An historical grammar of Japanese by G. B. Sansom

By G. B. Sansom

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

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Most names of simple things, or simple ideas, naturally fall into this group, and there could be no doubt or difficulty about the selection of such characters as ^c for ki, 'tree', 7}c for midzu, sense of ^ ^ 'water', for hi, 'the sun', £f for yoki, 'good', and for waruki, 'bad'. Here there could be no alternative. But, as we have just seen in the case of the very common symbol ^fe, though it was possible to appropriate certain characters exclusively for certain Japanese words, even a deliberate effort to devise a uniform system of correspondence between INTRODUCTION OF WRITING word and symbol was, in the nature of things, 29 bound to Consequently, even to-day, in spite of all opposing tendencies, Japanese is recorded in a script complex in its nature and irregular in its use to an almost incredible degree.

Even when the use of simplified characters became common, there was nothing in the nature of a fixed alphabet, and the total number of hiragana symbols used to represent forty-seven sounds was nearly three hundred. Many of these have been eliminated, and the hiragana in common use to-day may be said to be standardized, and to show as a rule little more variation than is seen in the different styles of writing or printing our alphabet. Another syllabary, which came into use at about the same period as the hiragana, is made up of what are called katakana or side kana' These are abbreviations of the square, and not the cursive type of Chinese character, generally formed by one part or side (kata) being taken to represent the whole.

Both these works are mainly in Chinese, but the Shoku Nihongi contains a number of Imperial edicts written by a method similar to that used for the Shinto rituals, and evidently intended as an exact record of the Japanese phraseology employed when these edicts were pronounced in public. The system of writing is not entirely regular, but the words of the edicts can be restored with a high degree of accuracy. Thus the phrase akitsu mikami, 'a manifest god', is written Ig, $p jji$ which and phrases we can ; ; INTRODUCTION OF WRITING is unintelligible in Chinese.

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