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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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. ...
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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
975 views

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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3answers
712 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
379 views

くらい and ほど — Where do they come from?

I've searched for a while now but haven't really found anything that answers my question. I would like to know where ほど and くらい come from and how they got to mean such different things. I know that ...
3
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1answer
129 views

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
249 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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193 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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328 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
202 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
118 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
554 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
160 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
148 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
173 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
214 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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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
196 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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Iterative / repetitive る evolving from classical 連体形【れんたいけい】

This is somewhat related to the discussion of classical auxiliary verb ふ, mentioned in the answer to snailboat's question, What is the わ in 忌まわしい and 嘆かわしい?. Another apparent iterative / repetitive ...
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3answers
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Native Japanese word for フリー

I wonder why all the translation engines show only the word フリー as a translation for the word "free". Why Japanese people had to borrow an english word? Wasn't there anything for free in Japanese ...
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1answer
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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
817 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
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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
491 views

Why do we believe that 神 is likely to be a loan from Ainu?

I recently read the document "Old Japanese Loanwords" by Frellesvig, where he states: OJ kamwi ~ kamu- 'spirit, deity' may well be borrowed from an ancestor of Ainu kamuy 'bear; deity'. Ever since ...
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1answer
365 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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2answers
818 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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2answers
375 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
707 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
344 views

When did LOC adopt modified Hepburn?

If I look in Google Ngrams, I see that the transliteration "honbu", meaning HQ, basically didn't exist until 1964. But it didn't surpass "hombu" until 1976. I believe Modified Hepburn was introduced ...
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1answer
314 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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1answer
361 views

What's the origin of 助 (saving)?

I am a beginner in Japanese and learning Kanji through Anki (Kanji Damage deck). I came across a word 助言{じょげん} while learning 言. I want to know from where does the 助 kanji come from? I searched for ...
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4answers
574 views

How do Japanese make language sound old (e. g. in historical dramas)?

When English speakers try to make a text sound old (like in historical dramas), they for example use "thou" together with the "-st" verb ending. What's the equivalent in Japanese, i.e. what kind of ...
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3answers
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No word for “time” until 1871?

In a German newspaper article an interviewed professor says: For a long time the Japanese didn't have any interest in clocks: Until 1871, there hadn't even been a word for time and therefore no ...
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1answer
838 views

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

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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'...
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2answers
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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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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 ...
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1answer
344 views

History and etymology of Japanese onomatopoeia

I've been wondering about the patterns of Japanese onomatopoeia and their etymologies. Perhaps you could help me figure it out or link me to a useful bibliography that might. The first of these ...
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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 ...
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1answer
844 views

Were Japanese names ever anglicised?

Nowadays, Japanese people usually keep their names as is, except using the Latin alphabet, and having their given name before their surname, when they're in English-speaking countries. By contrast, ...
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1answer
4k views

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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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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2answers
222 views

Does the term 大和撫子 predate WWII, or was there an equivalent term for the ideal Japanese lady?

Does the term 「大和撫子」for describing the ideal Japanese lady predate WWII, or was there an equivalent term before that? These sites here and here indicate that the term was co-opted for propaganda ...
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4answers
351 views

Was the name for the Shōwa era a voluntary pun?

According to dictionaries, the WA 和 in 昭和 has both the meaning of peace, harmonious and Japan, japanese (although mostly as the first kanji of a compound, such as in 和語). So I wonder how Japanese of ...
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1answer
406 views

What are the original names of the months in Japanese?

Currently, ichigatsu, nigatsu, sangatsu.....however the original names of the months were different than what is spoken today. I want to learn the original names of the months.
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350 views

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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5answers
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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 ...
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1answer
738 views

Are Japanese counter words still being created?

That is, are counters (助数詞) an open class of words? If yes: Is there an example of a counter that was added recently (say, post-Taishō) and is now in current use by a community of speakers (i.e. not ...
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1answer
295 views

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....