Entry 3734 of the 万葉集 reads as follows1:

等【ト】保【ホ】伎【キ】山【やま】 世【セ】伎【キ】毛【モ】故【コ】要【エ】伎【キ】奴【ヌ】 伊【イ】麻【マ】左【サ】良【ラ】尓【ニ】 安【ア】布【フ】倍【ベ】伎【キ】与【ヨ】之【シ】能【ノ】 奈【ナ】伎【キ】我【ガ】佐【サ】夫【ブ】之【シ】佐 【サ】

Transcribed in more modern Japanese style, this reads:


It is noted that in certain 万葉集 transcriptions, the last four characters are transcribed as 左【サ】必【ビ】之【シ】佐 【サ】 (寂【さび】しさ). However, what interests me about this alternate transcription is that the 万葉仮名 used for ビ is devoiced; generally it is read as 必【ヒ】. I do understand that, at least for the subsequent thousand years or so, the marking of voicing was inconsistent at best, but I was under the impression that in 上代特殊仮名遣【じょうだいとくしゅかなづかい】, a distinction between voiced and voiceless consonants was in use.

So why is this read as ビ? Am I wrong that a 清濁 distinction is in use generally within the 万葉集?

Note: incidentally, every other usage of 必【ヒ】 in the 万葉集 is devoiced. Sadly, the reference above is the only usage of サビシ in the 万葉集.


1 http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/japanese/manyoshu/Man15Yo.html

Note: I originally mistakenly claimed that the 万葉仮名「夫」 was normally read as 夫【フ】. This is not true and I have updated the question to reflect this.

  • 1
    From 新日本古典文学大系 萬葉集三 (ISBN 4-00-240003-4), page 453: 西本願寺本などには「一云左必之佐」の注記があるが、天治本・類聚古集・広瀬本など非仙覚本系の諸本にはそれがない。また、「左必之佐」の「必」は甲類の仮名であるが、「寂しさ」の意ならば「び」の仮名は乙類でなければならない。「一云左必佐」の本文は、後世の鼠入と思われる(有坂秀世『国語音韻史の研究』)。
    – Dono
    Commented Jul 24, 2014 at 10:57
  • @Dono I'm certainly no expert or anything, but that explanation has several problems. First of all, it does not address the issue that this is not even a 仮名 for ビ; it's a 仮名 for ヒ. Additionally, the assertion being made is based entirely upon the assumption that サビシ is formed from the 未然形 of 上二段活用動詞「サブ」, which is why ビ would have to be 乙類. While I do actually believe that that is the origin, this is literally the only known instance of サビシ written in 上代特殊仮名遣, which makes it impossible to confirm. As far as I know, the leading theory is that サビシ is a later development via sound change from サブシ.
    – rintaun
    Commented Jul 24, 2014 at 11:25
  • Even though 万葉仮名 has the ability to distinguish between non-voiced and voiced consonants, that distinction is not always made, even in 万葉集. It appears that you have 時代別国語大辞典:上代編, so please read the section 仮名の清濁 on page 29. Quote: 万葉集では、清音仮名をもって濁音を写したと見なされる場合がややふえる(略). Further, as the above quote indicates, a review of the various manuscripts indicates that this notation is not found in most of the other manuscripts. As indicated, it is likely to have been added later. Further, that person likely translated the now old word サブシ into the newer サビシ, while 1) not distinguishing voice or 2) 甲乙.
    – Dono
    Commented Jul 24, 2014 at 12:31
  • (I ran out of space.) As you likely know, early 平仮名 and 片仮名 lacked a facility to distinguish voice. Even after such a method became available, it was not regularly used like it is in modern Japanese. With all of that in mind, if you reconsider this later scribe, it makes sense why he (or she, doubtful) may not be as precise as we scholars may have hoped.
    – Dono
    Commented Jul 24, 2014 at 12:42
  • @Dono Thank you for the detailed response. You should write an answer, because that basically answers my question. I guess I was just thinking about it the wrong way; as some special thing rather than a copy made by some dude hundreds of years later...
    – rintaun
    Commented Jul 24, 2014 at 13:22

1 Answer 1


[Rewritten from comments above.]

Regarding the annotation 一云左必之佐, page 353 in 萬葉集三 (ISBN 4-00-240003-4) in the 新日本古典文学大系 series says:


As indicated, an analysis of the various manuscripts shows that this annotation does not appear in most of the manuscripts. More likely it was added at a later period by someone. Who wrote it and when is unknown, but speculation is possible. Several things can be noted:

  • If sabisi derives from sabusi, the /bi/ must be 乙類.
  • 必 is 甲類 rather than the expected 乙類.
  • 必 is non-voiced /pi/ rather than the expected /bi/.
  • 甲類 and 乙類 distinctions soon vanished after Old Japanese.
  • While 万葉仮名 is able to distinguish between voiced consonants, that distinction is not always made. Further, early hiragana and katakana lacked a means to distinguish voice, and even after a method was developed, it was not regularly used like in Modern Japanese.

Considering these clues together with the hypothesis that this annotation was added at a later period, the following may be assumed:

  • A later scribe would be unable to distinguish between 甲類 and 乙類 sounds since this distinction is now no longer made.
  • The lack of voice distinctions may be normal a person of a later period.
  • Perhaps this annotation represents a translation from the now old sabusi to the newer sabisi.

While much of this is supposition, in all likelihood this annotation was done by someone at in a later period.

Am I wrong that a 清濁 distinction is in use generally within the 万葉集?

In general, I would have to agree. However, there are exceptions even in 万葉集. Quote from 時代別国語大辞典:上代編, page 29: 万葉集では、清音仮名をもって濁音を写したと見なされる場合がややふえる(略). These are not absolutes, so a bit of flexibility is needed at times. Note though that this point is rather moot now with the supposition that this above annotation was added by a later scribe so it does not represent the original 万葉集.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .