith), フォ(fo), フャ(fya), フュ(fyu), フョ(fyo)

W family
ウァ(wa), ウィ(wi), ウゥ(wu), ウェ(we), ウォ(wo), ウャ(wya), ウュ(wyu), ウョ(wyo)

KW family
クァ(kwa), クィ(kwi), クゥ(kwu), クェ(kwe), クォ(kwo),

GW family
グァ(gwa), グィ(gwi), グゥ(gwu), グェ(gwe), グォ(gwo)

The modern and obsolete Japanese alphabet

As I mentioned above, some symbols entered the modern Japanese alphabet and later ended up in disuse. Despite this, some of these syllables can still be seen in a few words. Below is a list of symbols that can still be found.

W family
ヰ (wi), ヱ (we), ヰャ (wya), ヰュ (wyu), ヰョ (wyo)

Y family
ユィ(yi), ユェ(ye)

Family of V
ヷ(va), ヸ(vi), ヴ(vu), ヹ(ve), ヺ(vo)

KW family

GW family

Tips from Japanese Language Readers

One of the things I like most about the Japanese language is the fact that readers participate by sending their tips, suggestions and additional information. With this article, it was no different. So I decided to gather and create a specific item to publish what readers sent me.

Dan said:

Hello Eduardo.

Really, the amount of letters and the difficulty of expressing the various pronunciations of foreign words using katakana, is something that has always existed in the Japanese language.

But I would like to make some observations, because reading the article and comparing it to what I read in magazines, newspapers and also consulting my wife who is Japanese, there are some things in the article that are no longer used in katakana.

イィ(yi), today the form イ-(ii) is used to stretch the sound.

スィ(si), ズィ(zi), you simply use シ and ジ, for these sounds, for example the famous zippo lighter, you write ジッポー.

ホゥ(hu), is written as フ- , stretching the sound...

クゥ(kwu), is used as ク-(kuu), stretching the sound.

ヷ(va), ヸ(vi), ヴ(vu), ヹ(ve), ヺ(vo), are no longer used very often, only in old books, nowadays, the first presented form is used.

But as everything is in constant evolution, this is not eternal either, it can change over time.

That's it, a hug.


I decided to write this article because many readers were asking questions about some katakana symbols that they didn't know. In all the cases found, readers were talking about the modern Japanese alphabet. I hope this article has clarified many questions.

Well... I think that ends our hiragana and katakana course, the two Japanese phonetic alphabets. However, as I intend to keep trying to improve this course, be aware of the possibility of changes and new improvements.

If you've made it this far, consider yourself a winner. Have you already managed to climb a step in the learning japanese. We still have a lot of ground to go on, but don't de-mine. I'm pretty sure that if you've made it this far, it's because you can go much further.

Now you can read and write any Japanese language using hiragana and katakana. The next step would be to study grammar and kanji (after being confident in hiragana and katakana) while listening to a lot of music and watching a lot of anime. OK?