Download An historical grammar of Japanese by G. B. Sansom PDF

By G. B. Sansom

First released in 1928, this path-breaking paintings continues to be of significance and curiosity to jap students and linguists.

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Thus, by the syllabic method, the nearest a Japanese could get to writing such sounds as liao and Hang, which are for practical purposes monosyllables, would be ri-ya-u, which makes three syllables in Japanese. Similarly, sounds like mok (-fa) and ngwat ( f^j ) become moku and gwatsu, because Japanese writing knows no final consonants. At the same time, it is worth remarking, the correspondences between original Chinese sounds and their Japanese imitations are fairly uniform, and a comparison of the two is often of great value in determining phonetic changes that have taken place in both languages.

One such indication is the fact that, in selecting Chinese characters to represent these syllables phonetically, the Japanese preferred those of which the Chinese sound had an initial p, as J£ pi, for the first syllable of the word now pronounced hito. 32 HISTORICAL JAPANESE GRAMMAR some of them by examples. One important class composed of antithetical compounds like j^ £g cho-tan, literally 'long-short', which stands for the idea expressed in English by the word 'length' but is more logical, since it expresses a synthesis by specifying both elements and emphasizing neither.

The process was a gradual one. The verses in the Manydshu are not exclusively written in kana. The early poems, say those up to the end of the seventh century, are written with characters used according to meanings, and but those of the middle their reconstruction is not easy We have of the eighth century are written phonetically. already observed that the use of a complete Chinese character to represent each syllable of words in a polysyllabic language was an awkward and tiresome method. It must be remembered, however, that these characters were as a rule written not in the way in which they appear in printed books but in an abbreviated cursive style, known as the 'grass hand'.

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