The three voiceless consonants, /k/, /s/, and /t/ have voiced counterparts called dakuon. The voiced counterpart of /k/ is /g/, /s/ is /z/, and /t/ is /d/. The symbolic representation to indicate voicing of these consonants is very systematic and simple: add two dots at the upper right corner of each symbol. For instance, observe the following:
/ka/ か → /ga/ が
/sa/ さ → /za/ ざ
/ta/ た → /da/ だ
It is important to note that the voiced counterparts of /si/ し and /ti/ ち, which are /zi/ じ and /zi/ ぢ, respectively, are pronounced the same. Likewise, the voiced counterparts of /su/ す and /tu/ つ, which are /zu/ ず and /zu/ づ, are also pronounced the same.
The question that naturally arises is, when does one use one or the other? The answer to this question is that in most cases, we use じ for /zi/ and ず for /zu/. Cases where you use ぢ and づ are very limited and we will let you know whenever such cases arise.
The syllables beginning with /p/ are called the "semivoiced" counterparts of /b/, i.e. /pa/ /pi/ /pu/ /pe/ /po/. To indicate these sounds, attach a little circle (instead of two dots) at the upper right corner of /ha/ /hi/ /hu/ /he/ /ho/, respectively:
は、ひ、ふ、へ、ほ → ぱ、ぴ、ぷ、ぺ、ぽ
Follow the links in the table below to see brush-stroke and printed versions of the characters, and some usage examples of each.