I'm writing a story with some... very old people, so I'm chasing down some very outdated pronunciations. What's the oldest known pronunciation for the sentence "When is it?"

(I'm not directly asking for an archaic pronunciation of「今、いつか?」because for all I know they'd've used different words entirely, but that's the sentence as it'd appear in modern Japanese.)

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    "When is it?" in what context? Do you mean "What time is it now"? But they don't have clock in oldest known times... Commented Apr 29, 2016 at 7:18
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    How old? Can you give a specific age or year they were born?
    – Locksleyu
    Commented Apr 29, 2016 at 12:27
  • @broccoliforest - "When is it" in a very general "What century/year/Age is it" sense. Commented Apr 29, 2016 at 20:16
  • @Locksleyu - The character in question is Kushinada-hime, so "no, but she's older than the Kojiki". Sometime before 700 AD. I'll take what I can get, I know there's not much from that time period. Commented Apr 29, 2016 at 20:17
  • クシナダヒメ was a person(a god) in about the 1st century.
    – nariuji
    Commented May 1, 2016 at 9:27

1 Answer 1


I can't tell that this is absolutely correct as a word in Nara period, though.

In eight-hundreds, before 古今和歌集 was made, it seems that there was a conversation like this between Mikado and an editor.


(In the 貞観 era, Mikado asked me when 万葉集 had been made, and I replied in a poem.)

Therefore it seems that "when" in ancient Japanese was the same as today's word "いつ".
And ばかり is a word of emphasis.
Add a predicate of an interrogative sentence to this phrase, and it is like this.

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    The OP might be interested to know that いつ today is not pronounced the same way as Old Japanese いつ was. Today is tsu, but it was originally tu; that s didn't appear until Late Middle Japanese (A History of the Japanese Language, Frellesvig p.322).
    – user1478
    Commented May 1, 2016 at 19:47
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    And according to the same book, word-internal consonants were likely to gain voicing, in this case it might have been idu (phonetically). Commented May 2, 2016 at 13:23

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