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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620 views

How was a Japanese 'common/standard language' chosen?

Japan, like most places, is full of dialects/topolects. Wikipedia (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Languages_of_Japan) says Tokyo dialect considered standard Japanese The article doesn't get into ...
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Print with Admiral Matthew Perry flanked by officers

I am interested to know at least the beginning few lines of Hiragana in the attached print. It depicts Admiral Matthew Perry. The print is titled Gasshukoku suishi teitoku kōjōgaki (Oral statement by ...
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Where does “gold day” originate from?

Recently I learned what the days of the week are and noticed "kinyobi" 金曜日. I'd like to know where the term "gold" relates to. Were people in ancient Japan paid at Friday each week?
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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 ...
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476 views

Is there any reference material for the origins of kanji on-yomi? [closed]

I wanted to know if there is any reference source or authoritative material about kanji pronunciations and when they were first imported into Japanese? Any book or electronic source, English or ...
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Are 新しい and 新たに etymologically related?

The words 新しい{あたらしい} and 新た{あらた}に sound very similar to me, but I wonder whether they are really related. If so the root must have undergone metathesis (switching the order of sounds). Are they ...
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332 views

Why were Chinese readings imported along with kanji?

I have been studying Japanese for a little more than a year now,and I've been learning kanji for a few months. I understand the basics about readings, but I don't really get the historic reason of ...
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435 views

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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Is there any merit to the claim that Japanese and Tamil are genetically related languages?

In India, regional nationalism is strongly tied to language. This is particularly the case in the Dravidian-speaking south, especially among speakers of Tamil - Tamil nationalists trot out all manner ...
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When did the word 「女性観」 come into standard usage? Is it a more politically-correct form of 「婦人観」?

I need to know when 「女性観」 was coined and, more importantly, when it became widely known/used. Was 「女性観」used in the early to mid-19th century? Did it replace 「婦人観」later on? Nitobe Inazo used 「婦人観」 in ...
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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 ...
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Translation of 権現様: literally or not?

I am reading a book about the life of 国友一貫斎. For reference, the title is 「夢をまことに」. There is the following courtroom scene, in which reference is made to 権現様, a Shinto-Buddhist term for a god. The full ...
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When did 濁点 and 半濁点 come into use?

When did diacritic signs 濁点 and 半濁点 start to be used in the Japanese language?
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187 views

Origin of the pronunciations of 観音 and 漢音

The Japanese name for the deity Guanyin, 観音, seems as far as I can tell to be almost universally pronounced かんのん Kannon, and not かんおん Kan’on. The origin of the name, as Wikipedia correctly gives it, ...
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Origin of Natsume Soseki's Translation of “I love you”

Recently, while playing through Persona 4, I've learned that apparently Natsume Soseki translated the English phrase of "I love you" into 月が綺麗ですね。 and I, wondering if there was a source for this, ...
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What is the max number of kanji a jukugo can be made of?

So far I haven't seen any jukugo with more than 4 kanji. Is this a limit? Or some of them are made of more than 4 kanji? Also, I've seen jukugo made of other jukugo. Like 高速道路 is composed with two ...
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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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1answer
145 views

Difference between Muromachi and Ashikaga

One of my books notes that the Muromachi and Ashikaga Periods, 室町時代 and 足利時代 respectively, can be used to name the same period of time (1333-1568), but I'm lost on what the difference is and when I ...
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How was Japanese animism referred to before 国家神道 (State Shinto) was created?

Pre-Meiji: What was Japanese animism popularly called before 国家神道 (State Shinto) was created in the early Meiji period (19th century)? Prior to that, was the word 「神道」 a common term among the ...
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Was “The Tale of Genji” really written completely or almost completely in hiragana?

My question is about the script of Genji Monogatari. It is easy to find many anecdotal claims that it was written in hiragana, and that this is explained by Chinese characters considered unsuitable ...
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1answer
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Was “乎” the man'yōgana spelling of the accusative/object particle “を”?

