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Hiragana (平仮名, ひらがな) is a Japanese syllabary, one basic component of the Japanese writing system, along with katakana, kanji, and in some cases rōmaji (the Latin-script alphabet). The word hiragana means "ordinary syllabic script".

Hiragana and katakana are both kana systems. With one or two minor exceptions, each sound in the Japanese language (strictly, each mora) is represented by one character (or one digraph) in each system. This may be either a vowel such as "a" (hiragana あ); a consonant followed by a vowel such as "ka" (か); or "n" (ん), a nasal sonorant which, depending on the context, sounds either like English m, n, or ng ([ŋ]), or like the nasal vowels of French. Because the characters of the kana do not represent single consonants (except in the case of ん "n"), the kana are referred to as syllabaries and not alphabets.

Hiragana is used to write native words for which there are no kanji, including grammatical particles such as から kara "from", and suffixes such as さん ~san "Mr., Mrs., Miss, Ms." Likewise, hiragana is used to write words whose kanji form is obscure, not known to the writer or readers, or too formal for the writing purpose. There is also some flexibility for words that have common kanji renditions to be optionally written instead in hiragana, according to an individual author's preference. Verb and adjective inflections, as, for example, be-ma-shi-ta (べました) in tabemashita (食べました, "ate"), are written in hiragana, often following a verb or adjective root (here, "") that is written in kanji. When Hiragana is used to show the pronunciation of kanji characters as reading aid, it is referred to as furigana. The article Japanese writing system discusses in detail how the various systems of writing are used.

There are two main systems of ordering hiragana: the old-fashioned iroha ordering and the more prevalent gojūon ordering.


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