2.6. Hiragana for h/b/p + vowels


h + vowels:
HiraganaRomanizationPronunciationDescription
(ha)ha[ha] audio English "h" + Japanese "a".
There is a single-kana postposition with this kana whose actual pronunciation is (wa) "wa". It will be explained in a later lesson.
(hi)hi[çi] audio German "ch" in ich + Japanese "i".
The tongue position for this consonant is the same as that for English "y", but it is a voiceless consonant. Since the Japanese don't distinguish [çi] and [hi], you can pronounce it as English "h" + Japanese "i".
(hu)hu (fu)[Φu] audio Japanese "φ" + Japanese "u", or English "h" + Japanese "u".
The lips position for Japanese "φ" is the same as that for English "w", but it is a voiceless consonant. Japanese people don't distinguish [Φu] and [hu]. Using English "f" is not recommended.
(he)he[he] audio English "h" + Japanese "e".
There is a single-kana postposition with this kana whose actual pronunciation is (e) "e". It will be explained in a later lesson.
(ho)ho[ho] audio English "h" + Japanese "o".


b + vowels:
HiraganaRomanizationPronunciationDescription
(ba)ba[ba] audio English "b" + Japanese "a".
(bi)bi[bi] audio English "b" + Japanese "i".
(bu)bu[bu] audio English "b" + Japanese "u".
(be)be[be] audio English "b" + Japanese "e".
(bo)bo[bo] audio English "b" + Japanese "o".

Even though these hiragana are combinations of hiragana for "h" + vowels and voiced sound marks, their consonants are not voiced "h". See the next group for corresponding voiceless hiragana.


p + vowels:
HiraganaRomanizationPronunciationDescription
(pa)pa[pa] audio English "p" + Japanese "a".
(pi)pi[pi] audio English "p" + Japanese "i".
(pu)pu[pu] audio English "p" + Japanese "u".
(pe)pe[pe] audio English "p" + Japanese "e".
(po)po[po] audio English "p" + Japanese "o".

The circles at the right top of hiragana are used only for these hiragana. This mark is called a semi-voiced sound mark ((ha)(n)(da)(ku)(te)(n) "handakuten" in Japanese).

Thousands of years ago, syllables now represented by hiragana for "h" + vowels were pronounced as "p" + vowels. That's why those hiragana with voiced sound marks have the sound of "b". After the pronunciation of "p" shifted to "h", the semi-voiced sound mark was invented to stand for the sound of "p".


Hiragana examples:

Hiragana:(hu)(bu)(ki)
Pitch:HLL
Romanization:hubuki
Meaning:snow storm (noun)

Hiragana:(he)(bi)
Pitch:HL
Romanization:hebi
Meaning:snake (noun)

Hiragana:(ha)(ba)
Pitch:LH
Romanization:haba
Meaning:width (noun)

Hiragana:(ha)(na)(bi)
Pitch:HLL
Romanization:hanabi
Meaning:fireworks (noun)

Hiragana:(bi)(bo)(u)
Pitch:LHH
Romanization:bi
Meaning:beautiful face (noun)



Further readings:

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