In English it's normal for the sentence to start with a capital letter. In German also. Additionally, there are classes of words that are written in German with an initial capital letter.

How is it in Japanese for:

  • Hiragana
  • Katakana
  • Kanji
  • 3
    There is no concept of 'big' (capital) letter in Japanese in either hiragana, katakana or kanji. Jul 12, 2021 at 22:10
  • 2
    There are large and small versions of some kana, but it's not for the same purpose as the languages mentioned.
    – Leebo
    Jul 12, 2021 at 22:12
  • @Leebho, What is the reason or the use that there are at least of some Kana phonograms in (two ?) sizes ?
    – Alfred.37
    Jul 12, 2021 at 22:15
  • 4
    Does this answer your question? japanese.stackexchange.com/questions/44341/…
    – Leebo
    Jul 12, 2021 at 22:19
  • @aguijonazo I'm sorry, but I don't understand your comment. I didn't say the Japanese anywhere. If I've said something wrong or offensive I'm happy to correct it but I can't see the problem right now. Jul 13, 2021 at 9:50

1 Answer 1


Not many scripts/alphabets have two "cases" like the Latin script does. The Latin (English, German, French, ...), Cyrillic (Russian, Ukrainian, ...), Greek and Armenian scripts have cases (Indo-European languages), but most other scripts are unicase.

Japanese has two different phonetic alphabets (hiragana and katakana), but neither is "upper" nor "lower". They are used depending on the type of the word. For example, インターネット (the katakana word for Internet) is written like this, in all katakana, regardless of its position in a sentence. イ is always イ regardless of its position in a word. There is no such thing as "uppercase/lowercase kanji", either.

Some hiragana/katakana do have small versions, but their role is close to that of Latin diacritics. Small hiragana/katakana basically indicate a variation of the sound of the previous character. Just as Ü is a variation of U in German, ティ is a variation of テ in Japanese (note that イ is small). This is very different from the concept of uppercase/lowercase or small caps in English.

You can read an introduction of the Japanese writing system on Wikipedia.

  • 1
    It may be worth noting that all writing systems using cases (bicameral writing systems) probably have the same origin, namely medieval Europe, i.e., bicamerality was invented exactly once.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Jul 13, 2021 at 11:19
  • 1
    It is worth to note that "cases" are a concept in typology of writing system, not of language. The same language, say, Kazakh has cases when written in Cyrillic, but not in Arabic; Javanese has in Latin, but not in their native script; and so on. Jul 13, 2021 at 20:14
  • 1
    @Wrzlprmft I suspected that but could not find any source. Do you have any?
    – naruto
    Jul 14, 2021 at 0:37
  • 1
    @brokenlaptop True, Japanese can have cases when written in Latin script (romaji). Somehow the word "script" did not come to mind when I was writing this...
    – naruto
    Jul 14, 2021 at 0:38

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