From: Ben Monroe (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Mon Sep 30 2002 - 18:16:48 EDT
Barry Caplan wrote:
> To: Stefan Persson; email@example.com
> 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.
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