The origins and changes over time of the features and characteristics of Japanese in its spoken and written forms.

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3
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1answer
73 views

Is 忝い(かたじけない) used in current language?

I'm currently watching Rurouni Kenshin, and Kenshin says 忝い(かたじけない) a lot to express his gratitude. I looked it up a little and based on this it seems like it's old Samurai language, but I wonder if ...
13
votes
2answers
349 views

Nouns exhibiting vowel fronting

As touched upon in another thread, there are several nouns that exhibit a kind of vowel shift in older forms, where the ending vowel is fronted when the noun is used on its own to become /i/ or /e/, ...
16
votes
3answers
805 views

Kanji for native Japanese concepts: Kun'yomi spanning multiple morphemes

There are a few words, which are written with Kanji imported from China, but where the intended native Japanese meaning would prefer a different choice of Kanji. My favourite examples are 雷 vs. 神鳴り ...
15
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5answers
1k views

Are there any old loanwords from Korean, especially any not written in katakana?

Given the close proximity and long history of interaction of various kinds within East Asia, the great influence of Chinese in both Japanese and Korean, and the similar structures of Japanese and ...
1
vote
0answers
114 views

Why is かける written in kana? [duplicate]

Why is かける so often written only in kana? Like 疑いをかける or 電話をかける? Is there a historical reason? What are some other examples of verbs that are often written in only kana?
7
votes
1answer
266 views

In 君が代, what's the function of の?

I've got a question about the two instances of の in 君が代: さざれ石の巌となりて 苔の生すまで First, is さざれ石の巌 to be interpreted as a boulder made of pebbles (analogous to, say, 木製の槍)? Second, is the の in 苔の生すまで ...
2
votes
1answer
181 views

Etymological connection between 門 and 円?

I'm curious if there's any historical link between the kanji for "gate", 門{かど}, and the kanji for "circle" or "yen", 円{えん}. If 門 is gate, 円 looks like a closed gate. Am I being whimsical and seeing ...
2
votes
1answer
268 views

What is the etymology of 〜ません(でした)?

I have always been interested in the negative polite (〜ません) and negative past-polite (〜ませんでした) inflections of verbs. My understanding is that ます is an inflectable function word (助動詞), so I'm ...
0
votes
0answers
38 views

Why are い and な conjugated differently? [duplicate]

With い adjectives, to conjugate the verb into positive, negative, present or past tense, you change the い to くない, かった or くなかった. But with な adjectives, you conjugate by changing です to ではありません, でした and ...
19
votes
4answers
7k views

Why was both katakana and hiragana created?

Nowadays, katakana tends to be used for gairaigo and onomatopoeia, while hiragana tends to be used for native Japanese words. This is a slight simplification - more information is available here. ...
0
votes
1answer
78 views

Japanese writings in Brazil [closed]

I've seen these writings in the ground of Brazil. I've already tried to translate it with my friend but there are some complex kanji that we don't know. I'm very curious to know what they say, can ...
4
votes
1answer
154 views

Was “The Tale of Genji” really written completely or almost completely in hiragana?

My question is about the script of Genji Monogatari. It is easy to find many anecdotal claims that it was written in hiragana, and that this is explained by Chinese characters considered unsuitable ...
8
votes
1answer
299 views

What's the grammar of 持ちつ持たれつ?

持ちつ持たれつ (meaning approximately "supporting eachother") is commonly heard, but seems to be formed from some archaic grammar. I'm assuming it's an archaic form of 持って持たれて or something like that, but ...
8
votes
1answer
191 views

History of 馬 and 梅

I learned recently that two mora Sino-Japanese words using one character always end in /ki/, /ku/, /i/, /u/, /chi/, /tsu/, or /n/. However, I was also told that 馬【うま】 and 梅【うめ】 are Sino-Japanese. What ...
3
votes
1answer
115 views

Did the modern usage of katakana predate the Americans?

How long has katakana been used as today, to represent non-Japanese words, onomatopoeia et al.? But specifically, has this usage been around since before U.S. Commodore Matthew Perry arrived in Japan ...
4
votes
1answer
107 views

Origins of the Volitional Form

I was doing some reading, and I read that while the volitional form can be explained as coming from the 未然形 for う-verbs, it cannot be explained for る-verbs. (I'm sure I should be using better ...
1
vote
0answers
112 views

When did LOC adopt modified Hepburn?

If I look in Google Ngrams, I see that the transliteration "honbu", meaning HQ, basically didn't exist until 1964. But it didn't surpass "hombu" until 1976. I believe Modified Hepburn was introduced ...
5
votes
2answers
203 views

Development of なんか?

