30

When looking at the hiragana ぬ (nu), ね (ne), and る (ru) one notices a small circle in the symbols. In fact that circle is the only difference when comparing them with the hiragana め (me), れ (re) and ろ (ro).

In the history of hiragana, is there any special reason that lead to this. And while I could see the relation of ね/れ and る/ろ (given that they sound similar), why are ぬ and め so different in their pronunciation?

“Mahoraba” by Kojima Akira

(Image was taken, and slightly adjusted, from the manga “Mahoraba” by Kojima Akira)

  • Trivia: I actually spotted this about a month ago and waited for Japanese.SE to go live so I could ask it. – poke May 31 '11 at 19:22
  • There are a lot of good on-topic questions in the definition stage of this site. – Ali May 31 '11 at 20:52
  • But those don't get answered, right? :P – flamingspinach Jun 5 '11 at 23:10
35

They all originate from the cursive versions of kanji with the same/similar pronunciation as the hiragana. Here's a picture from Wikipedia to illustrate:

origin of the hiragana

To answer your question - there is no deep connection between the kana with circles. The kanji they came from just happened to have a circle when written in cursive.

And just to be complete, Wikipedia also has a picture on the origin of katakana. They're a bit more obvious because they're taken from the "plain" forms of the kanji.

  • Interestingly enough, in the case of め and ぬ, ぬ derives from a kanji with the left radical the same as the origin of め. – archaephyrryx Jun 27 '17 at 23:03

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.