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I know about the "standard" special katakana, like ファ fa, ディ di, ヴ vu, etc. However, I keep running into others I can't find on any list, including the ones in What special kana are used to write foreign words?

For example, on this Wikipedia page, one character has the name:

Quark (クォーク Kwōku)

I've never seen クォ kwo in any katakana list.

Another example is フュ fyu, as in the new movie X-MEN: フューチャー&パスト.

So, what are all the "non-standard" katakana in regular use?

  • @Darius: Oh, I wasn't aware that these katakana were considered "non-standard". Thanks for the edit! – BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft Oct 21 '14 at 20:56
  • Oh, they aren't officially considered "non-standard" I don't think. The scare quotes are still necessary upon first introduction of that terminology. I was just using "non-standard" to mean any katakana that don't have their corresponding hiragana in use (e.g., ふぁ、くぉ, and such are all very uncommon). – Darius Jahandarie Oct 21 '14 at 20:57
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    Your example フュ is a normal Japanese digraph [yōon] - nothing special about that one. – Oskar Lindberg Oct 22 '14 at 9:31
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    @Oskar: Yes, it is special. Without exception, all regular yōon digraphs start with a character that end in an い sound, followed by a small character from the や row. フ ends in an う sound. Not one of the digraphs listed here meets both criteria, and all yōon digraphs listed here do (with exception of a few mentioned obsolete digraphs). – Raizin Oct 23 '14 at 18:17
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    @OskarLindberg It's okay. As they say, サルも木から落ちる – Raizin Oct 24 '14 at 0:02
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Here is a list of extended katakana color coded based on usage. In my personal experience, I have seen the orange ones and most of the blue ones in actual use multiple times. The beige and purple ones I have never seen used before (except maybe スィ), so don't bother learning them.

Here's a list with example words I made based on the link, roughly ordered by commonality based on my experience and the amount of noteworthy dictionary hits:

Common extended katakana:

  • ティ (ti) ― パーティー (party), セキュリティー (security)
  • ディ (di) ― ディスク (disk), メロディー (melody)
  • ファ (fa) ― ファッション (fashion), アルファベット (alphabet)
  • フィ (fi) ― フィクション (fiction), プロフィール (profile, pronounced more like profeel)
  • シェ (she) ― シェルター (shelter), ポルシェ (Porshe)
  • ジェ (je) ― ジェスチャー (gesture), ジェット (jet)

Uncommon extended katakana:

  • ウィ (wi) ― ハロウィーン (Halloween), ウィルス (virus, pronounced more like weerus)
  • ウェ (we) ― ソフトウェア (software), ウェイトレス (waitress)
  • フォ (fo) ― フォーク (fork), イヤフォン (ear phone)
  • フェ (fe) ― フェア (fair), カフェ (café, coffee house)
  • チェ (che) ― チェス (chess), チェック (check, cheque)
  • デュ (dyu) ― デュエット (duet), プロデューサー (producer)
  • ウォ (wo) ― ストップウォッチ (stopwatch), キャットウォーク (catwalk)

Rare extended katakana:

  • イェ (ye) ― イェイ (yay!)
  • トゥ (tu) ― タトゥー (tattoo)
  • クォ (kwo) ― クォーツ (quartz), クォーク (quark)
  • ツァ (tsa) ― モーツァルト (Mozart), ピッツァ (pizza - more commonly ピザ)
  • ツェ (tse) ― プレッツェル (pretzel), ヘルツェゴビナ (Herzegovina)
  • ツォ (tso) ― インテルメッツォ (intermezzo)
  • フュ (fyu) ― フューチャー (future)

  • ヴァ (va) ― ヴァイオリン (violin), ヴァンパイア (vampire) (more commonly バイオリン and バンパイア)

  • ヴィ (vi) ― ヴィーナス (venus) (more commonly spelled ビーナス)
  • ヴ (vu) ― ラヴ (love) (more commonly spelled ラブ)
  • ヴェ (ve) ― ベートーヴェン (Beethoven) (more commonly spelled ベートーベン)
  • ヴォ (vo) ― ヴォーカリスト (vocalist) (more commonly spelled ボーカリスト)

  • ドゥ (du) ― シルク・ドゥ・ソレイユ (Cirque du Soleil), ドゥーイットユアセルフ (do-it-yourself)

(even when spelled with ヴァ, ヴィ, ヴ, ヴェ or ヴォ, the words are often still pronounced with a B sound rather than a V. They just look more fancy or foreign or whatever.)

