Hiragana Characters, what does ー mean?

Q: I have a question about Japanese. I know all of the Hiragana characters and how to pronounce them(つ-tsu, か-ka, etc) but what does this line thing mean? ” 一 ” how is it pronounced and when is it used?

A: Another good question!  The ー Japanese symbol doesn’t have a meaning, it’s just a piece of short hand.

For example if you have the sound “ma” and you want to add an extra “a” to the end,  instead of writing it again you just put the ー line.    Having said that you don’t often use it with Hiragana, it’s used much, much more in katakana e.g. “email” in Japanese is me e ru,  which you could write as メエル but it looks silly and is too much hard work to write, so for the repeated “e” sound you just use the ー  to make it メール。 Dead easy.

There’s also a kanji version that you can use when you can’t be bothered to write the same kanji twice.  For example the surname Sasaki could be written as 佐佐木, but instead of writing out the second 佐  you always use the 々 symbol which means “repeat the previous kanji” so you end up with 佐々木。

Hope that helps!

Be genki,

Richard

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