Is there anymore to the usage of なんか that isn't saying "something", but rather something like, or along the lines of? I know the two are very similar, but using なんか at the end of a sentence seems to ...
4
votes
3answers
564 views

How were hiragana/katakana influenced by syllabary writing systems?

Today, I was in English class, and I learned about language families and then writing systems. Of course, there is kanji, and ideographic system, but hiragana and katakana are both syllabary systems. ...
4
votes
2answers
312 views

Why is the kanji for luck the same as to carry?

Why is the kanji for うん(運) the same as the kanji for 運ぶ? Did the kanji just somehow end up being the same, or were the two meanings related somehow? All I can think of is some kind of "carrying luck", ...
7
votes
2answers
185 views

When was 歴史的仮名遣い standardized?

Enno Shioji's answer to my question about 直音表記 says (emphasis added) that: Historically there were multiple way to write a word, and this wasn't standardized. For example, some very old documents ...
6
votes
1answer
120 views

When/why would one write a word using 直音表記?

I looked up 釈迦 at goo辞書 and noticed that there were two alternate readings presented for this word: さか and しゃか. The さか reading is given as being 『「しゃか」の直音表記。』, so these two are clearly the same ...
5
votes
2answers
401 views

Does なんて = なんと (いう)?

I know that なんて is a contraction of なんと, but has it also picked up the いう in its meaning? Because なんて means something, and I feel like 何という, which means "something called" (right?) could have just ...
11
votes
3answers
2k views

About writing numbers using Japanese numerals vs using Arabic numerals

I noticed that even though Japanese language has kanji characters for numbers (e.g. 十、百、千、万 etc), there are many places where Arabic numerals are used instead, for example, prices for shop items are ...
5
votes
2answers
440 views

Is Japanese one of the Buddhist canonical languages?

The languages of oriental Buddhist traditions, be it Theravada or Mahayana, do not always provide complete and entire canonical texts. Up to now, I am aware of Pali, Chinese and Tibetan versions of ...
13
votes
1answer
430 views

Japanese/Chinese numbers usage timeline

Japanese uses both native and Chinese numbering numbering systems, the Sino-Japanese pronunciations being いち, に, さん, etc. and the native being ひと, ふた, み, etc. For the most part they are used for ...
1
vote
2answers
1k views

Did the Japanese have a word for surrender before WWII?

I had always thought that the Japanese didn't have a word for surrender before WWII. It seemed to be plausible given their culture. However, I can't seem to find any solid evidence of this. Is it just ...
5
votes
3answers
198 views

What's the relationship between 'e' and 'wa' in some words?

Can someone explain how 'e' and 'wa' are related in some words / 音便? Presumably the 'e' was originally the obsolete ゑ since it's in the ワ行. Some examples: 上(うえ) ←→ 上着(うわ・ぎ) 声(こえ) ←→ ...
6
votes
1answer
831 views

Is there any merit to the claim that Japanese and Tamil are genetically related languages?

In India, regional nationalism is strongly tied to language. This is particularly the case in the Dravidian-speaking south, especially among speakers of Tamil - Tamil nationalists trot out all manner ...
14
votes
2answers
453 views

Exceptional compounding forms

There are a number of Japanese words which have distinct compounding forms: -a/-e alternation: 天・雨、酒、上、風、目 — many examples. -u/-i alternation: 神([神]{かむ}[集]{つど}ふ)、月([月]{つく}[読]{よみ}) -o/-i alternation: ...
2
votes
2answers
181 views

Why is する considered irregular?

Yes, this sounds like a really confusing question. But I suddenly realized that する seemed to be a perfectly regular 上二段活用 (kami nidan; upper bigrade) verb with a stem of s-: 未然形: し (as in しない) 連用形: し ...
4
votes
0answers
149 views

Iterative / repetitive る evolving from classical 連体形【れんたいけい】

This is somewhat related to the discussion of classical auxiliary verb ふ, mentioned in the answer to snailboat's question, What is the わ in 忌まわしい and 嘆かわしい?. Another apparent iterative / repetitive ...
3
votes
2answers
178 views

Historical Precursor to な?

Prior to the development of the な particle (presumably from なる) several hundred years ago, what constructions were used where な-construtions are currently used? E.g. in the phase きれいな女, would that ...
5
votes
1answer
149 views

Are 万葉仮名 (man'yōgana) chosen consistently?

