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Dakuten (濁点?, lit. "voicing mark"), colloquially ten-ten (点々?, "dots"), is a diacritic sign most often used in the Japanese kana syllabaries to indicate that the consonant of a syllable should be pronounced voiced, for instance, on sounds that have undergone rendaku (sequential voicing).
The kun-yomi pronunciation of the character (濁?) is nigori; hence the daku-ten may also be called the nigori-ten. This character, meaning muddy or turbid, stems from Chinese phonetics, where consonants were traditionally as clear (清 "voiceless"), lesser-clear (次清 "aspirated") and muddy (濁 "voiced"). (See: Middle Chinese#Initials)
Dakuten were used sporadically since the start of written Japanese; their use tended to become more common as time went on. The modern practice of using dakuten in all cases of voicing, in all writing, only came into being in the Meiji period.
The dakuten resembles a quotation mark, while the handakuten is a small circle, similar to a degree sign, both placed at the top right corner of a kana character:
Both the dakuten and handakuten glyphs are drawn identically in hiragana and katakana scripts. The combining characters are rarely used in full-width Japanese characters, as Unicode and all common multibyte Japanese encodings provide precomposed glyphs for all possible dakuten and handakuten character combinations in the standard hiragana and katakana ranges. However, combining characters are required in half-width katakana, which does not provide any precomposed characters in order to fit within a single byte.
The following table summarizes the phonetic shifts indicated by the dakuten and handakuten. Literally, syllables with dakuten are "muddy sounds" (濁音 dakuon?), while those without are "clear sounds" (清音 seion?). However, the handakuten (lit. "half-muddy mark") does not follow this pattern.
|か ka||が ga||(か゚ nga)|
|さ sa||ざ za|
|た ta||だ da|
|は ha||ば ba||ぱ pa|
Handakuten on ka, ki, ku, ke, ko (rendered as か゚, き゚, く゚, け゚, こ゚) represent the sound of ng in singing ([ŋ]), which is an allophone of /ɡ/ in many dialects of Japanese. They are not used in normal Japanese writing, but may be used by linguists and in dictionaries (or to represent characters in novels who speak that way). This is called bidakuon (鼻濁音?, "nasal muddy sound").
In katakana only, the dakuten may also be added to the character ウ u and a small vowel character to create a [v] sound, as in ヴァ va. As /v/ does not exist in Japanese, this usage applies only to some modern loanwords and remains relatively uncommon, and e.g. Venus is typically transliterated as ビーナス (bīnasu) instead of ヴィーナス (vīnasu). Many Japanese, however, would pronounce both the same, with a /b/ sound, or even /β/ much as in Spanish, and may or may not recognize them as representing the same sound.
An even less common method is to add dakuten to the w-series, reviving the mostly obsolete characters for /wi/ (ヰ) and /we/ (ヱ). /vu/ is represented by using /u/, as above; /wo/ becomes /vo/ despite its /w/ normally being silent. Precomposed characters exist for this method as well (/va/ ヷ /vi/ ヸ /vu/ ヴ /ve/ ヹ /vo/ ヺ), although most IMEs do not have a convenient way to enter them. Another rare application of dakuten is on the r-series, to mark them as explicitly l: ラ゛ /la/, and so forth. This is only done in technical or pedantic contexts, as many Japanese cannot tell the difference between r and l.
In Ainu texts, handakuten can be used with the katakana セ to make it a /ts/ sound, セ゚ ce [tse] (which is interchangeable with ツェ), and is used with small pou to represent a final p, ㇷ゚. In addition, handakuten can be combined with either katakana ツ or ト (tsu and to) to make a [tu̜] sound, ツ゚ or ト゚.
In informal writing, dakuten is occasionally used on vowels to indicate a shocked or strangled articulation; for example, on あ゛ or う゛. Dakuten can also be occasionally used with ん (ん゛) to indicate a guttural hum, growl, or similar sound.
Kana iteration marks
The dakuten can also be added to hiragana and katakana iteration marks, indicating that the previous kana is repeated with voicing:
Both signs are relatively rare, but can occasionally be found in personal names such as Misuzu (みすゞ). In these cases the pronunciation is identical to writing the kana out in full. There is also a longer multi-character iteration mark called kunojiten, which is only used in vertical writing, and this also can have a dakuten added.
|Dakuten||Handakuten||Yōon + Dakuten||Yōon + Handakuten||Dakuten + Handakuten||Yōon + Dakuten + Handakuten|