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Questions tagged [history]

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

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Sleeping verbs and まで vs までに

So I was wondering, pretty much all of the sleep related verbs switch meaning with まで and までに. Was it always like that? Or was there a time when 8時まで寝る meant "going to bed at 8"? Or take the even ...
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What is the etymology of this kanji 厚?

In this wiktionary page https://en.m.wiktionary.org/wiki/厚 the etymology for the kanji 厚 is not complete: they wrote that it's an ideogrammic compound but they didn't write the component functions. I ...
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Why are phone calls cylindrical?

何本か重要な電話をかけ、... He made several important phone calls and ... Originally part of this question but separated due to popular? demand. Why is the counter 本 used in reference to phone calls?
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Why is there a difference between the hand drawn 道 and the pc font one?

I was studying this kanji and looked at the strokes order to figure out how to write it, only to realize the difference between the pc font one and the diagram. Why is the 3 look-alike only on hand ...
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1answer
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Why is ostracism called 村八分【むらはちぶ】?

While doing some reading of old questions, I stumbled upon the term 村八分【むらはちぶ】, which is apparently means ostracism. I'm curious what the 8 parts (八分) are and how this relates to ostracism.
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Why お寺 but 神社 (not ご神社)?

Why the difference between Buddhist temples, お寺, and Shinto shrines, 神社? (The latter does not take ご神社, お神社 or 御神社.)
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の: nominalization vs. 'the one that…'

の can be used as a noun with a relative clause in what appears to be two separate situations. Referring to a thing or person, e.g. '来たのは田中です。' ('The one who came is Tanaka.') Nominalizing a verb (as ...
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179 views

What is the etymology of Honshū (本州)?

Honshū is the main island in Japan (so it could be called something like 大州 or 広州). But it is also common in cosmogonies to say the gods created our land first and foremost, and the rest of the planet ...
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1answer
91 views

Variations in polite negations: ありません, ないです, -ません

Negations that consistently take -ない in the plain form show differences in the polite version: 食べない -> 食べません で(は)ない -> で(は)ありません but 大きくない -> 大きくないです Why the inconsistency? Is it due to history?
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Why are Japanese fonts different to Chinese?

I’ve noticed that Japanese and Chinese writing tends to use different fonts. Japanese fonts tend use wider lines and more curves. Chinese fonts tend to use narrow angular lines and there are ...
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1answer
97 views

Appropriate terms for indigenous people

I'm often asked about my home country by Japanese people and wish to discuss the unique polynesian culture of the indigenous people there. How do I describe them in Japanese? I understand that this is ...
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1answer
141 views

Why is あすぶ an “out-dated or obsolete” kana usage for 遊ぶ?

I saw this note on the jisho.org page for 遊ぶ: Other forms 遊ぶ 【あすぶ】 Notes あすぶ: Out-dated or obsolete kana usage. And I'm curious what this means - did it used to be read this way? Or do ...
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1answer
159 views

Loanwords related to science

I speak fluent English, Ukrainian and Russian. And I also have experience learning German and Japanese. As an avid language learner, I've been reflecting on what the languages have in common, their ...
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148 views

衰えるという言葉の由来は何ですか?

For instance, とじる and しめる. とじる means an activity or a show has finished so "the door is closed". This word is used in ending or closing something like 傘をとじる, 本をとじる. しめる means to tie the bag tight ...
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What's the original japanese word for door, other than the loanword ドア?

I assume that ドア is a loanword from English, unless it's a big coincidence, yet, it's in the top 200 most used Japanese words by frequency in a Japanese words by frequency list. What's the original ...
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2answers
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What is the subtext of this situation?

Here is a paragraph from Yukio Mishima's 憂国 - "Patriotism" which I understand relatively well, but miss the point of the whole scene. So I don't need a translation but an explanation about the subtext ...
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1answer
107 views

the meaning and use of the word 殺素 today

I'm trying to understand some paper about Udagawa Youan and chemistry in Japan and I have a big problem with 殺素. It's means all chemistry elements which can kill or mayby only radioactive? Or mayby it'...
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573 views

Unknown kana in a late C19th address cartouche

Given their visual form, I am uncertain about two kana (the 5th and 6th characters) in a late C19th cartouche. It names an artist's address: Asakusa-ku [... ...]suji chō gojūhachi banchi / gakō / ...
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1answer
187 views

What is the origin of the foreign word サクランボ?

サクランボ means cherry in English. However, it is different from the direct conversion of cherry, チェリー. What is the origin of this word? Which language does it originate?
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Does the etymology of 星 suggest the japanese/chinese knew the sun was a star?

星 contains the radical 日 meaning sun/day. This makes sense from a modern understanding, as it is well known that the sun was a star. However, it appears this has only been known since the 19th century,...
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1answer
165 views

What is the difference between ばんごはん and よるごはん?

I looked at two different sentences: 六時半に母とばんごはんをつくりました。(At 6:30, I made dinner with my mother.) よるごはんのあと家族とえいがをみました。(After dinner, I watched a movie with my family.) In both sentences, ...
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What do we know about vowel variations such as 雨 read as あめ/あま

There are several words which have vowel variations. This seems like it could be a fossilization of morphological processes in an older version of Japanese. How much do we know about these processes? ...
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1answer
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いる/える Godan Verb Rules?

For words like 帰ります is there a specific reason they're Godan instead of Ichidan in any case? Things like a change from an historical pronunciation of the word, grammar relating to the radicals of the ...
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1answer
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Can someone identify this stamp in a Bible that allowed my roommate's Grandpa to keep it in a POW camp in WW2?

Can someone identify this stamp in a Bible that allowed my roommate's Grandpa to keep it in a POW camp in WW2? Normally Bibles would have been forbidden but apparently this stamp that was inspected ...
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1answer
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Why is 河原 in 河原町 pronounced “Kawara” as opposed to the expected “Kawabara/Kawawara”?

The Kawaramachi St in Kyoto is spelled with 河原, /kawa/ and /hara/. I'd suspect the two inner syllables to be merged into one mora at some point in history, but do we have a record of when that ...
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1answer
173 views

The yomikata of 十三

This has been obsessing me for quite a while. While 十三 is normally pronounced ジュウサン, it is often pronounced ジュウゾウ in people's names and also pronounced ジュウソウ in names of places. I am wondering how ...
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2answers
164 views

Transcribing iteration marks: kunojiten , くの字点

The iteration marks 々, ヽ, ヾ, ゝ, ゞ are slightly smaller than standard kana, and are often seen in print when a contemporary scholar is transcribing text, a printmaker's seal, etc. My question relates ...
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2answers
189 views

'to appear': arawareru, arawaruru, and arawaru

Arawareru, あらわれる: "to appear, to come in sight, to become visible, to materialize, to manifest." It looks as if arawareru can be written: 現れる, 現われる, 表れる, 表われる, 顕れる, 顕われる (Readings: 現 = gen, ken, ...
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Attempts to distinguish English “L” and “R” sounds using (extended) katakana

Katakana can represent many foreign sounds that do not exist in native Japanese words, either by using special characters such as ヴ or by using special katakana combinations such as フュ. They are ...
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1answer
157 views

Is 雷装 a synonym for 魚雷?

During reading of some Japanese Wikipedia articles (e.g. 北上, 重雷装艦) I encountered the compound 雷装{らいそう}, which I have been unable to find a definite explanation of. In their descriptive texts you will ...
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1answer
107 views

What are the origins of “ありがとう”? [duplicate]

Now I know what you may be thinking when I pose a question like this, but I do have a reason to wonder. Work with me for a bit. When did the word "有り難う" come into use, could it have been birthed in ...
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1answer
290 views

i am confusesd as to what historical present tense is, when it is used, etc

I understand that historical present tense is basically a tense that uses "present tense to describe past events/actions more vividly and lively..." - Chocolate Doing my own research into possible ...
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1answer
114 views

How do you use comparatives for Japanese adjectives?

I am currently writing a section about the Japanese writing system. I have previously stated that Japanese was originally written completely in Kanji. However, people found it very difficult. ...
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1answer
143 views

Youon digraphs as a single character?

Was there ever any practice of writing youon digraphs as a single character (taking up the same amount of space as a monograph), and if not would that be a good idea? e.g. ハロウィーン or ハロウイーン instead of ...
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1answer
131 views

Historically, how would a military lord and his direct subordinate address each other? [closed]

I am currently writing a short story, for a text prompt demanding I set my plot among medieval Japan's nobility, but I am unfamiliar with older honorifics. The main dialogue takes place between a ...
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1answer
172 views

Origin of じゃ as contraction of では

What is the origin of the contraction では→じゃ? I googled around for a bit, but I wasn't able to find any answer at all.
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471 views

Why are Japanese characters not used in equations?

