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“A syllabary is a set of written symbols that represent (or approximate) syllables which make up words” (source: Wikipedia). There are a few syllabaries in the Japanese language; however, two of them are in common use nowadays. These are:

Hiragana (平仮名, ひらがな), which was born out of manyōgana (万葉仮名,まんようがな), and aside from its common application in everyday language it is also utilised in Japanese calligraphy in kana script (かな).

Katakana (片仮名, かたかな), aside from its common application in everyday language is also used in calligraphy, mainly in a style known as chōwatai (調和体, ちょうわたい, lit. “harmony of scripts”).

There are other syllabaries in the Japanese language that are currently obsolete, though may appear occasionally in calligraphy (such as hentaigana (変体仮名, へんたいがな, lit. “anomalous kana”).

The only syllabary in Chinese language that we currently know of is the recently discovered 女書 (Chinese: nǔ shū).

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Page last modified on November 15, 2011, at 04:44 AM