Linguistic ghosts of Sino-Japanese: go-on, kan-on, tôsô-on and other misnomers

Sometimes people ask from what variety of Chinese did each of the traditional kanji “readings” came. Short answer, according to Miyake:

  • Late Old Chinese, Early Middle Chinese probably through Sino-Paekche → go-on;
  • Chang’an Late Middle Chinese → kan-on;
  • Song/Yuan Late Middle Chinese onwards → tôsô-on.

Long answer: it’s complicated.

Continue reading “Linguistic ghosts of Sino-Japanese: go-on, kan-on, tôsô-on and other misnomers”

Alphabetic transcriptions of Old Japanese

(This is about modern transcriptions using the Latin alphabet; if you’re looking for historical Old Japanese transcription techniques, might I interest you in this other post?)

Because I’m quoting material from different works in this blog, I can end up citing various transcriptions and romanizations, which can be confusing. In fact I am confused. This post is to attempt to set things straight about how people represent Old Japanese (OJ) words in modern texts.

Continue reading “Alphabetic transcriptions of Old Japanese”

The Old Japanese binary numeral system

In discussions of Japanese, the secondary number system (hitotsu, futatsu, mittsu &c.) is often described as “remnants of an older, native system” without further explanation. Kudos to Miller 1967 for actually describing the older, native system—at least as far as the limited written records allow us. I often want to refer to it so I’m copying it here.

Continue reading “The Old Japanese binary numeral system”

A post every Sunday or Monday

Dear readers:

I’m unsatisfied with the low frequency of posts in this blog. My worries about quality have been working as a writing-block more than anything else. So I decided to take a different approach in 2012 and blog regularly, even if this means making more personal or casual posts, or just quoting books I’m reading &c.

For now I’ll strive to publish something every Sunday or Monday (BRT); let’s see what such a rhythm feels like.