RE: The Currency Symbol of China

From: Ben Monroe (
Date: Mon Sep 30 2002 - 18:16:48 EDT

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    Barry Caplan wrote:

    > To: Stefan Persson;
    > At 10:08 PM 9/30/2002 +0200, you wrote:
    > >"Yen" is an ancient "on" pronunciation for U+5186; today it's
    > >pronounced "en."

    > Really? I have no sources either way, but I always assumed
    > "yen" was a Western transliteration of "en", since there is
    > no "ye" entry in the kana table.

    Modern Japanese has 5 basic vowels, /a, i, u, e, o/.
    Old Japanese most likely had 8 vowels, /a, i1, i2, u, e1, e2, o1, o2/.
    These can further be traced to a proto-Japanese 4-vowel system /a, i, u,
    In the y-line, there is currently /ya, yu, yo/. During the Nara period
    where the first extant literature appears, there is evidence that the
    man'yougana (precursor to modern kana; Chinese characters) regularly
    distinguished between two types of /e/ (called Kou/Otu or A/B sounds,
    among others). This is usually taken by most scholars as /e/ and /ye/.
    By the early Heian period, with the emergence of the kana syllabary,
    this Kou/Otu distinction vanished, specifically the /e/ and /ye/
    distinction by around 938 AD. It is usually assumed that the /e/ and
    /ye/ (which is written with /e/) merged into [ye] (or [je], if you
    like). Notice that the Portuguese dictionary of 1603 spells this /e/ as
    "ye". Other documents indicate that this /e/ [ye] must have become [e]
    (as modern) by 1775 or earlier. Also note that some dialects in Kyushu
    still retain the [ye] pronunciation for /e/.

    I do not really have the time to go into more details right now.
    I hope this will suffice.

    Ben Monroe

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