Re: Orthography Question
|From:||Douglas Koller <laokou@...>|
|Date:||Tuesday, November 10, 1998, 12:24|
Christophe Grandsire wrote:
> In the 10th century, the Japanese (only men) used Chinese ideograms
> to write Japanese words. They used them only with their phonetic value
I don't think so. Characters were used with their meanings with a
*subset* used just phonetically (or rather with their meanings
temporarily "turned off" [Chinese does this too for foreign names and
loanwords]) to mark stuff like inflections. Then streamlining - if you
had to write a seven-stroke character every time you encountered the
English past tense "-ed", you too would probably develop a simpler,
> (actually approximately as Japanese phonetics are very different from
> Chinese phonetics). Then a "female" literature began to appear. Women didn't
> have the right to write and read, but they passed through it inventing from
> some Chinese ideograms the first syllabary which was hiragana.
>Only a century later, men created another syllabary (I think they
> were bored of writing ideograms) from a different set of ideograms. It was
> thought, I think, as a kind of stenography, so it was simpler than hiragana.
> Now that syllabary is called katakana.
The sources I link below reverse this time line; katakana come before
> Then I don't know really what
> happened but the ideograms were reintroduced with, this time, their meaning
> (not only their pronunciation),
Doesn't make sense. Who in their right mind if they already had a
phonetic writing system in place would go *back* to ideograms? Again,
see sites below - they place kanji writing - with their meanings -
before kana writing.
> the hiragana came to be used for the
> gramatical endings and some native Japanese words, and the katakana lost
> position and finally were only used for loanwords (very much used nowadays),
> 'onomatopees' (don't know the word in English) (with a much broader use than
> in European languages, one can speak in Japanese only with those
I don't see how. With some function words thrown in, you *might* be able
to come up with some funky sentences this way, but to say "one can speak
only" this way (outside the most contrived circumstances [like
children's or Tarzan speech or perhaps a comedy routine to show the zany
hilarity that would ensue if you tried it]) doesn't sound right.
>(even if 'onomatopees' are considered as very normal, though
> very familiar -and a little childish sometimes-).
Perhaps to Western ears. Japanese writing peppered with onomatopoeia is
considered quite descriptive and evocative.
For a brief history of hiragana, go here:
and for katakana, here:
and for the truly adventurous, on kanji, here: