Hiragana(平仮名) is used to write the following:
- okurigana(送り仮名)—inflectional endings for adjectives and verbs—like い in 白い (Shiroi, “white” 見た (Mita, “saw”) and 白かった (shirokatta, “was white”) and る in 見る (Miru, “see”).
- Many function words, including postpositions (Joshi(助詞))—small or most grammatical particles, typically common words that, for instance, mark sentence subjects, topics, and objects or have a purpose similar to English prepositions like “to,” “in,” “by” “from,” and “for.”
- Diverse words of various grammatical types that lack a kanji rendition, or whose kanji is challenging to typeset, or considered too complicated to understand (as in children’s books).
- Furigana(振り仮名)—phonetic renderings of kanji placed beside or above the kanji character. Furigana may be useful for children or non-native speakers or clarify rare, nonstandard, or ambiguous readings, especially for words that use kanji not part of the jōyō kanji list.
The purpose of Hiragana
Some flexibility can also be seen for words with more traditional “kanji” renditions to be instead written in hiragana, depending on the author’s preference. All Japanese words canbe spelled out entirely in katakana or hiragana, even when they are written using kanji. Some words are colloquially written in hiragana, and writing them in kanji might provide them a more formal tone. Hiragana, on the other hand, may impart a more emotional or softer feeling. For instance, the Japanese word “kawaii,” which stands for the Japanese equivalent of “cute,” can be entirely written in kanji as in 可愛い and hiragana as in かわいい.
Some lexical items that are usually written using kanji have become grammaticized in specific contexts, where they are instead written in hiragana. For instance, the root of the verb 見る (Miru, “see”) is typically written with the kanji 見. However, in cases when it is used as a suffix meaning “try out,” the whole verb is written in hiragana as みる, as in 食べてみる (tabetemiru, “try eating [it] and see”).