|Era||Evolved into Early Middle Japanese during the Heian period|
|Chinese characters and Man'yōgana|
- 1 Dating
- 2 Writing system
- 3 Phonology
- 4 Syllable structure
- 5 Grammar
- 6 Dialects
- 7 Proto-Japanese
- 8 See also
- 9 Notes
- 10 References
Linguistic changes are gradual, and the periodization of Japanese is "both delicate and controversial", with multiple competing methods and criteria for division. For both practical and conventional reasons, these divisions often correlate to political events. The upper bound, i.e. the latest possible date for the end of the Old Japanese period, is AD 794, when the capital Heijōkyō moved to Heiankyō. However, the lower bound is more difficult. A limited number of Japanese words, mostly personal names and place names, are recorded phonetically in ancient Chinese texts such as the "Wei Zhi" portion of the Records of the Three Kingdoms (3rd century AD). Wooden tablets and relics with fragments of text written on them have also been excavated. However, the first extant written text of substantial length is the Kojiki of 712. Without necessarily excluding such fragmentary early evidence, the lower bound is generally discussed as from circa 712 for practical reasons. This coincides well with the Nara period (710-794). A more formal dating would not recognize a lower bound and merely date it as through 794. Besides Kojiki, the other oldest literary sources include Fudoki (720), Nihon Shoki (720), and Man'yōshū (c. 759).
The earliest texts found in Japan are written in Classical Chinese, although they may have been meant to be read as Japanese by the kanbun method. Some of these Chinese texts show the influences of Japanese grammar, such as the word order (for example, placing the verb after the object). In these "hybrid" texts, Chinese characters are occasionally used phonetically to represent Japanese particles. Over time, the phonetic usage of Chinese characters became more and more prevalent, until Man'yōgana, a system of using the Chinese characters phonetically to record Japanese, was born. This system was already in use in the non-prose part of Kojiki, and was used in a highly sophisticated manner in Man'yōshū.
The study of Old Japanese phonology is based on the comparative study of synchronous pronunciation of Chinese, reverse analysis of diachronic change in Japanese pronunciation, and comparative study of the Ryukyuan languages. Although the majority of Old Japanese writing represents the language of the Nara court in central Japan, some poems in the Man'yōshū are from southern and eastern Japan, and represent different dialects of Old Japanese. Some of these dialectical differences are still found today.
The transcriptions of Old Japanese words given in Kojiki (712) differ from those found in Nihon Shoki (720) and Man'yōshū (c. 759) in that it distinguishes the syllables /mo1/ and /mo2/ whereas the latter two do not. This has been correlated with the historical record of Kojiki being compiled earlier than Nihon Shoki, and thus preserved an older distinction that soon vanished.
Other characteristic differences of Old Japanese as compared with its modern counterpart include:
- no long vowels or diphthongs
- words do not begin with /r/ or voiced plosives
- open syllables: no syllable-final consonants of any kind.
Some scholars have suggested that there might be a link between Old Japanese and some of the extinct languages of the Korean peninsula, including the Gaya language, but the relation of Japanese to any language other than Ryūkyūan remains undemonstrated. See Classification of Japanese for details.
Old Japanese distinguished between 88 syllables.
Shortly after the Kojiki, the distinction between mo1 and mo2 is quickly lost reducing the total syllable count to 87.
Many hypotheses have been proposed to explain the syllable doublets, including:
- an eight-vowel system
- palatalization of the initial consonant
- a six-vowel system
This issue is still hotly debated, and there is no consensus.
Keep in mind that the transcription does not necessarily represent either hypothesis and that the subscript 1 or 2 could apply to either the consonant or the vowel.
There are several competing transcription systems. One popular system places a dieresis above the vowel: ï, ë, ö. This typically represents i2, e2, and o2, and assumes that unmarked i, e, and o are i1, e1, and o1. There are several problems with this system.
- It implies a particular pronunciation, indirectly on the vowel.
- it neglects to distinguish between words where the 1 / 2 distinction is not clear, such as the /to/ in /toru/ as well as in /kaditori/.
Another system uses superscripts instead of subscripts.
A phonetic description of the vowels depends on the hypothesis.
|Prenasalized voiced obstruent||*mb||*nd||*nz||*ŋɡ|
The voiceless obstruents /p, t, s, k/ had corresponding voiced consonants which were prenasalized. This prenasalization is seen through Late Middle Japanese, and in the case of /ɡ/, to the present day.
- Voiceless labial obstruent
Modern Japanese /h/ was phonetically realized as [p] in Old Japanese. This assumption is predicated upon the following textual and phonological analyses:
- The modern /h/ causes a discrepancy in the pairing of voiceless vs. voiced consonants. Thus, /k, ɡ/, /s, z/, /t, d/, and finally /h, b/. The pair /h, b/ does not fit. The voiceless version of /b/ is /p/.
- Comparison with Ryukyuan language shows [p] where mainland Japanese has [h]. As these two languages split at some point in history, this can be taken as evidence that the Japanese [h] was once pronounced identically to the Ryukyuan [p] (although the comparison alone does not directly address the issue of what its pronunciation was in Old Japanese).
- A look at /h/ in modern Japanese shows that it becomes [ɸ] when followed by /u/. Looking further back, Portuguese missionaries visiting Japan in the early 17th century wrote the entire /h/-row of kana as "fa, fi, fu, fe, fo". Korean visitors in the same century suggested a voiceless bilabial fricative sound, i.e. [ɸ].