Almost exclusively in foreign names:

  • クァ (kwa) ― エスクァイア (Esquire)
  • クィ (kwi) ― クィントゥス (Quintus)
  • クェ (kwe) ― クェンティン (Quentin)
  • グァ (gwa) ― グァンタナモ (Guantanamo)
  • ツィ (tsi) ― ツィンメルマン (Zimmermann)
  • テュ (tyu) ― テューリンゲン (Thüringen)

Other combinations such as スィ (si) and ホゥ (hu) also exist, but unlike the ones listed above they are often substituted for other katakana. For example, simple is シンプル and hood is フード. But they can at times be used for portraying foreign sounds more accurately. Most often in names of people and places, or transcriptions of foreign words that are not used as loan words in a Japanese sentence. (Very similar to the ヴァ row, except those are much more commonly used for alternate spellings of loan words)

Lastly, as mentioned by OP in the comments, it's worth mentioning small vowel kana (ぁ, ぃ, ぅ, ぇ, ぉ) can be used for long vowels, a practice that I believe is actually more common in hiragana. It's almost a different matter entirely, but for completion's sake I'll explain it anyway.

If a small vowel kana is used after a kana with the same vowel (e.g. きぃ, ねぇ, ハァ, ルゥ) it means it's a long vowel (similar to きい, ねえ, ハー, ルー). I have a hard time finding a source that explains the nuances implied by use of a small vowel kana, but from personal experience I know four uses:

  1. Just a long vowel, nothing more. i.e. ああ, あー and あぁ are completely identical, and a long vowel is just used for variation or looks. (Or there is something behind it, but I just can't figure out what. That's another explanation.) For example using ワァド as a variation of ワード. I believe this use is most common in popular fiction, where a character name in a fantasy novel might be spelled with a small vowel kana instead of a ー to make it look more unique or foreign or whatever. I believe エル・プサイ・コングルゥ (L-Ψ-congrue) mentioned by OP falls under this category.
  2. At the end of a sentence or interjection a small vowel kana is sometimes used to imply a long vowel that decreases in volume and/or pitch. This is because as opposed to ああ, あぁ looks like the vowel is getting "smaller". For example, a sigh is often transcribed as はぁ. I believe this usage is most common in manga
  3. For lengthening the vowel in a word without changing its meaning. A ー or a regular double vowel (e.g. それはなーに or それはなあに) could also be used, but as opposed to a small vowel these are most often used for words with a completely different meaning (e.g. すじ means line, but すうじ means number). A small vowel (それはなぁに) can be used to avoid this ambiguity. This usage is also very common in dialects. For example, in Kansai dialect they say せぇへん and けぇへん (pronounced せーへん and けーへん) instead of しない and こない, and [気]{き}ぃつけて (pronounced きーつけて) instead of [気]{き}をつけて. These are used because etymologically they used to be words with a short vowel. E.g. せぇへん comes from せ (an Old Japanese mizenkei conjugation of the verb する) + へん (Kansai variant of ない). So logically speaking the word should be せへん, but it's pronounced せえへん. Thus you could say せぇへん is a compromise between grammatically correct spelling and actual pronunciation. The same is true for 気 pronounced きい but spelled 気ぃ, and, for that matter, also それはなぁに in standard Japanese.
  4. In manga and other popular fiction ですぅ and ますぅ is used for characters that pronounce です and ます without a silent vowel at the end. It can be pronounced with a short vowel, a long vowel, or somewhere in between, depending on what the voice actor deems appropriate for the character or situation. For your enjoyment (or annoyance), here is a compilation of Souseiseki from Rozen Maiden saying ですぅ about 200 times.
  • This is a really nice answer, and a good effort. Just remember that the number of words that contain a certain extended digraph does not in itself answer the question of frequency of use - that depends in turn on how common those words are. – Oskar Lindberg Oct 23 '14 at 9:24
  • Very much true! I attempted to not only look at the amount of words, but also my impression of how common those words are. I changed my answer to say "the amount of noteworthy dictionary hits" to reflect this, and I changed the order a little having looked at the list with a fresh mind. – Raizin Oct 23 '14 at 15:52
  • What about ルゥ, as in エル・プサイ・コングルゥ? – BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft Oct 25 '14 at 1:13
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    @BlueRaja-DannyPflughoeft Smaller vowel kana after a kana with the same vowel is not exclusive to katakana, it's also used for hiragana words (most often in interjections and dialects and such). It denotes a long vowel, so ああ, あー and あぁ are often pronounced identical. Although, as Oscar Lindberg said, using a small vowel kana for this at the end of a word or sentence often implies the sound gradually losing volume (e.g. a sigh is most often transcribed as はぁ) because as opposed to ああ, あぁ looks like the sound is getting smaller. I'll update my answer with a more thorough explanation. – Raizin Oct 30 '14 at 16:52
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    ですぅ doesn't stand for a short vowel. Silent vowels and short vowels are an allophone. – user4092 Oct 27 '15 at 14:32
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I think that there may not be any answer to this question - at least not a good one that includes objectively defining "regularity" without any context. Surely, some words including some combination(s) are especially common, looking at Japanese as a whole, and I'd hazard (from a subjective standpoint) that combinations with "ウ + small version vowel" as well as ティ are among those, but beyond that? Well, according to Wikipedia:

Small versions of the five vowel kana are sometimes used to represent trailing off sounds (ハァ haa, ネェ nee), but in katakana they are more often used in yōon-like extended digraphs designed to represent phonemes not present in Japanese; examples include チェ (che) in チェンジ chenji ("change"), and ウィ (wi) and ディ (di) in ウィキペディア Wikipedia.

I believe that this phenomenon could easily (but roughly) be categorized into two usage cases. The first would then be loanwords, where パーティー is a good example.

Slightly off topic, I think it's worth mentioning that while English phonemes not present in Japanese can be rather easily identified, the "rules" for spelling in katakana may be harder to discern. Looking at how "party" becomes パーティー with katakana, an unknowing student may be tempted to write "ticket" as ティケット, but alas, it's チケット. Certainly, there are tendencies (is it a leading, trailing, middle, surrounding phonemes etc.), but there is also some amount of discretion involved. (Why is a word beginning with [ˈka] or [ˈkæ] that could arguably be spelled カ as in カメラ, suddenly キャ, as in キャンパス?)

The second usage case I was thinking about is proper names. Naturally, there are many "fixed" spellings of given names for people, countries and such, for example ウィリアム, or スウェーデン to name but a few. The desired pronunciation, and hence katakana spelling, in the case of people may however be a matter of individual preference.

And by the way, not all loanwords are English in origin, of course. Even some that are easily mistaken for "English" are not, like タバコ (Portuguese), ビール (Dutch) and アレルギー (German). Sounding rules of the source language may also affect how a word is transcribed.

For example, my own middle name is Knut. In my native language the "k" is "hard", and the "n" is pronounced separately, giving roughly [kn'ʉːt] (in contrast to words like "knight" in English). When having this name transcribed for my Japanese student's ID (many years ago), they went with the English sounding rules, in this case giving ナット, which to me was... Not perfect.

Anyway, if you were to construct a list of foreign words in Japanese that included "extended digraphs", then took it upon you to study their frequency, then you'd probably find that some are rather more common then others, but as I've been saying, that's not all to consider. E.g. in the context of mahjong, where most loanwords are Chinese, you'd find both high frequencies and a practical use for one set of "extended digraphs" different from what is common in another.

Absent a context, "anything goes". If your question would have been "which extended katakana are there", many dictionaries and such include lists. Googling, I found this one on-line, that contains I think all combinations that I've ever seen, and some that I haven't seen before:

Katakana (including List of extended katakana)

I hope this helps.