Why do Japanese texts/scientific articles not use kana/kanji in their equations? For example f(x) = x + 1 instead of f(あ) = あ + 1 I don't see the Cyrillic alphabet in equations either. Did ...
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1answer
171 views

Origin of the verb 茶化す?

Does anyone know the origin of the verb 茶化す, which translates as 'to tease, to make fun of, to kid'? Is is somehow related to "breaking teacups"?
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1answer
374 views

At what time did furigana start being used?

I was wondering if anyone could tell me when furigana started being used in Japan? I'm writing a research paper, and I've been searching and digging around for the answer but can't find it anywhere. ...
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2answers
533 views

Academic/historic attempts to create an alternative writing system similar to Hangul?

I was reading upon Japanese writing system history and found out there were several attempts to abolish the use of 漢字 in favor of kana or romaji, e.g. after the WWII. All of those failed, and the only ...
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2answers
657 views

首 when fired from a job: etymology?

First question ever here. :D So, I hear a lot in media, when someone is fired from a job, normally they refer to 首 as being fired, or firing someone, and might sometimes make the gesture of getting ...
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1answer
246 views

What happened to original, pre-Kanji, Japanese words?

Some of the most common words in Japanese seem to have their origin in Chinese: 会議、日本、世界、先生、。。。 The evidence for this is, as far as I know, the fact that these words are written with characters, ...
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3answers
435 views

Japanese kanjis and Chinese characters: a request for comparative stroke order

Because the first stroke order for Chinese characters was codified in Han period, the sequence of strokes was a subject to change during the time. If my memory serves me right, even simplified and ...
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1answer
249 views

Kun Yomi of Chinese origin, like 竹 (take)

I have came across an English book on Ancient Japanese languages. (Sorry I forgot the book name) In the book, it says some Kun Yomi of Kanji actually come from early contact of Chinese languages. ...
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2answers
482 views

Reduction of the diphthong “ou” to “ō” in Middle and Modern Japanese

I noticed that in the word 子牛 both "o" and "u" are pronounced while in the word 格子 there is a long "ō" and they are, respectively, written in rōmaji (Hepburn romanization) koushi and kōshi. What I'd ...
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1answer
800 views

When was this Japanese standard and why this is so different from modern Japanese?

朕󠄁惟フニ我カ皇祖皇宗國ヲ肇󠄁ムルコト宏遠󠄁ニ德ヲ樹ツルコト深厚ナリ我カ臣民克ク忠ニ克ク孝ニ億兆心ヲ一ニシテ世世厥ノ美ヲ濟セルハ此レ我カ國體ノ精華ニシテ敎育ノ淵源亦實ニ此ニ存ス爾臣民父母ニ孝ニ兄弟ニ友ニ夫婦󠄁相和シ朋友相信シ恭儉己レヲ持シ博󠄁愛衆ニ及󠄁ホシ學ヲ修メ業ヲ習󠄁ヒ以テ智能ヲ啓󠄁發シ德器ヲ成就シ進󠄁テ公󠄁益ヲ廣メ世務ヲ開キ常ニ國憲ヲ重シ國法ニ遵󠄁ヒ一旦緩󠄁急󠄁...
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341 views

Old Japanese dates

Occasionally I read texts on Japanese history and always struggle to figure out whether the dates are in the old or new system, specifically whether something like 四月 corresponds to April as in the ...
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3answers
406 views

Why are “loanwords” written in katakana?

I am interested in learning why katakana was chosen to represent foreign words.
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2answers
836 views

この曲の意味を暗示する歌詞の特定性について

念のため述べておきますが、この質問は太平洋戦争に関係するものであり、気分を害するつもりは一切ありませんが、その可能性のある内容が含まれています。 とある日本のロックバンド、「9mm Parabellum Bullet」が2007年に「Sundome」という曲を出しましたが、歌詞は以下のとおりです: 頭ごなしに叱らないで 黒い朝日を描いたこと 手付かずのままで残されてしまった 真っ白い絵の具 ...
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1answer
80 views

Can anybody here substantiate this anecdote in V. I. Arnold's book “Yesterday and long ago”?

It can be found on page 124 of the edition I own and it goes as follows: The abstract idea of a number (independent of what is counted) is not evident, and abstract numbers do not exist in some ...