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  • Hiragana is a Japanese syllabary, one basic component of the Japanese writing system, along with katakana, kanji, and in some cases rōmaji. Hiragana and katakana are both kana systems; they have corresponding character sets in which each kana, or character, represents one mora. Each kana is either a vowel such as "a"; a consonant followed by a vowel such as "ka"; or "n", a nasal sonorant which, depending on the context, sounds either like English m, n, or ng, or like the nasal vowels of French. Because the characters of the kana do not represent single consonants, the kana are referred to as syllabaries and not alphabets. Hiragana is used to write native words for which there are no kanji, including grammatical particles such as から kara "from", and suffixes such as さん ~san "Mr., Mrs., Miss, Ms." Likewise, hiragana is used to write words whose kanji form is obscure, not known to the writer or readers, or too formal for the writing purpose. There is also some flexibility for words that have common kanji renditions to be optionally written instead in hiragana, according to an individual author's preference.

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