Hentaigana

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Hentaigana
変体仮名
Type Syllabary
Languages Japanese and Okinawan
Time period
ca 800 to 1900 CE; minor use at present
Parent systems
ISO 15924 Hira, 410
Direction Left-to-right
Unicode alias
Hiragana

In the Japanese writing system, hentaigana (変体仮名?, "variant kana")[1] 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[2] 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.

Hentaigana are not included in Unicode, though there is a proposal to encode them.[3][4]

Development of the hiragana syllabic "n"[edit]

Modern hiragana n.

The hiragana "syllabic n" () 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 could only be used for /mu͍/ and 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 reading of mu as n.[citation needed] (The modern Japanese form 言おう comes from earlier 言はむ ihamu. Many other changes are seen here as well.)

Modern usage[edit]

A soba restaurant with a sign using hentaigana. The word kisoba is written right-to-left with the kanji 生 ki, and hentaigana derived from the kanji 楚 so and ba (者 ha with ゛ [dakuten]). The latter two are found in the table below. The black vertical text to the left reads 奈 na, ga (可 ka with ゛), both of which are found below, and the kanji (or perhaps hentaigana)wi.

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.

Incomplete list[edit]

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.

Kanji origins of Kana: basically Man’yōgana, but only when used in reduced, cursive forms. Some information taken from (伊地知, 1966).
characters for Hiragana and Katakana not repeated for Hentaigana even when there are alternative glyphs; some uncertain
a i u e o
Hira Kata Hentai Hira Kata Hentai Hira Kata Hentai Hira Kata Hentai Hira Kata Hentai
悪亜愛 意移異夷 有雲憂羽于 要盈得縁延
K 閑可我駕賀歌哥香家嘉歟謌佳 機幾 支起貴喜祈季木 倶具求九供 遣氣希个 許故古期興子
S 佐斜沙差乍狭 志四新事斯師 春數壽爪 勢聲瀬 所楚處蘇
T 當堂田佗 地遲治致智池馳 川州 徒都津頭 停亭轉弖帝傳偏 東登度等斗刀戸土
N 那難名南菜 爾耳二児丹尼而 怒努駑 年子熱念音根寢 能濃農廼野
H 者盤半葉頗婆芳羽破 日飛悲非火避備妣 婦布 旁倍遍弊邊閉敝幣反變辨經 寶本報奉穂
M 万満萬眞馬間麻摩漫 見微身民 無(无)舞務夢 免面馬目妻 母裳茂蒙藻
Y 夜耶屋哉 - 遊游 - 與(与) 代餘余世夜
R 羅蘭落等 梨里離理季 累類 礼(禮)連麗 婁樓路露侶廬魯論
W 王輪倭〇 居委遺 - 衛彗 越尾緒

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Note that the hentai (変体: "variant") in this word is not the same as the hentai (変態) which means "abnormal" or "pervert".
  2. ^ 小学校令施行規則 (in Japanese)
  3. ^ 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. 
  4. ^ 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. 

References[edit]

  • 伊地知, 鉄男 (1966). 仮名変体集. 新典社.

External links[edit]