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Writing System

         Japanese is written in three main ways: kanji, hiragana and katakana. Roman letters are also used, but to a much lesser extent.

         In writing Japanese, most nouns, verb roots, and adjectives are represented by kanji while the verb and adjective endings indicating the various tenses etc., the auxiliary verbs, and the particles are written in one of the kana systems (hiragana or katakana). Adverbs can be written in either kanji or kana characters. Of the two kana systems, hiragana has by far the wider usage in modern times. Katakana characters are loanwords brought into Japanese from other languages.

         All three types of Japanese characters are designed to be written in vertical lines, though they can also be written horizontally. When written vertically, the first line comes on the right of the page and succeeding lines follow it to the left. Years ago, almost all writing was vertical but the horizontal style has gradually become more popular in foreign languages, and business documents are also generally written horizontally. From the reader's point of view, however, vertically written sentences are easier to assimilate and for this reason most newspapers, magazines, and popular books are printed in this style.

          Kanji are the Chinese ideographs or characters on which the Japanese writing system is based. Each kanji is a symbol for a concept and is used for writing content words or root elements. Kanji are used in combination with kana, which are phonetic characters that represent syllables.Hiragana are cursive phonetic characters simplified from kanji. They are mainly used in combination with kanji.

Katakana are angular phonetic characters simplified from kanji. They are mainly used for writing foreign words.