Edit: Note that the chart in the list linked above, and others linked in other answers, may change from time to time.

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    While reading this I noticed even an initial ti sound can go both ways: Tea is ティー, team is チーム, tear is ティア, and Tibet is チベット. Try to explain this matter. – blutorange Oct 22 '14 at 10:38
  • @blutorange - I think the difference between ティand チ has mostly to do with how common the word is. チーム is very common, and チベット has probably appeared a lot in newspapers and such as well. By contrast, ティー and ティア are much less common, and used more as English words than as a fully integrated Japanese word that happens to come from English (like チーム). Another thing that may influence ティー is that it's most often not used on its own, but in words like レモンティー, where it's not word-initial. – Raizin Dec 8 '17 at 11:09
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    @Raizin Maybe it's got something to do with when the word in question was brought in? Most words spelled チ strikes me as plausably "older" in the Japanese language than those transcribed ティ ("older" as in how long ago did the Japanese start using it). – Oskar Lindberg May 7 '18 at 19:39
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I'm a Japanese student (so, I am not good at speaking in English, sorry for my broken English)

Historical, people used to regard Katakana as Men's words. and Hiragana was seemed as Women's words.

above is a part of Old Japanese Constitution "大日本帝国憲法" announced in 19century

第1章 天皇
第1条大日本帝国ハ万世一系ノ天皇之ヲ統治ス

There isn't any Hiragana because there was thought that publish writings should not be use women's words.

NOWADAYS, there is no difference in gender between Hiragana and Katakana.
so, Is there difference between Hiragana and Katakana? Answer is "Yes"

At present, Hiragana is used in Japanese ordinal words like "sashimi","Tsunami","Kawaii" (Japanese ordinal words are called "Wago"「和語」 in Japanese)

and, Katakana is used in expressing foreign language, expect for archaic Chinese words like Wikipedia(from English) as ウィキペディア, Chocolat(from French) as ショコラ in Japanese.

10/24 PM6:00(in Japan Time) added It is difficult for "non-standard katakana" to define. Nowadays, new non-standard katakana is created. But there is a rule.

Standard Katakana

(a consonant)+ya→ャ  ex. キャラ(kyara)
(a consonant)+yu→ュ  ex. キュート(kyuto)
(a consonant)+yo or ho→ョ  ex.ショック(syokku/shokku)

Non Standard Katakana

(a consonant)+wa→ァ  ex.かぁちゃん(kwachan) (It means a mother. but informal expression)
(a consonant)+(weak)i→ィ ex.カービィ(ka-b (weak)i) ,フレンドリィ(furendor(weak)i) but ィ sometimes replace - instead of i, except for a proper noun.

(a consonant)+(weak)fu→ゥ this is a sound of wind for Japanese ex.フゥーと(fuu-to)
(this ONOMATOPE is sound of blowing candles out)
But Words from foreign languages isn't used ゥ, generally use ュ ex.フュージョン(fu-zyon/fyu-zyon)

(a consonant)+we or he→ェ ex.クウェート(kwe-to), シェパード(shepa-do)
(a consonant)+wo→ォ ex.クォーク(kwo-ku)

Thank you for reading

  • まず、japanese.seへようこそ。お答え書いてくれたありがとうございます。しかし、書いてある答え本質問で聞いている内容ちょっと違います。聞きたがっていたのは非日常な仮名についてです。 – virmaior Oct 23 '14 at 14:54
  • そうでございましたか・・・ カタカナは普通外来語に使われることが一般的です 後使われるとすれば昔の人が電信や文書で書く文字や外国人が話す片言の日本語などもカタカナで表記されることが多いです – Asano Ryo Oct 23 '14 at 16:10
  • Very interesting, but, what does this have to do with the question? – BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft Oct 23 '14 at 23:11
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    @virmaior: You shouldn't use …がる for actions of specific individuals unless they are your close friends because it has nuance of nusance. – user4092 Oct 24 '14 at 21:40

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