What @Faun says is correct. As an additional tip, I’m not sure if this works for all Japanese input methods, but to type a small character, I just need to type a letter that doesn’t exist in the kana system (e.g. ‘x’) followed by the character I want to type. For common combinations like those in your examples, you can type things like ‘jyo’, ‘jo’ and ‘nyu’. If you’re on a tablet, I believe these shortcuts should work as well. If you’re on a kana keyboard, there should be a key somewhere that allows you to convert characters into small ones.
It takes maybe 3 weeks of regularly seeing hiragana before you can the spot small/regular difference at a glance (it did for me, anyway). Whenever you get to a hurdle (and there will be more), rest assured that they are temporary. Good luck on your journey!
Hahaha. It’s actually a pronunciation thing, and I think you’ll find it more logical if you look at it that way. I would be pretty demotivated too if I had to shrink or enlarge characters for no reason. When it comes to the Y row characters (や、ゆ、よ), using the small version of the character means the sound blends into that of the previous character. For example,
じよ = jiyo (two separate syllables)
じょ = jyo (one syllable, or at least, you glide from one into the next)
It’s the difference between… Hm, I’m not sure… ‘Leon’ (pronounced ‘lee-on’) and the ‘lion’ in ‘million’. The character is small because it’s not a full sound on its own.
The other main sort of small kana is っ (small tsu). That indicates a glottal stop (i.e. a brief pause during which you cut everything and stop speaking). That translates the doubled consonants you see in romaji (e.g. gokko = ごっこ, which means, roughly, ‘the act of playing pretend’).
The final sort of small kana, which honestly is more of a katakana thing or something you’d find in manga/light novels, is small vowels (ぁ、ぃ、ぅ、ぇ、ぉ and their katakana equivalents). They have two main uses:
Translating sound combinations that don’t exist in Japanese, like the final syllable of ‘liberty’=リバティー
Extending sounds that have already been made, like a scream or a shout, like 「わぁぁぁぁぁ！」(I think this can be done with full-sized vowel kana as well though)
I see. Thanks for the extra info. I just made that assumption based on the fact that it worked for X and L. I’d never actually tested any of the rest. Hahaha.
Much better example that doesn’t require specifying the pronunciation. Thanks. The only thing is… sometimes, Japanese people pronounce the little ‘y’ sound, and sometimes they don’t. Both are acceptable, but my point is that we don’t really have such variations in English.
Hahaha. Well, more or less all I know about that is when it substitutes for a か sound in phrases like 一ヶ月. However, the other day, I saw a place name containing a ケ (I’ve forgotten what it was) in which ケ (or was it ゲ?) should be pronounced ‘nga’ (the nasalised version of が).
That first one, yes. Hahaha. As for why I said ‘should’… I was reading some NHK document about the rules for the use of the nasalised が for broadcasting. I know that it’s not universal in everyday speech.
Oh, so it was written as ヶ? I had heard that の and が used to overlap in Classical Japanese, but I had no idea how it was written.