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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41
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4answers
4k views

How did “little tsu” become a lengthener?

How did it come about historically that っ preceding a sound would geminate it? Is it really a little つ or are they just near homomorphs?
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Kanji for native Japanese concepts: Kun'yomi spanning multiple morphemes

There are a few words, which are written with Kanji imported from China, but where the intended native Japanese meaning would prefer a different choice of Kanji. My favourite examples are 雷 vs. 神鳴り (...
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1answer
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Origin of ~なければ ならない

The expression ~なければ ならない if I learned correctly means "must not not do ..." as in: 日本語を勉強しなければなりません。 You must not not learn Japanese. (i.e. you need to learn Japanese) However, taken on face value ...
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4answers
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What are the origins of ヶ?

The ヶ in e.g. 一ヶ月 is a bit of an odd character - it looks a lot like a small version of the katakana ケ, but is it derived from that katakana originally? Or is it a normal kanji? Or is it something ...
17
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586 views

Exceptional compounding forms

There are a number of Japanese words which have distinct compounding forms: -a/-e alternation: 天・雨、酒、上、風、目 — many examples. -u/-i alternation: 神([神]{かむ}[集]{つど}ふ)、月([月]{つく}[読]{よみ}) -o/-i alternation: ...
39
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Why was both katakana and hiragana created?

Nowadays, katakana tends to be used for gairaigo and onomatopoeia, while hiragana tends to be used for native Japanese words. This is a slight simplification - more information is available here. ...
37
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2answers
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Why is は pronounced as わ when used as a topic particle?

The particle は is pronounced similarly to わ (unlike the rest of the ハ行 kana) when used as a particle; why is this? What historical shifts went on to cause this irregularity?
9
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Origin of the kanji for 叶う

One thing that has always confused me is how the word 叶【かな】う took on the meaning of for a (wish) to come true. I find this perplexing because in Chinese, the word has never had this meaning. 叶's ...
17
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About writing numbers using Japanese numerals vs using Arabic numerals

I noticed that even though Japanese language has kanji characters for numbers (e.g. 十、百、千、万 etc), there are many places where Arabic numerals are used instead, for example, prices for shop items are ...
10
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663 views

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 ...
4
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1answer
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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 ...
60
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1answer
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Why were ゐ and ゑ eliminated?

Sometime in the early 20th century, usage of the now-historical kana ゐ and ゑ (and their katakana equivalents) dropped off, being replaced with い and え in modern Japanese. What exactly happened here ...
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History of 十干(じっかん)and modern uses

As I was studying vocabulary today, I happened to come across the titular 十干 which are as follows: 甲(こう)• 乙(おつ)• 丙(へい)• 丁(てい) •戊(ぼ)• 己(き)• 庚(こう)• 辛(しん)• 壬(じん)• 癸(き) There's a somewhat lengthy ...
11
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1answer
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History of だ、です、 and である

Historically where did all of these different forms arise, and when are they used? I noticed that だ and である both have their place in different 文法形, what is the difference in their meaning? I know that ...
10
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Is the kanji/kokuji “taito” (たいと) with 84 strokes legitimate and ever used?

Taito is mentioned as the kanji/kokuji with the highest stroke count consisting of 84 strokes in Wikipedia. Taito is composed of two kanji ("cloud" (雲) and "dragon" (龍) repeated three times each ...
23
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8answers
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Is there an objective source of the origins of kanji?

Is there an authoritative source that explains where the different kanji come from and what the radicals mean? I think it's hard to tell from most of the textbooks/other sources whether a shown kanji'...
17
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How close was the Japanese writing system from becoming abolished after World War II?

I remember hearing that the Japanese government planned on abolishing the use of Chinese characters entirely after World War II. I also remember hearing that there was a movement by the American ...
12
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3answers
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When/why did 電話する replace 電話をかける?

In some older learning material I came across, they use 「電話をかける」 for "to make a telephone call". When/why did this come to be replaced by 「電話する」 in popular usage?
6
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1answer
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What is the etymology of 〜ません(でした)?

I have always been interested in the negative polite (〜ません) and negative past-polite (〜ませんでした) inflections of verbs. My understanding is that ます is an inflectable function word (助動詞), so I'm ...
11
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Did any writing systems exist before kanji was imported?

Did any writing systems, or even failed attempts at them, exist for Japanese before kanji was imported from China?
10
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How is Japanese regulated by the Japanese government and any other organizations?

Some languages, but not English, have regulators such as the Académie française (French Academy). Amongst other things, it decides whether or not English words such as email, software and ウォークマン ought ...
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If 校 is the kanji for school, why do I need 学 to actually say school?

Perhaps a dumb question, but something that I was wondering and couldn't find a clear answer via search. Since 校 is the kanji for school, why do we also need the kanji for learning 学 to say "school" (...
5
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1answer
248 views

Why can の and が both mark subjects in relative clauses?

夢のある人 and 夢がある人 I understand that both have obviously the same meaning, but why is it also correct to use の, which, as I learned, has the function of either a possessive particle or of a ...
9
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1answer
491 views

Mukashi-banashi. Do they borrow from other current dialects in addition to older Japanese?

At my schools 日本語クラブ, we studied a 昔話 (舌切り雀), which like most of the others I've read, had some nonstandard grammatical constructions. I've heard that many of these constructions are archaic forms ...
7
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What's the relationship between 'e' and 'wa' in some words?

Can someone explain how 'e' and 'wa' are related in some words / 音便? Presumably the 'e' was originally the obsolete ゑ since it's in the ワ行. Some examples: 上(うえ) ←→ 上着(うわ・ぎ) 声(こえ) ←→ 声色(こわ・いろ)...
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Are there any old loanwords from Korean, especially any not written in katakana?

Given the close proximity and long history of interaction of various kinds within East Asia, the great influence of Chinese in both Japanese and Korean, and the similar structures of Japanese and ...
35
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Where does “もしもし” (moshimoshi) for answering the telephone come from?

Does the term "もしもし" (moshimoshi) predate the telephone? Does it have any use besides answering the phone? Where does it come from, is it just a reduplication of "もし" (moshi) "if", and if so how does ...
22
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When did the “wu” character drop out of use?

In the last century, the ゐ and ゑ characters were eliminated from common use. But it seems like there used to also be a "wu" character that has since been lost. Given that it's a lot harder to find ...
21
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2answers
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Recent creation or adoption of hanzi characters into Japanese kanji

According to Wikipedia, kanji was introduced and imported from chinese hanzi long time ago before Japanese language even had a writing system. From there, Japanese kanji has transformed and evolved ...
14
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Nouns exhibiting vowel fronting

As touched upon in another thread, there are several nouns that exhibit a kind of vowel shift in older forms, where the ending vowel is fronted when the noun is used on its own to become /i/ or /e/, ...
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If I wanted to sound more like a Samurai, what words and phrases should I learn?

Having watched jidai-geki for a long time, I have come across many Samurai-isms, but I can recall only a few. I would like to be able to do this more believably the next time I'm at the Izakaya. What ...
14
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1answer
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Why has を been spared but ゐ and ゑ been deemed obsolete?

According to When is the katakana form of wo (ヲ) used?, を is almost always used only for the particle, and is usually pronounced o (お). There are some dialects where を is pronounced with a "w", but ...
5
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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 ...
13
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3answers
508 views

Why is this katakana not reversed?

Just saw this image about Nintendo on Kotaku: Clearly the company name, description, and location are written in traditional right-to-left orientation. Even かるた is right-to-left. So why is トランプ ...
12
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1answer
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Ancient practise of sneaking into women's bedrooms…?

I was looking up the meaning of スマ婚{こん}, when my mouse happened to roll over the kanji 婚{こん}, and this definition popped up in Rikaichan: 婚 よばい ancient practice of creeping at night into a woman's ...
12
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2answers
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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,...
5
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1answer
369 views

Origin of ません (-masen)?

I understand that polite forms like yomimasu are actually (or originated as) infinitive yomi + auxiliary verb masu in its plain non-past form. Then past form yomimashita is just infinitive yomi + ...
4
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1answer
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What are the reasons for the huge amount of loanwords in Japanese?

It seems that Japanese has far more loanwords than any other language I've heard spoken. I understand that English is far-reaching and a global language, but are there many known reasons that English ...
14
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2answers
310 views

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?
10
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1answer
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Orthography at the turn of the previous century

A couple of days ago I purchased an old book published in 1908. It uses a strange orthography I haven't encountered before. Everything that is not in kanji is written in katakana, including particles,...
9
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1answer
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Why was つ originally used to mark consonant gemination? When was that?

I can't find the answer anywhere. It seems that in manyougana consonant gemination was not marked in any way. And before the 1946 reform the normal size つ was used instead of the current smaller one....
5
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1answer
211 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 ...
3
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2answers
287 views

Why words such as しばらく are almost always written in kana while words such as 石鹸 are usually in kanji?

"Almost" and "usually" here means that while "alternative" is definitely used, vast majority of people is still using the mentioned version. Just look at google results count! Also, note that kanji ...
3
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1answer
197 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.
2
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1answer
366 views

Why do days of the week use on-yomi kanji readings?

I would like to know if there is detailed information as to why days of the week use on-yomi readings, for example 月 in 月曜日 【げつようび】 Were these readings (as spoken) imported from the Chinese?...
22
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2answers
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Why is the Japanese currency pronounced “yen” in English?

I'm wondering what the reason for the mispronunciation of 円 in English came to be "yen". I can understand how some words like 東京 became "Tokyo", but "en" to "yen" seems strange. On a side note, why is ...
8
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Were women unable to learn kanji during the Heian era?

I've read that The Tale of Genji, and similar Heian-era novels such as The Pillow Book, and The Gossamer Years were predominantly or exclusively hiragana, which is also called "women's writing" (女手). ...
8
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379 views

When was 歴史的仮名遣い standardized?

Enno Shioji's answer to my question about 直音表記 says (emphasis added) that: Historically there were multiple way to write a word, and this wasn't standardized. For example, some very old documents ...
6
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2answers
447 views

What was the origin for the term 水{みず}色{いろ} to be associated with youth, adolescence and puberty?

I am particularly interested in the phrase 「水{みず}色{いろ}時{じ}代{だい}」. Did it come from the old manga that used the phrase as its title, or has the phrase been carrying that particular cultural connotation ...
6
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1answer
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When/why would one write a word using 直音表記?

I looked up 釈迦 at goo辞書 and noticed that there were two alternate readings presented for this word: さか and しゃか. The さか reading is given as being 『「しゃか」の直音表記。』, so these two are clearly the same ...