This answer got me wondering how relevant the presentation in 万葉仮名 is to finding a 漢字 for a given word. As far as I understand, 万葉仮名 are used largely for phonetic value. Knowing that some word was ...
1
vote
1answer
141 views

What are the origins of the names of tanuki and kitsune noodle dishes?

Two of Japan's native wild animals are the きつね fox and たぬき raccoon dog. Interestingly there are also noodle dishes apparently named after each. (Not containing the meat of those animals!) The terms ...
4
votes
1answer
120 views

Why is an anachronistic modern conjugation thrown into the lyrics of 軍艦行進曲?

軍艦行進曲 seems to be written mostly using Classical Japanese grammar. Here's the first stanza: 守るも攻むるも黒鐵{くろがね}の 浮かべる城{しろ}ぞ頼{たの}みなる 浮かべるその城{しろ}日{ひ}の本{もと}の 皇國{みくに}の四方{よも}を守{まも}るべし ...
5
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0answers
82 views

What do we know about the phonetic distinctions between the 甲類 and 乙類 syllables in 上代特殊仮名遣い? [closed]

上代特殊仮名遣い【じょうだいとくしゅかなづかい】 is a Nara-period practice in which two distinct versions of certain syllables (called 甲類【こうるい】 and 乙類【おつるい】, and denoted by subscript 1 and 2 in Latin script) were ...
7
votes
1answer
298 views

Was the の particle sometimes written in katakana?

In "Maiko Haaaan!!!", a bridge going over Yumekawa (a fictional river in Kyoto) apparently has "夢ノ橋" written on it, rather than "夢の橋". I had two theories about why that may be the case. One was that ...
9
votes
1answer
197 views

Was “乎” the manyogana spelling of the accusative/object particle “を”?

In the English Wiktionary entry for "を" there is a quote or example sentence using the character "乎" with no explanation seemingly where the particle "を" would normally occur. Now I couldn't find ...
6
votes
1answer
164 views

On “おてもと” and its many variants for “chopsticks”

I've always known the Japanese word for "chopsticks" to be (お)箸{はし}. Today in my usual practice of reading everything around me I looked up what was written on the wrapper of the disposable ...
2
votes
1answer
287 views

Why are こんにちは and こんばんは used for greetings?

If they are translated literally it gives "today is" and "tonight is". Is it some sentence that got shortened ? (Also not sure how to classify this question so forgive me if I used the wrong ...
4
votes
3answers
292 views

If 校 is the kanji for school, why do I need 学 to actually say school?

Perhaps a dumb question, but something that I was wondering and couldn't find a clear answer via search. Since 校 is the kanji for school, why do we also need the kanji for learning 学 to say "school" ...
5
votes
1answer
384 views

Why does Japanese TV News and magazine programs have “mandatory” subtitles/legend?

(I never thought I would ask one of these questions and even considered if it was off topic but this is a very distinct feature of the language as it is really used. Is it due to some characteristic ...
2
votes
1answer
175 views

What are the reasons for the huge amount of loanwords in Japanese?

It seems that Japanese has far more loanwords than any other language I've heard spoken. I understand that English is far-reaching and a global language, but are there many known reasons that English ...
4
votes
1answer
420 views

History of だ、です、 and である

Historically where did all of these different forms arise, and when are they used? I noticed that だ and である both have their place in different 文法形, what is the difference in their meaning? I know that ...
4
votes
0answers
256 views

Haphazard usage of katakana and hiragana for particles and okurigana

I'm looking at this picture of the 日米和親条約 (Kanagawa convention) from the late Edo period and it seems rather strange: It looks like the non-kanji parts are rather haphazardly written in katakana ...
6
votes
1answer
235 views

Orthography at the turn of the previous century

A couple of days ago I purchased an old book published in 1908. It uses a strange orthography I haven't encountered before. Everything that is not in kanji is written in katakana, including ...
1
vote
1answer
158 views

Is “琉語解釋” Japanese?

Today I bought a hundred year old book in a secondhand bookshop in Naha, Okinawa. It's a handbook of the Ryukyuan language in Japanese, though it has both Japanese and English titles there is no ...
4
votes
1answer
169 views

Differences between なし and あらず?

At some point in history, ない replaced *あらない as the negative of ある, at least in the Kantō dialect (Kansai seems to have あらへん; あらん is also apparently attested in some dialects). When did this happen? ...
28
votes
4answers
1k views

How did “little tsu” become a lengthener?

How did it come about historically that っ preceding a sound would geminate it? Is it really a little つ or are they just near homomorphs?