Hiragana: Voiced Consonants and Other Sounds

Though I covered in an earlier post all the distinct characters in Hiragana there are still a few additional variations and sounds that still remain.

Voiced Consonants

Voiced consonants are consonant sounds that require creating a vibration in your throat. A number of consonant sounds in Hiragana can be changed to their voiced counterpart by adding two small dashes to the upper-right corner of the character; namely the “k”, “s”, “t”, and “h” consonant sounds. There is also a semi-voiced consonant sound “p”, which is created by putting a small circle in the upper-right corner of the “h” characters.

Y-vowel sounds

A consonant can precede the three y-sounds: (や), (ゆ), and (よ). This is done by attaching a small, half-size version of the y-sounds to the consonant+i sounds as you can see in the table below.

Hard Consonant Sounds

While no single letter ends in a consonant sound except (ん), Japanese does have a way to carry over the next consonant sound back with a small (つ). This can be used with the consonants “p, k, t, s” to create a hard stop. For example:

ひと —> meaning “person“. It would normally be read as “hi-to”.

However, by adding a small (つ) the “t” consonant sound is carried back

ひっと —> meaning “hit”. It would be read “hit-to”.

The Long Vowel Sound

Finally we have the long vowel sound which is simply extending the duration of a vowel sound. You can extend the vowel sound of a character by adding either (あ), (い), or (う) depending on the vowel. See the following chart:

It’s important to make sure you hold the vowel sound to the full length of both characters because there are many similar words that are only different by the length of the vowel. An example:

ここ –> “here”

こうこう –> “High school”

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