お and を
I am just now noticing, thanks to this site: http://japanese-lesson.com/resources/pdf/characters/hiragana_writing_practice_sheets.pdf , that there are two characters for, "o" in Hiragana. Now, this has never hindered me in any way, but now that I've noticed it, I was wondering if anyone would be able to explain why there are two. Also, I've noticed that it only shows up (during typing) when I press shift. Is it a special character like a particle, or one of the smaller modifying symbols?
Basically, the character を (wo) has fallen out of use, because of language changes. This sound no longer occurs in natural speech, so the character was largely phased out during language reform a few decades back. Words that use to be written with を are now written using お to accurately reflect the current pronunciation.
The only hold-out is the particle, を. The pronunciation of this particle is essentially the same as お. The "w" sound is very slight. Practically not there in most dialects.
On the upside, this means that if you ever see を, then you know that it is the particle and how to pronounce it. There is no confusing it with part of a word, like with は.