The classical Okinawan poetry collection the Omoro Sōshi is written (mostly) in Hiragana, but the phonetic mapping of the characters to sounds seems to be different to their standard mapping.

For example, the title "おもろそうし" was presumably (according to the Okinawan-English Wordbook) pronounced more like /u.mu.ɾu u.soː.ɕi/.

Short /o/ and /e/ in standard Japanese seem have been shifted to /u/ and /i/ in Okinawan respectively, and moreover, Okinawan phonology seems to distinguish between /ɸ/ and /h/, and seems to feature glottalized vowels, approximants, and nasal consonants, all of which are not distinguished according to the standard mapping of the hiragana.

So my question is, how did the hiragana orthography used in the Omoro Sōshi correspond to the pronunciation of the poems? And did it adequately map the phonetic inventory of the language, or was it defective in some regards?

  • 1
    I don't know enough to provide an answer that would give a system for you to work things out -- but the mapping from Ryukyu languages to kana is imprecise at best (hopefully it is imprecise in consistent ways). Many words we just know to say a certain way, but that in kana they will be written a little differently. Here is an example in a children's book I cited in an answer here: japanese.stackexchange.com/questions/43775/…
    – zxq9
    Sep 9 '17 at 6:37
  • Also, it appears that some of the Omoro Sōshi may have been written as early as the late 1100s or early 1200s, which may have been before various sound changes occurred. Although modern Okinawan pretty regularly as //u// and //i// where Japanese has //o// and //e//, the hiragana used to write the Omoro Sōshi may have actually corresponded (or at least, more closely) to the pronunciation at that time. See also the EN Wikipedia and JA Wikipedia articles. Nov 26 '19 at 21:35

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