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In "The Unfolding Of Language" by Guy Deutscher, I've read that "harakiri" was once pronounced as "farakiri" and, even earlier "parakiri", thus reavaling the word underwent the p → f → h weakening shift that happened in many languages.

Now, from a simple we search, I found that harakiri is written like 腹切り.

What about the other two forms? How do I write them?

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    The 腹 in 腹切り is not a phonetic representation in the first place. Are you familiar with Japanese writing systems?
    – Leebo
    Aug 26, 2023 at 23:15
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    What is your goal? Discussion itself about features of phonology or grammar of older stages of Japanese? Writing some text in archaic spelling / style? Something else?
    – Arfrever
    Aug 27, 2023 at 0:27

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If you asked this question knowing almost nothing about the Japanese writing system, you should read a bit about it first. 腹切り is a perfectly valid Japanese word, but it's written using a type of character called kanji, which are ideograms. 腹 is a character that represents the meaning of "abdomen", and 切 is an ideogram that means "cut". Although the kanji 腹 has several standard readings including "hara", you cannot use kanji to explain the pronunciation of a word. As an analogy, you can use the emoji 🐱 to convey the meaning of cat, and it has a standard reading (/kæt/), but you cannot use this character to explain the historical pronunciations of the word. Even if it was pronounced differently in the past, 🐱 is always written as 🐱.

If you want to compare various pronunciations of a word, you need to use hiragana instead, which are phonetic characters similar to the Latin alphabet. Here's how you can simulate the old pronunciations of "harakiri" using hiragana:

Romaji (Latin) Hiragana
harakiri はらきり
farakiri ふぁらきり
parakiri ぱらきり

Note that the latter two rows are just rough simulations. No one would understand you if you pronounced or wrote this word in these old ways.

(By the way, the word-initial "p" sound in Japanese words disappeared before the 8th century, and the practice of harakiri did not appear until the 12th century. I doubt that people in the past actually pronounced it like "parakiri".)

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  • From the link you provided I understand that らきり maps to rakiri, so how comes ha and pa correspond to and , i.e. 1 character, whereas fa needs 2, ふぁ (the former of which at that page is associated to fu, the latter... don't know)?
    – Enlico
    Aug 27, 2023 at 7:50
  • Another side question. If 切=cut + 腹=abdomen = 切腹=seppuku, what is the り in 腹切り? I mean, it looks like り is a hiragana, so it maps to ri, whichi is indeed the final sound of harakiri, but how come it's needed, given that 腹切 would already represent the idea of "abdomen cut"?
    – Enlico
    Aug 27, 2023 at 8:06
  • @Enlico ふぁ is an "extended kana" used to approximate foreign sounds. See this answer (note that it uses katakana instead of hiragana). Since the "fa" sound disappeared more than 1000 years ago, we don't have a one-character hiragana for that sound. Instead, we use ふぁ . As for this り, please search for "okurigana".
    – naruto
    Aug 27, 2023 at 8:08
  • @Enlico You may be interested in this.
    – naruto
    Aug 27, 2023 at 8:13
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    @Enlico I can't answer endless questions from someone who is merely curious, but this り is the ren'yōkei of a godan verb, used as a noun. In other words, 切る means "cut" and 切り roughly means "cutting".
    – naruto
    Aug 27, 2023 at 8:35

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