I am learning Japanese, and of course my first step has been to learn the Hiragana and Katakana. I am at the point to where I feel comfortable writing and reading in Hiragana and I understand that the "mudded sound" characters are called dakuten and handakuten. However, I am not entirely sure that I know the official word for the "compound Hiragana." Such as きょ、ちゃ、 じゅ All I have been seeing it labeled as online or in books is compound Hiragana. So I guess my question is, Is this the correct term for this or is there a more official word for it in Japanese? Any help is of course always appreciated. ありがとう!


Strangely enough, there is no official term covers all of those compound kana. If we focus on traditional repertoire only (those followed by ゃ, ゅ, ょ, ゎ), you can call them 拗音【ようおん】仮名 since they only appear in 拗音 (altered i.e. palatalized or labialized) syllables. However, we also employ compound kana heavily in modern loanwords such as ファ, ツェ, トゥ etc. This type of kana (or, compound kana as a whole) has no name yet, so you must explain by words like:

  • 二字一音の仮名 ("two-letters-one-syllable kana")
  • 仮名二文字で書く音 ("sounds that written in two kana")
  • 小文字をそえて書く音 ("sounds that written with accompanying small characters")
  • 組み合わせ仮名 ("combined kana"; a phrase "組み合せて用いる" is seen in the cabinet notification)

Technically, there is an academic term 二重音字【にじゅうおんじ】 (digraph) to broadly refer to two characters represent a single phonological unit together, but I don't think many people would understand it.

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These are called 拗音{ようおん}or "twisted sounds", and all such syllables in Japanese have the form Cy{a,u,o} for each initial consonant C except /w/.

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  • Thank you for such a quick responce. Very helpful. At least now I have a term to explain what I am doing. – Jacob May 28 '16 at 18:23
  • True for Modern Japanese; there's 拗音 くゎ くゐ くゑ くを for historical pronunciations and Ryuukyuuan languages (though Unicode apparently only has shrunken わ). – Sjiveru May 28 '16 at 18:33

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