Katakana Diphthongs

In the last lesson, you learned the extended katakana characters. The biggest lesson so far in this course. Now we’re moving into combinations adding a whole bunch of new sounds to the language.

What Does Diphthong Mean?

I discussed this in the hiragana course, but real quick. The combination of characters is called a diphthong. They are created by combining the beginning consonant from each “i” vowel sound kana キ (ki) ギ (gi) シ (shi) ジ (ji) チ (chi) 二 (ni) ヒ (hi) ビ (bi) ピ (pi) 三 (mi) リ (ri) — with a “y”  sound ヤユヨ.

The Katakana Diphthongs

Like hiragana, there are the standard diphthongs. But katakana adds more — to make sounds found in foreign languages. But let’s save those for the next lesson.

Ki:キャ, キュ, キョ → kya, kyu, kyo

Gi:ギャ, ギュ, ギョ → gya, gy, gyo

Shi:シャ, シュ, ショ → sha, shu, sho

Ji:ジャ, ジュ, ジョ → ja, ju, jo

Chi:チャ, チュ, チョ → cha, chu, cho

Ni:ニャ, ニュ, ニョ → nya, nyu, nyo

Hi:ヒャ, ヒュ, ヒョ → hya, hyu, hyo

Bi:ビャ, ビュ, ビョ → bya, byu, byo

Pi:ピャ, ピュ, ピョ → pya, pyu, pyo

Mi:ミャ, ミュ, ミョ → mya, myu, myo

Ri: リャ, リュ, リョ → rya, ryu, ryo

Also, just like in hiragana, pay special attention to the SHI, JI, and CHI rows. Notice that the “y” sounds are not pronounced. For example シャ looks like shi-ya, but it is just sha — without the “y” sound.

Study Point

The main takeaway from this lesson is you learn to recognize the combination. That the ヤ, ユ, and ヨ are written smaller, because when exploring Japan, unfortunately, those can be very subtle.

Something to remember too is these combinations are only from the “i” vowel sound characters so if you see a ヤ, ユ, or ヨ after an “i” sound character, perhaps it is a combination.