|Languages||Japanese and Okinawan|
|Time period||ca 800 to 1900 CE; minor use at present|
|ISO 15924||Hira, 410|
In the Japanese writing system, hentaigana (変体仮名, "variant kana") are obsolete hiragana. They include both variants of current hiragana, and distinct alternative hiragana. Today, with a few exceptions, there is only one hiragana for each of the fifty consonant–vowel sequences (moras) in Japanese, but before 1900, there were generally several more-or-less interchangeable hiragana for each. A 1900 law ordained that only one selected character be used for each mora, with the others referred to as hentaigana. Although not normally used in publication, hentaigana are still used in shop signs and brand names to create a traditional or antiquated air.
Hiragana (and katakana) originate in man'yōgana, a system where kanji were used to write sounds without regard to their meaning. There was more than one kanji that could be used for each syllable (at the time, a syllable was a mora). Over time the man'yōgana was reduced to a cursive form, the hiragana. Many hentaigana derive from different kanji than standard hiragana, but some are the result of different styles of cursive writing.
Development of the hiragana syllabic "n"
The hiragana "syllabic n" (ん) derives from a cursive form of the character 无, and originally signified /mu͍/, the same as む. The spelling reform of 1900 separated the two uses, declaring that む could only be used for /mu͍/ and ん could only be used for syllable-final /ɴ/. Previously, in the absence of a character for the syllable-final /ɴ/, the sound was spelled (but not pronounced) identically to /mu͍/, and readers had to rely on context to determine what was intended. This ambiguity has led to some modern expressions based on what are, in effect, spelling pronunciations. For example, iwan to suru "trying to say" is ultimately a misreading of mu as n. (The modern Japanese form 言おう iō comes from earlier 言はむ ihamu. Many other changes are seen here as well.)
Hentaigana are considered obsolete, but a few marginal uses remain. For example, the word otemoto is written in hentaigana on some chopsticks, many soba shops use hentaigana to spell kisoba on their signs. Hentaigana are used in some formal handwritten documents, particularly in certificates issued by classical Japanese cultural groups (e.g., martial art schools, etiquette schools, religious study groups, etc.). Also, they are occasionally used in reproductions of classic Japanese texts, or like blackletter in English and other Germanic languages to give an archaic flair. However, most Japanese people are unable to read hentaigana, only recognizing a few from their common use in shop signs, or figuring them out from context.
Some of the following hentaigana are cursive forms of the same kanji as their standard hiragana counterparts, but simplified differently. Others descend from different kanji.
- Note that the hentai (変体: "variant") in this word is not the same as the hentai (変態) which means "abnormal" or "pervert".
- 小学校令施行規則 (in Japanese)
- Ruigrok van der Werven, Jeroen (February 15, 2009). "ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 2/WG 2 Proposal Summary Form to Accompany Submissions for Additions to the Repertoire of ISO/IEC 106461: A proposal for encoding the hentaigana characters". JTC1/SC2/WG2 - ISO/IEC. Retrieved August 27, 2010.
- Ruigrok van der Werven, Jeroen (February 15, 2009). "ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 2/WG 2 Proposal Summary Form to Accompany Submissions for Additions to the Repertoire of ISO/IEC 106461: A proposal for encoding the hentaigana characters". Jeroen Ruigrok van der Werven. Retrieved August 27, 2010.
- 伊地知, 鉄男 (1966). 仮名変体集. 新典社.
|Look up hentaigana in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Hentaigana for Jūminhyō.|
- Chart of hentaigana calligraphy from O'Neill's A Reader of Handwritten Japanese
- A chart of hentaigana hosted by Jim Breen of the WWWJDIC
- Chart of kana from Engelbert Kaempfer circa 1693
- Hentaigana on signs (Japanese)