- In 842, the monk Ennin writes in Zaitōki a description in which he states that Sanskrit "p" is more labial than Japanese. This is taken as evidence that Japanese /h/ was pronounced [ɸ] rather than [p] by that time. This was after the Old Japanese period, however.
There is general agreement that between the 9th and 17th century /h/ was [ɸ]. The dialectal and distributional evidence suggest that at some point it must have been [p]. Recent scholarship reconstructs this as *[p] for Old Japanese.
In 1934, Arisaka Hideyo proposed a set of phonological restrictions permitted in a single morpheme. These are known as the "Arisaka Laws".
- -o1 and -o2 do not co-exist
- -u and -o2 generally do not co-exist
- -a and -o2 generally do not co-exist
These rules suggest two groups of vowels: /-a, -u, -o1/ and /o2/. Vowels from either group do not mix with each other; -i1 and -i2 can co-exist with either group. Some take this phenomenon as evidence that Old Japanese had vowel harmony as found in Altaic languages.
The Old Japanese syllable was CV (consonant-vowel).
- A bare vowel does not occur except for word-initially.
- /r/ is not found word-initially (with the exception of two foreign loans: /rikizimahi1/ and /rokuro/).
- Voiced plosives do not occur word-initially.
Vowel elision occurred to prevent vowel clusters:
- Second vowel is dropped: /hanare/ + /iso1/ → /hanareso1/
- First vowel is dropped: /ara/ + /umi1/ → /arumi1/
- Two continuous vowels merge into a separate vowel: i1 + a → e1, a + i1→e2, o2 + i1→i2
- /s/ is inserted between the two vowels: /haru/ + /ame2/→/harusame2/ (It is possible that /ame2/ was once */same2/)
- First person: wa, a, ware, are
- Second person: na, nare, masi, mimasi, imasi, ore
- Third person:
- Proximal: ko, kore, koko, koti
- Mesial: so, si, soko
- Distal: ka, kare
- Interrogative: ta, tare, idu, idure, iduti, iduku, idura
|This section requires expansion. (May 2008)|
Old Japanese distinguished between eight verbal conjugations: quadrigrade, upper monograde, upper bigrade, lower bigrade, k-irregular, s-irregular, n-irregular, and r-irregular. Lower monograde does not exist yet.
Consonant / vowel stem
Verbs having a base that ends in a consonant are known as consonant-stem. These are exhibited by the Quadrigrade, the R-irregular and N-irregular verb classes.
There are only three N-irregular verbs, which were originally verbs in the Adverbial conjugation combined with the negative auxiliary -nu, but which were later reinterpreted as verbs in their own right.
Verbs having a base that ends in a vowel are known as vowel-stem. Upper Monograde represents monosyllabic vowel stems ending in -i.
Upper Bigrade is made up of polysyllabic roots ending in the vowel -i, while Lower Bigrade represents polysyllabic roots ending in -e. This ending vowel was elided in the conclusive, attributive, and realis conjugations.
K-irregular and S-irregular represent verbs whose stems appear to be composed of only one consonant each. These verbs behave as verbs with consonant stems, but they are originally vowel stems whose irregular conjugations are the result of vowel mutation and elision.
There are several verbs with irregular conjugations.
- K-irregular: k- "come"
- S-irregular: s- "do"
- N-irregular: sin- "die", in- "go, die"
- R-irregular: ar- "be, exist", wor- "be, exist"
The conjugation class for each is named after the final stem consonant.
The regular adjective is sub-classified into two types: those where the adverbial form (連用形) ends in -ku and those that end in -siku. This creates two different types of conjugations:
The -kar- and -sikar- forms are derived from the verb ar- "be, exists". The adverbial conjugation (-ku or -siku) is suffixed with ar-. The conjugation yields to the R-irregular conjugation of ar-. As Old Japanese avoids vowel clusters, the resulting -ua- elides into -a-.
The adjectival noun has a single conjugation:
The Man'yōshū includes poems written in an eastern dialect.
The following fusional reductions (in most instances these are monophthongizations) took place:
- *i1a > /e1/
- *ai1 > /e2/
- *ui1 > /i2/
- *o2i1 > /i2/
- *au > /o1/
- *ua > /o1/
Thus, the proto vowel system can be reconstructed as /*a, *i, *u, *o2/.
Co1 as Cwo
Distributionally, there may have once been *po1, *po2 and *bo1, bo2. Note that the distinction between /mo1/ and /mo2/ is only seen in Kojiki and vanished afterwards. If this is true, then a distinction was made between Co1 and Co2 for all consonants C except for /w/. Some take this as support that Co1 may have represented /Cwo/.
- Described as "The ancestor of modern Japanese. 7th–10th centuries AD." The more usual date for the change from Old Japanese to Middle Japanese is ca. 800 (end of the Nara era). The direct ancestor of modern Japanese is Late Middle Japanese
- Shibatani (1990:119)
- Miyake (2003:196)
- Miyake (2003:164-166)
- Yamaguchi, Nihongo no Rekishi, page 18
- Kondō, Nihongo no Rekishi, page 41
- Omodaka, Jidaibetsu Kokugo Daijiten: Jōdaihen, pages 37-38
||This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (July 2009)|
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- Vovin, Alexander (2005). A Descriptive and Comparative Grammar of Western Old Japanese. Part One: Sources, Script and Phonology, Lexicon, Nominals. Folkestone, Kent: Global Oriental. ISBN 978-1-901903-14-0.
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