In the English Wiktionary entry for "を" there is a quote or example sentence using the character "乎" with no explanation seemingly where the particle "を" would normally occur. Now I couldn't find ...
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461 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 ...
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Haphazard usage of katakana and hiragana for particles and okurigana

I'm looking at this picture of the 日米和親条約 (Kanagawa convention) from the late Edo period and it seems rather strange: It looks like the non-kanji parts are rather haphazardly written in katakana and ...
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Pattern in onyomi for middle Chinese -p and -ng finals

I've been thinking recently about patterns between onyomi and their respective Chinese counterparts (as presumably existed in middle Chinese and are now reflected across modern Chinese dialects). ...
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334 views

What kind of script is it? (photo attached)

The marker is on the top of a hill on the way to Yawata Hachimangu in Kyoto Pref. The site seems rather not significant historically, there were no other related signs around. The top character is ...
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1answer
287 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 ...
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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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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?
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498 views

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 ...
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386 views

Is modern day keigo borrowed from kansai-ben? Sources?

I have heard on various occasions that modern day keigo was borrowed from Kansai-ben. It states this on Wikipedia: Historically, extensive use of keigo (honorific speech) was a feature of Kansai-...
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238 views

What is the explanation for the archaic attributive particle が becoming a modern subject particle?

While reading though Haruo Shirane’s Classical Japanese: A Grammar, I came across the following passage: が started as an attributive case particle, became a subject particle, and then turned into a ...
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1answer
381 views

Etymological connection between 門 and 円?

I'm curious if there's any historical link between the kanji for "gate", 門{かど}, and the kanji for "circle" or "yen", 円{えん}. If 門 is gate, 円 looks like a closed gate. Am I being whimsical and seeing ...
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Why did 摩羅 also come to mean penis? [duplicate]

Is there any further implication to be gleaned from this and how did this meaning come to be? Is there any suggestion that the male genitals are somehow an obstacle to enlightenment?
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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 ...
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439 views

In 君が代, what's the function of の?

I've got a question about the two instances of の in 君が代: さざれ石の巌となりて 苔の生すまで First, is さざれ石の巌 to be interpreted as a boulder made of pebbles (analogous to, say, 木製の槍)? Second, is the の in 苔の生すまで ...
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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 ...
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1answer
146 views

Japanese writings in Brazil [closed]

I've seen these writings in the ground of Brazil. I've already tried to translate it with my friend but there are some complex kanji that we don't know. I'm very curious to know what they say, can ...
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612 views

What's the grammar of 持ちつ持たれつ?

持ちつ持たれつ (meaning approximately "supporting eachother") is commonly heard, but seems to be formed from some archaic grammar. I'm assuming it's an archaic form of 持って持たれて or something like that, but ...
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1answer
245 views

History of 馬 and 梅

I learned recently that two mora Sino-Japanese words using one character always end in /ki/, /ku/, /i/, /u/, /chi/, /tsu/, or /n/. However, I was also told that 馬【うま】 and 梅【うめ】 are Sino-Japanese. What ...
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1answer
268 views

Did the modern usage of katakana predate the Americans?

How long has katakana been used as today, to represent non-Japanese words, onomatopoeia et al.? But specifically, has this usage been around since before U.S. Commodore Matthew Perry arrived in Japan ...
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1answer
226 views

Origins of the Volitional Form

I was doing some reading, and I read that while the volitional form can be explained as coming from the 未然形 for う-verbs, it cannot be explained for る-verbs. (I'm sure I should be using better ...
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Development of なんか?

Is there anymore to the usage of なんか that isn't saying "something", but rather something like, or along the lines of? I know the two are very similar, but using なんか at the end of a sentence seems to ...
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How were hiragana/katakana influenced by syllabary writing systems?

Today, I was in English class, and I learned about language families and then writing systems. Of course, there is kanji, and ideographic system, but hiragana and katakana are both syllabary systems. ...
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873 views

Why is the kanji for luck the same as to carry?

Why is the kanji for うん(運) the same as the kanji for 運ぶ? Did the kanji just somehow end up being the same, or were the two meanings related somehow? All I can think of is some kind of "carrying luck", ...
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407 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 ...
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1answer
183 views

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 ...
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Does なんて = なんと (いう)?

I know that なんて is a contraction of なんと, but has it also picked up the いう in its meaning? Because なんて means something, and I feel like 何という, which means "something called" (right?) could have just ...
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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 ...
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2answers
620 views

Is Japanese one of the Buddhist canonical languages?

The languages of oriental Buddhist traditions, be it Theravada or Mahayana, do not always provide complete and entire canonical texts. Up to now, I am aware of Pali, Chinese and Tibetan versions of ...
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1answer
799 views

Japanese/Chinese numbers usage timeline

Japanese uses both native and Chinese numbering numbering systems, the Sino-Japanese pronunciations being いち, に, さん, etc. and the native being ひと, ふた, み, etc. For the most part they are used for ...