Japanese Alphabet

The 48 Essential Characters

Release Date
Format Hardcover 148 pages 6.5 x 9.5 inches 144 two-color and B&W illustrations
ISBN-13 978-0-78920-959-7

A useful companion to Abbeville’s Chinese Calligraphy, this clear and concise handbook is the ultimate guide to the complexity and beauty of the Japanese writing systems, for writers and readers alike.

In the fourth century A.D., through contact with Korea, Japan adopted the Chinese writing system which had been sweeping through Asia along with the new Buddhist religion. Modern Japanese writing uses three main scripts: kanji (Chinese ideograms), which are used for proper names, for nouns, and for verb roots; hiragana (deriving from the terms hira, “common,” and kana “borrowed character”), used for adding to and distinguishing from sequences of Japanese grammar; and katakana (from kata, “part,” and kana, “borrowed character” or rather, “partially borrowed character”), which is used to denote foreign pronunciations or to write terms borrowed from foreign languages.

With large depictions and clear step-by-step instructions, Mandel illustrates all 48 sounds in Japanese, presented in the traditional iroha order, in hiragana, katakana, and kanji forms, and each entry is accompanied with its roma-ji, or Roman phonetic spelling. The author clearly indicates the correct sequence for writing the individual strokes, and provides each kana, or character, with the Chinese kanji from which it was derived. He relates a concise history of Japanese writing, and provides the reader with charts of the Japanese and Chinese numbers, the hiragana and katakana contractions, and the“keys” or radicals that make up the Japanese kanji. A comprehensive guide to all of the characters of the Japanese alphabet, this is an ideal primer for the beginner, as well as a convenient reference for a more advanced student. Joining Abbeville’s Chinese Calligraphy, Maya Script, and Arabic Script, Japanese Alphabet is an exhaustive compendium of the Japanese writing system and indispensable addition to any Japanese linguist’s library.

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